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How do I practice mindfulness? Experts help stressed-out parents take the plunge

Written by
Time Out Kids editors

The buzzword “mindfulness” is gaining traction lately, but any form of meditation or self-care for busy moms can seem like a luxury.

“Moms are usually on the go physically and mentally, and their minds are always racing,” Nathalie Birotte, a practitioner with Brooklyn Meditation, tells Time Out New York Kids. “Thinking about practicing mindfulness is usually not even on their to-do list.”

However, experts say the popular form of meditation is particularly beneficial for parents.

“If a child is throwing a tantrum, it can be incredibly dis-regulating for mom, leaving her feeling like she needs a tantrum of her own,” Emily Sussell, founder of Private Yoga Brooklyn adds. “But if mom has a mindfulness practice, she’s equipped with an advanced tool for self-regulation.”

Mindfulness generally entails focusing on a moment. It is practiced through exercises such as paying attention solely to one’s breathing, or to one specific sense, such as hearing or touching.

Jackie Stewart, a teacher with MNDFL, which has meditation studios in Manhattan and Brooklyn, adds that “it’s not about being calm or happy necessarily, but about being able to notice what’s going on in the present moment without judgment.”

We've asked these meditation gurus for tips on how moms can find time to practice mindfulness while caring for both babies and older children:

Zen and the art of the diaper change

“Narrating what you’re doing can be a great way to engage with your baby in a moment-to-moment way, plus they get the benefits of learning language through your sharing,” Stewart suggests. “Finding something that happens frequently throughout the day, like a diaper change, can be a great reminder to connect.”

Embrace the quiet moments...and pause in the stressful ones

 “I once heard another teacher say, ‘listen for the sound of Om in your baby’s cry,” Sussell recalls.

Since that may not seem possible for everyone, she recommends fully embracing the moments when a baby is content: “It might mean turning off the television, putting away your smart phone and just sitting presently and noticing your baby as she or he plays.”

Believe it or not, you can even learn from those less-than-quiet moments as well. 

 “With older children, relationship dynamics may become more complex with emotions running high, power struggles at play and boundaries being established,” Stewart says. “A great way to bring some moments of mindfulness into your day, and also help regulate your own emotions, is to insert one deep breath before responding, particularly in elevated situations.”

Use resources

Sussell notes that all forms of meditation are easier to practice with the help of YouTube videos and a plethora of articles. Researching the topic can be a fun activity to do with older kids too, she adds: “Moms with older children can [use] resources like books,” she adds. Sussell personally enjoys Mindful Monkey, Happy Panda by Lauren Alderfer, audio recordings and family yoga classes.

Need some "me time"? No sweat! Practice some mindfulness tips as your kids explore these indoor activities. Embrace those quiet and hectic moments when things get overwhelming on those family vacations. Even while you're doing something as simple as watching new Disney movies, you can practice mindfulness. Give it a whirl! 

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By Heather Senison. Heather has been a journalism and editorial Swiss Army Knife, covering every topic imaginable, in New York state for more than a decade. She is also a mom, a musician and a horseback rider.

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