Thursday, January 31, 2008

Strong Families, Busy Lives - Simple Tips to Mindful Family Living

--home + food + family--

The other day I was in a local shop and overheard a mother speaking to her child, about three years of age. Her manner was composed and direct and the communication consisted of a series of specific instructions that included; "do not touch anything, do not climb in your stroller, do not tug at my coat, do not put your fingers in your mouth, do not walk away etc etc”

The mother looked busy and overwhelmed with many bags to carry, a bill to settle with the sales clerk and a series of phone calls coming in on her cell that kept distracting her. The child stood next to her, struggling to figure out how to get her attention. He then asked, "Mommy, are we going to aunt Jamie's house?" To which the mom actually did not respond. The child stood next to the mother, bored, exhausted, deflated and confused. No attempt to engage himself, engage his mother, or comfort himself was accepted or acceptable. There was no connection. And although the mother never raised her voice or aggressively scolded the child, reading the child's eyes you would have imagined he was. The parent and child were completely disconnected - and both suffering for it. Victims of the busy age we live in.

Our lives are increasingly busy and our responsibilities are increasingly more demanding. But where does this leave our families? How do we meet the demands of our life, while slowing down to actually pay attention to the life we are living, and the people we are living with it? How do we create meaningful connections with loved ones, while juggling the rest of our lives?

Often people believe that the answer exists in what we take out of our lives (changing careers, moving to a quieter environment to change lifestyle, etc), but the truth is that creating a mindful existence is just as much (if not more) about what we put into our life, as it is about what we take out.

Here are a few simple tips on what you integrate/add into your life to reconnect with your loved ones, and to get on the path of mindful family living.


Create daily family rituals: Weather it is having your kids set the dinner table every night while you talk about your day with them, or having a half hour break together with your kids or your spouse to sit down and just reconnect after a long day - daily rituals help foster connection in a family and create a sense of comforting structure and priority around the family. Look for opportunities to create rituals.


Tell your kids and your spouse, to tell you when you are not giving them the attention and comforting they need. Create an open communication where family members can express their needs in a safe environment and know those needs will be met. Teach this to your kids early. A child as young as three in some cases can understand when they want your attention and are not getting it. Tell them, that instead of whining to tell mom "hey I need more attention” Claiming and expressing you emotions is a powerful lesson for your children. Look for opportunities to communicate your needs and to listen to needs of others.


Create opportunities for celebrating your loved ones. Birthdays and anniversaries are scarce, but life holds many accomplishments worthy of acknowledgement. Honoring those you love is a beautiful way to enrich your relationships. Good grades on exams, a win at a soccer game, a closing of a deal at work, a meeting of a goal to lose weight, the completion of a personal project are just a few examples of opportunities for celebration. Making a special meal to celebrate, getting a card, sending flowers, writing a special note to your kids - all acknowledge those you love. Look for the opportunities to celebrate simple small and yet meaningful occasions


Acknowledgement and gratitude are divinely powerful. Being grateful for what is given to you is incredibly empowering to yourself and to whomever you might be grateful. A child being patient in a store, a wife or husband making an unexpected special meal, a brother or sister making extra effort to reach out and support you during a time of need are all gifts and should be acknowledged. People feel honored and blessed in your gratitude, and your spirit thrives in this environment. Look for opportunities to be grateful.


Very often we look for life to create opportunity for us. But the opportunity to create a connection with your loved ones is always there. Waiting for kids to turn around and be more considerate is laying the burden on them. Waiting for a spouse to be a certain way to foster a happy marriage is laying the burden on them. The reality is, is that we are not all born with the same gifts and talents, and what might come easy for some (such as reaching out and creating mindful relationships) might be every action difficult for others. Take a step and be considerate to your kids - reach for them. Take a step to recreate intimacy with your spouse - reach for them. There is no limit to the amount of love, compassion or kindness that anyone has. With every action you initiate you give energy to that subject. By waiting for others to move a situation forward and create change, you are left disempowered and disappointed. Get out of your own way and create the life and family you want. Look for opportunities to initiate.

Having a healthy and happy family that feels loved and acknowledged is the foundation from which all its members thrive individually. Take the time to use these tips, and others you gather on your journey to keeping you life, and your family – mindful.


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