You hear about “mindfulness” these days when you read the current psycho-babble articles and books, which at first kind of freaked me out because it sounded awfully New Agey to me, but the truth is, being mindful simply means becoming aware of what is going on around you (and in you.) For example, have you ever noticed that your kids eat without tasting their food? Have you ever done that? Here’s a little experiment, the next time you eat become aware of the flavours that are in your mouth. What can you all taste in there? What does the food feel like? You’ll probably enjoy what you are eating more. That’s called becoming mindful and becoming a mindful, or aware, parent might help you enjoy parenting more than you currently are as well! So let me give you four areas that deserve your attention as a parents.
I’ve been a bit sad lately. I’m a guy and I’m not afraid to admit that, but I will also admit that I hate letting it show in front of people. So what I do is usually hold myself together until I get alone with the Lord and then it all pours out. This is good I think because I want to make sure that I don’t just keep stuffing it down and yet I can’t just be an emotional wreck when I need to be strong. The point is I am aware of my emotions. Are you? If you really just stopped and thought about it, would you say you’re a little blue, in the red or just right, in the green?
I clench my teeth a lot so I try to keep stock of the clues my body is giving me that stress is hitting a new level and then go for a walk or take a nap (or find some chocolate). Is your body tired? Stressed? Sore? We don’t have to be babies about a bit of stress in our lives, but if it is hitting a ceiling of what we can handle we have waited too long to address our stress.
What about your kids? Are they allowed to be stressed? I once an article by a doctor (in Reader’s Digest of all places) who said his kids rarely get sick because they are allowed to “cash in” one stress day a month and miss school. They can cash it in whenever they feel like it – no questions asked. His point was our kids are getting sick because they are stressed and need a break from school but the only way they take a break is if they are sick so their bodies get sick.
I am trying to get into the habit of asking our kids whether they are blue, red or green. Things can look pretty good on the outside but on the inside they might be red-lining and we need to help them articulate what is going on before things hit the fan (proverbially and possibly literally!) It’s our jobs as parents to be aware of what is going on around and in our kids, and then help them to articulate and deal with it.
There are all sorts of things you can observe and measure as a parent and while spiritual health can be observed, it is also invisible, under the surface and secret. There is no way you can discern what is going on spiritually in your home or the lives of your kids without listening in prayer. I can’t tell you how grateful I have been to God for the ways He whispers understanding into my spirit at just the right time to pray or talk or diffuse a situation. So pray and when you pray, give God a chance to speak.
On the other hand talk to your kids about spiritual things! This is what Deuteronomy 6 is talking about. I think we have gotten far to used to the idea that “family devotions” is sitting down and “doing devotions” together. That’s not my take on it! Is sitting down for intentional times important? Of course! But I think we are more effective when we learn to weave faith talk into our daily lives. For example our lawn isn’t landscaped yet so there are weeds growing where there should be grass and my son asked me whether weeds were a result of the fall. Great opportunity to explain the Bible to him! (Not part of the fall, incidentally. Pretty sure dandelions grew in the Garden.)
“Listen, Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is One. Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (HCSB)
Don’t get duped into thinking that because media awareness is a separate category that it isn’t spiritual it most certainly IS spiritual and you will definitely need the Holy Spirit to guide you in this area. The reason is that so much media infiltration happens where you aren’t. For example, have your kids ever come home from school singing a song that they definitely did not hear on your car radio? We have. And Seth, who is a sponge for song lyrics apparently, will explain that the kids were singing it on the playground. What on earth?
Or do you remember Napoleon Dynamite? And do you remember how every kid went around saying “Gosh…” in that stupid Napoleon way? (If you want the 10 Best Quotes From Napoleon Dynamite click here. You’re welcome.) There are many things that our kids start saying because their friends are saying it at school. Hand gestures (think Monica and Ross from Friends) and dance moves as well. The point is your kids might not be watching it or listening to it in your home, but they are still being influenced. It is worthwhile to talk to them about those lyrics and the movies their friends are telling them about. Be aware!
And then there’s the internet. I know that no one likes to think that their baby is ever going to get hooked on porn but the reality is we are living in a sexualized culture that preys on young minds (and internet games, YouTube, social media addictions are just as real a threat). You need to be aware of what your kids are doing online. In our house the internet is shut down, not allowed, and on those infrequent days when our kids can go online they can only do so in the living room, never in their rooms alone. I also reserve the right to see their chat and browsing history whenever I want and I will retain that right until the day they leave my home. I’m a big believer that kids need privacy and that we should give them spaces to call their own, the internet, their devices, their phones do not fall into that category. And I promise they will thank me one day.
Finally, we need to be aware of our relational status with our kids. Our kids are often more attached to their friends than they are to us. This is a normal developmental process through adolescence but we need to be good at reconnecting to our kids when they get home from school. We need family nights (start them when your kids are little to establish it as a tradition.) We need family vacations when healthy, happy memories can be built. We need to watch movies together.
I’m not talking about being your child’s best friend a la Lorelai Gilmore (wrote about that here), but I am talking about being the most important relationship in their lives. The truth is friends will come and go, but you always be the source of their DNA! Take a minute to think about how you are connecting with your kids. Have you had one-on-one time lately? Have you bought your kids a no-reason gift? (Hot Wheels… they are CHEAP!)
The point of all this is to become a conscious parent! Parenting takes hard work and careful thought. We don’t need to be neurotic about it, but it is important to occasionally take stock of how things are really going!
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