10 Ways to be Mindful with your Children Again

Winter butterfly

One week ago I way lying in a hospital bed with my mother, holding her hand, my cheek next to hers, wading through an illness that had stopped her in her tracks. I thought about how it must have felt to be a baby in her arms so many years ago. I looked at her skin — so beautiful to me. She thought she needed makeup, but to me she was just perfect without it. I thought about how I’d always wanted her curly hair when I was a little girl, mine so straight then. I asked her what her favorite moments were with my sisters and me when we were growing up. Eyes closed—as if transported to another world—she recounted her joy in making oatmeal cookies with us for a 4-H program, picnics by our pond and days spent at a local pool. “Just spending time together,” she’d said wistfully. I asked her about my father, about her favorite moments with him. She told me the story of him getting ready for a ceremonial event in the Navy and how he’d had his dress whites on but she had to send him back into the house to change because he had put on underwear that was bright in color and could be seen straight through his pants. She thought it was very funny. I had never heard this story before.

When I saw my children again after that week away I felt elated. I had never been away from them for more than a night or two. We were all in the car together and I kept turning to them from the front seat, soaking in their brilliance, the tremendous light in their eyes. I felt flush with the excitement of being reunited and I was overwhelmed with the love I felt for them. In the days that followed though, my head began to feel cluttered. I was trying to be in two places at once — one part of me with my mom—thousands of miles away—another part, here at home with my children.

I’ve needed to draw on my devotion to mindfulness again and again in order to stay in the present and through this I have begun to observe the methods that I use to get there—or, right here, rather. I have also reflected on the signs that I can take note of when I am not living in a present way. All families have challenges and we all go through our ups and downs. My hope is that these suggestions may come to mind when you next find yourself drifting—getting caught up in the worries of life and the world around you—and in need of returning to your children again. I hope these ideas will help you come back to the joy, back to the light, back to the beautiful moments with your children—in all of their glorious perfection.

10 Signs you may not be Present with your Children:

  1. You find yourself talking to your children but not connecting with their eyes. You are talking at them but not to them
  2. You are speaking, maybe even saying the same things over and over again, but not connecting to the meaning behind your words. Playing games and reading books, maybe, but only going through the motions
  3. You are checking your phone or email more than necessary, maybe incessantly
  4. You find yourself physically forcing your child to do something (get dressed, leave somewhere, etc.)
  5. You are counting the hours until the end of the day
  6. You are not having any fun and neither are your children
  7. There is a tightness in your chest or abdomen and you catch yourself holding your breath
  8. You are saying “no” more than “yes” or generally have a negative or critical attitude
  9. You have slipped backward on previously successful breakthroughs in your parenting efforts
  10. You are judging your day based on a single moment or experience

10 Suggestions for Returning to Mindfulness with your Children:

  1. Start Again! You always, always, always have the opportunity to begin again in life and to begin again with your children. Hug your children, hug yourself and simply start over. Your dedication to a mindful approach to parenting means so much. Forgive yourself, breath deeply and recommit to this beautiful path and know that it is worth it.
  2. Breathe! Make a commitment to breathe throughout your day. If you need to, set a timer for every 30 minutes or so to remind yourself to check in with your breath. Oxygenated brains function better and deep breathing promotes relaxation. This change alone will set you back on your right path.
  3. Commit to responding to your children instead of reacting. Live in the pause between your children’s actions (“good” or “bad”) and what you say or do afterward. Allow this space to inform your response.There is great wisdom to be found in waiting.
  4. Slow your pace dramatically. Take in all of your surroundings. Feel the texture of your children’s clothes as you dress them. Inhale an orange once peeled. Notice the wind or even a slight breeze as it touches your skin when you step outside.
  5. Become acutely aware of your children’s words. Stop and really listen. Soak in what they are telling you. What you say back is less important than their sensing that you are truly listening. Respond the first time when they call out to you.
  6. Plan a day at home in which you are fully focused on your children’s needs. If you can, forget about bills and correspondence, cleaning and errands for a single day. If you cannot commit to a full day, set aside a few hours and do the same.
  7. Reflect on how you want to experience your children. Consider how you want for them to experience you.
  8. Get some exercise. Try to find twenty minutes to burn off your worries and allow a sense of peace to come over you as your body moves and bends and breathes.
  9. Revel in the memories of your children’s first days. Remember the promises you made. Remember their preciousness. They are as golden and as perfect as they were that very first day.
  10. Be gentle and kind with yourself. Find at least one thing you could do for yourself to care for your own inner child. A warm bath, quiet writing in a journal or a long talk with a friend, will go a long way. The way we treat ourselves translates into the way we treat our children. Love, forgive and celebrate all that you are and all that you can be.

35 thoughts on “10 Ways to be Mindful with your Children Again

  1. Elizabeth Hager Cullen


    This is so timely, as my girls have been going through some growing pains as I have taken on a new job. Chris and I are always striving to reconnect with each other and the girls, and these are all good reminders of how to do that.

    On a different note, I hope that your mom is OK. Please know that you and your family are in my thoughts.

    Beth (Hager) Cullen

    1. meghannathanson Post author

      Beth …. I am so happy to hear from you and know that this post touched you. Thank you also for posting this post on your FB page. I love seeing photos of you and your beautiful girls … they remind me so much of you!! I am happy to report that my Mom is back at home and getting better each day. Lots of love, Meghan

  2. Rachel Macy Stafford

    Meghan, this is profoundly moving — yet, it is also incredibly enlightening. It is so powerful how you contrast the non-present behaviors with the present ones. Both are priceless lists that have the potential to bring many families together. My favorite one is this: “Start Again! You always, always, always have the opportunity to begin again in life and to begin again with your children. Hug your children, hug yourself and simply start over.” If I just remember this wisdom, it brings what matters right into my grasp.

    I am so touched that you share this beautiful gem with me. Sending love and prayers to you and your mother as you go through this difficult time. Thank you for enlightening us all through your gift of words.


    1. meghannathanson Post author

      Rachel — “Start Again!” is my favorite one too!! I use it ALL THE TIME!! Thank you for your very kind comment and also (especially) your thoughts and prayers for my family. My dream is that in sharing my journey I will be able to affect the tone/lives of other families facing the same challenges that my family faces. I have found that mothers (and dads!) across the globe are mostly dealing with similar issues even when our cultures are somewhat different. I am very glad to have met you Rachel. Lots of love, Meghan

  3. thesinglecrunch

    This was beautiful, and so, so helpful to me. As soon as I started to read the signs that I may not be present, I recognized some of them in myself. Thank you for this. Sharing and I’m sure my readers will appreciate it as much as I do.

    – Kimberley

    1. meghannathanson Post author

      Kimberley — Thank you so much for your kind comment and thank you for sharing this post with your following. I visited your and am so moved by your writing as well. I look forward to having the opportunity to read more! All my very best to you, Meghan

    1. meghannathanson Post author

      You are too kind Laurie. I feel the same about your good work. And I am so happy to hear the your hubby has been enlightened by his recent experience. He has a good heart and now he is going to take care of it!! Lots and lots of love to you, Meghan

    1. meghannathanson Post author

      Heidi — It makes me so happy to read your comment! I can only share these ideas because I am constantly in a state of practicing them (and sometimes not practicing them and coming back to practicing them!) All my very best to you, Meghan

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  5. Jim Perry

    I’m a man and I found this really useful, Im the first up every Morning and I make sure I spend quality time with my two year old before I go to work and when I come back. Your words have helped me as a parent more than you know…thank you so much!

    1. meghannathanson Post author

      Jim — Thank you so much for your comment! I am so happy to know that you and your family are benefitting from these ideas. It is my greatest wish that I may empower others to remain/become dedicated to this journey in the way that you are. All my very best to you and your family, Meghan

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  8. Tanmay

    Great Stuff Meghan, Us men tend to hunker down in case of a crisis/ pressure and stop ‘communicating’ (in a larger sense) Your points make a lot of sense. Your article also talks about non-verbal communication too (hugs, touches, looks …) which is absolutely fantastic. Men tend to hold back on that front too. Take care and keep smiling.

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  13. Damon

    Came home to let our dogs and cats smell our new baby’s swaddling blankets before bringing her home. Just sitting in my chair, relaxing for a moment and found this article through a lifehacker post. I bookmarked it immediately and will undoubtedly refer back to your simple wisdoms. This first time father thanks you for sharing.
    -Emma’s Daddy

    1. meghannathanson Post author

      Words cannot express how happy this makes me …. enjoy this incredibly special time and be in touch. I would love to know how you are doing. With much love to you all, Meghan

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  15. Melisa

    Hi Meghan, I was wondering if you were planning on writing more or have another blog. I love all that you write and would love to read more. Thank you 🙂

    1. meghannathanson Post author

      Hi Melisa — Thank you for your message and I apologize for the long delay in responding. I do hope to write more in the New Year! I have been very involved in creating a new website that I will be launching in Mid-Januray 2015. Once up and running, I hope that I will be more free to create a more regular writing schedule. Thank you so much for connectings … wishing you many blessing this holiday season. Love, Meghan

  16. ameenaq22

    That was a lovely post and an important reminder. I experienced watching my father go through an illness while my children were just babies. I remember holding his hands and thinking to myself these hands taught me so much of what I know today. It’s so important to be mindful, I just wish I had the patience.

  17. ameenaq22

    This was a lovely post. It reminded me of what I experienced with my father–he had cancer. My kids were so little, just babies. I remember holding his hands and thinking these are the hands that moved me through my own life and to where I am today. I will really try to work on the mindfulness points you suggested.

    1. meghannathanson Post author

      Thank you for sharing your beautiful remembrance of your father. All we can do is *try* to be more mindful and as we do so, that ability grows in strength. Sending lots of love, Meghan


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