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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Mindful Parenting: Preventative Care for Children

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 22nd 2011

parentingI see it all the time. Parents have kids, parents get divorced and parents start talking negatively about the other parent in front of the kids. We all know nobody is perfect and we can’t expect ourselves to be. But it’s critical to have awareness around what the impact is to the children when parents either put the kids in the middle of their battles or openly judge each other in front of their kids. The children are the casualty.

We have to be clear what is appropriate and not appropriate for our children’s ears. Naturally there is pain for everyone involved when a separation occurs in a family. The very foundation of what the children knew to be their world is ripped in different directions. The reality is, life is inherent with stress and pain and we all grow up with our woundings, but as parents, it’s not always easy to maintain awareness around the effect we have on the little ears around us.

While you may think that talking poorly about your ex-wife or ex-husband is a way of clarifying the world for your children, it more often than not leaves them confused, defensive and sinks them deeper into their suffering. Was that your intention? Probably not, but that was likely the effect.

There are certain things that are healthy for kids to know about and certain things that are not.

Whether we're married or divorced as parents we’re imperfect. We blurt things out because we’re in pain, because we’re so angry we want to get back at our ex-partners, because we’re so stressed that our defenses are down, because we’re simply ignorant to the consequences.

If you resonate with this it may be time to bring some mindfulness into your parenting. What does that mean?

  • It means reminding yourself to take a breath and consider the effects your words have on your children before letting them out.

  • It means paying attention to your feelings as they arise in your body instead of reacting to them with behaviors that aim to avoid or resist the feelings.

  • It means being kind to yourself, taking responsibility and practicing forgiveness when you do something that was unskillful, potentially inadvertently causing your child pain.

  • It means apologizing when you’ve made a mistake, modeling this for your children.

  • It means increasing our emotional intelligence.


Why not make this time now?

Just throw mindful parenting into your favorite search engine, see what you find.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction gives us a living wisdom for us all to benefit from. 

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Lessons - Athena - Mar 27th 2011

I'm in the middle of a protracted divorce.  I tell my kids it's OK to love their Dad because he is their Dad and he's the only one they've got.  I also tell them that it is absolutely NOT appropriate for a father to expect his wife to support him unless he is a stay at home Dad.  I tell them that I will be there for them if they choose to get married and to help them learn from my mistakes.  I truly, truly wish my Mom or Dad had stepped up and warned me about the man I ended up marrying.  But then again, they were from another era where both parents were expected to contribute something to the family.

Once in that position - sed - Mar 23rd 2011

When I was young I was in that very possition and I think you may have forgotten to metion how thier comments force you to choose a side between the childs two parents. I simply felt the need to mention it. Other wise great article :)

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