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Mindful parenting during divorce may ease things for children

Being mindful is something we probably have all been urged to practice at some point or other in our lives. How many of us in Louisiana can think back to when we were told to, "Mind your Ps and Qs." Those were words usually offered as a warning about behaving, but the idea of taking a mindful approach to life is something that has taken on new meaning in recent years.

Many scientific studies have shown that mindfulness – the practice of being consciously and curiously aware of our thoughts, feelings, senses and environment in a given moment – can deliver physical and mental benefits to individuals and to society in general. Indeed, some experts argue it has particular value in helping individuals through the social, emotional and legal rigors of divorce.

If you've ever wondered how that might work, read on.

As yoga teacher and recent divorcee Susan Verde observes, divorce is a transition. With or without animosity, the parties splitting up may experience sadness, guilt or insecurity. It can be easy to face it all with judgment of self and others. To practice mindful divorce, Verde invites individuals to face issues meditatively. By looking at issues and feelings with inner inquisitiveness, rather than judgment or self-criticism, it becomes possible to be kinder to yourself and others, perhaps especially your children.

With that in mind, Verde recommends:

  • Taking time for yourself, creating moments of space in which to just breathe.

  • Acknowledge but don't dwell on your feelings. We all have emotions. They deserve to be recognized, but they don't have to rule. If you can calmly acknowledge your feelings, your children see how calmly you are dealing with things and feel better about expressing themselves.

  • Listen without judgment. Your children may not react to the divorce the way you want. That's their right. By setting aside your personal fears and expectations you are better able to respond calmly to them.

  • Don't share your hostility except with a friend or counselor. The children have their own emotions to deal with and you'll better serve them if you don't burden them with your negative feelings.

Mindfulness practice can trace its roots to Buddhist tradition, but experts note it now is in the secular mainstream to a point where it's practiced in schools, hospitals and more.

Source: Mindful.org, "Parenting mindfully through divorce," Erika Prafder, March 28, 2016

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