Parenting with Mindfulness: What does that even mean?

By Hilary Stempel, MD, MPH

Parenting with Mindfulness: What does that even mean?

parenting and the pursuit of mindfulness in daily life

One evening, bedtime in my home was particularly eventful: milk coated the floor, shrieks echoed in the hallways over pulled hair, a flower pot crashed down the stairs, and tears flowed over toothbrushing. All appropriate experiences with toddler twins and yet not the peaceful night I hoped for.

On nights like this, I know I'm not alone in wishing there was a parenting pause button. When everything hits the fan at once, sometimes all you can do is stop and look around. Pause to breathe. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

As a pediatrician and parent, I use the first months of the year for reflection. I give myself compassion and don’t aim to complete this by January 1st. Instead, I take inventory and then aim to create realistic family expectations. 

This year I’m looking to include mindfulness. Not just on those overwhelming nights, but I’m trying to find ways to bring it into all my days.

Terms like ‘mindfulness’ or ‘mindful parenting’ may seem like buzzwords. What do they mean? Here are some examples:

  • Paying attention to what is occurring at the moment. Rather than scrolling through your insta feed, being IN the moment with your child. 

  • Managing your emotions. You may want to quickly express your frustration with a mess your kids have made, but instead you take a deep breath and respond calmly.

  • Responding with compassion to yourself and your kids. When you–or they–get upset or frustrated, model sharing how you feel. Explain that even parents aren’t perfect!

There are lots of ways to add mindfulness into your parenting. Finding what fits well into your life is most important.

As inspiration for your journey in mindfulness, here are just a few that I’m working on adopting for 2023.

  • Finding the easy wins. When my kids laugh, I also light up. It’s a small goal, but I aim to make each of my kids laugh at least once a day. I also ask all the adults seeing our kids do the same. It’s fun to hear the ways they find to make our children laugh.

  • Setting a time when it’s possible to be fully present with my kids. I find myself getting frustrated receiving texts during dinner and at bedtime. As long as nothing is urgent, I plan to wait to respond until after the kids are asleep. Or, if this is too long, set a 30-minute timer to be “screen-free” with the kids in the evening.

  • Thinking about emotional regulation and responding with calm and acceptance. When my child is upset, as long as they are safe, I have phrases like “you’re loved, you’re safe, that was touchy, and you’re safe.” Repeating this makes me calm and teaches my child to know that they are being heard. I try to avoid statements like “you’re ok” or “you’re fine” as these are less validating for their current feelings of being hurt. 

  • Taking time to see the world through my children’s eyes. This is easy when they’re hard at play trying a new task. It’s also helpful to do when they’re fussy. When I have a crying child clinging to me, I try to imagine what they’d be saying if they had words, and respond how I’d like someone to approach me if I had similar feelings. It’s easier for me to pause, calm my breathing, and then respond when I take this perspective. 

  • Adding more joy to the day-to-day. This could be talking about the best moments of the day during a nighttime routine. Or, reviewing any photos from the day and choosing one favorite from the day. It’s fun to have a photo album of favorite moments to review over time. 


Just remember, the point of mindfulness has nothing to do with perfection. Instead, it’s setting up pathways for regulating our emotions, and by doing so, modeling this for our children. 

Wishing everyone a happy, mindful 2023!


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