Joy, gratitude, and forgiveness fosters strong connections with your kids

When I was expecting my first child, I heard about a friend of a friend who journaled every day, documenting her pregnancy with emotion-filled writing, poetry quotations, and personal reflection.

Another mom-to-be was doing a photo essay of her journey to motherhood.

I was puking my guts out for the first six months, so there was no journal, no photos, and much of the time food smelled like car exhaust. I felt like a failure for not creating some spectacularly special set of mementos illustrating the joy I felt at becoming a mom.

Does parenting failure ever end?

It wouldn’t be the last time I felt like I wasn’t cutting it in the parent department. Even now my adult kids would be happy to offer their personal assessment of my parental crimes.

Yet these adult kids are happy, healthy, and making their own way in life.

Hmmmmm. Happy and healthy 

That! In spite of the fact that I did not have a beautiful pregnancy journal and video to share with them, or that I didn’t take them to Disneyland and that the badges on their scout uniforms were barely attached because I used glue instead of stitching them down.

The bottom line: Life is in the little moments

As parents, it’s so easy to race through the days to get to the next big thing. A new milestone, a vacation, a birthday, the holidays, or just weekends.

There’s no way to get a handle on it all! That’s why we feel like failures!

Yet, developing a mindfulness habit—of simply stopping and noticing—allows us to capture the little moments that are truly worth being present for.

So whether you are already traveling along your mindful journey—or just beginning—the first thing to remember is this: You are right where you ought to be!

Here’s how you can always start right where you are, every day!

1. Find the Joy.

Chores are part of life, but life doesn’t have to be a chore. Put some music on and rock out while folding that 876th load of laundry.

Dance while you dust. See how fast you can make the bed. Sing while you put away the dishes.

You can also use chore time to be alone (no one will stop you from taking on chores by yourself) and get quiet and just breathe. Decide what things you really, really need done and then let the rest go.

Ain’t nobody judging.

2. Practice Gratitude.

The expression of gratitude goes a long way.

We all need to hear “thank you.” We thrive when appreciated. A well-written thank-you note for a thoughtful gift is lovely. But so is hearing “Thank you for setting the table” or “I am so glad you gassed up the car” or “Thank you for not pushing your brother out of this moving car.”

Learning to recognize what we have instead of what we are missing builds a foundation for happiness. Yes, a Lamborghini would be amazing, but there is no room for a car seat or soccer gear.

Appreciate the moment. Look for the good. Practice gratitude daily.

3. Forgive and Forget.

My 3-year-old nephew recently learned to say, “It was just an accident” and now uses it frequently to avoid any appearance of guilt or wrongdoing on his part. Smart kid. Say those magic words and all is forgiven.

Of course, some things are not an accident. Demonstrate forgiveness anyway. It does everybody good.

The “wronged” party gains nothing by holding onto the hurt/upset/anger. The “doer of deeds” doesn’t learn anything from angry outbursts or cold silence or the rehashing of past deeds.

Consequences may be necessary. Forgiveness is too.

4. Show Up.

Be present. Really present.

Yes, there is always a list of things that need to be accomplished. Or a screen enticing you with content and connections. Or work clamoring for your attention.

But practice being present. Listen. Make eye contact. The conversation, the board game, the impromptu skit, the movie you have seen 473 times may seem meaningless to you but may be everything in that moment to someone else.

5. Listen. Don’t Just Hear.

In a perfect world, everyone would say what they mean and mean what they say, and we would all live happily ever after in a universe of clarity, truth, and authenticity.

If only!

Is this kid actually sick or do they have an algebra test they haven’t studied for?

When someone lashes out, is it really anger or is it fear? The uttered word only tells part of the story. Read the body language too.

In “7 Things Mindful Families Do Differently,” Elisha Goldstein and Stefanie Goldstein encourage us to listen with curiosity, which, the Goldsteins say, “opens up more possibilities for fewer misunderstandings, more clarity, and greater connection (not to mention better outcomes).”

BONUS: No. 6

The best advice I can give?

You do you.

Because there is no one right way to do anything when it comes to parenting. I wish someone had explained that to me when I was a new parent.

Probably someone did, and I heard them but did not listen.

About the Author

Lila Herrmann is director of publishing for Unity World Headquarters.


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