Meditation practices may have their origins in forests and caves, but they are absolutely essential to the parents of toddlers!
Meditation increases awareness. Awareness allows us to see the big picture in any given situation. It helps us, parents, to snap out of the attitude of having to keep the child in a good mood at all times. If we go through the day with this intention in mind, parenting will be really, really hard. And being a child won’t be easy either. Half of the child will be accepted, half rejected.
I am noticing that in 90% of the challenging situations, the only thing my children need is my aware presence during the ups and downs of their lives, a normal part of them growing up in a healthy way.
We can still support and feel for them, without getting too entangled in their (age appropriate) reactions. In fact, the prerequisite for empathizing with a child IS that we don’t get pulled into our own anger, accusations and remorse, or other mental projections like expectations or prejudice.
If we find our breath, like we do when meditating, we can acknowledge their feelings by simple sentences such as “You are sad/angry because I won’t let you go outside right now. You really wanted to go.” Or, if your child gets as loud and furious as mine does, by offering your silent presence at times of anger release.
The toddlers usually get it out of their system fast and completely, and very soon become cheerful again. Coming out of those strong emotions, they feel loved and accepted for the whole-of-who-they-are, not just for the happy-smiley part.
Note: Allowing the child to cry with empathy and awareness is NOT the same as telling the child “OK! You can cry all you want, we are not going outside” That is a different story.
If we don’t practice awareness, and repeatedly meet the toddler’s need to express sadness and anger with neglect, fury, punishment, or effort to re-direct their attention to something else, they will either 1. claim their own right for self expression by escalating the behavior, or 2. shut down, transforming the energy of unexpressed feelings into something that later on we will call stress or anxiety…
Practicing awareness (meditation, yoga, tai chi, you name it) helps YOU directly, but it effects your whole family indirectly. Through it you find your own center of power and balance, and your ground when you will need it the most - in family situations! That is the key to healthy coexistence with these wonderful-horrible-adorable little creatures called toddlers!