Mindfulness Tips for Parents with Children on the Spectrum
Parenting is hard work for anyone, but having a neurodiverse child may present unique parenting challenges.
According to research, parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often experience high levels of stress, depression, and anxiety. These effects, in turn, can negatively impact how parents look after and care for their children.
Mindfulness has been found to be beneficial to parents of children with ASD in a number of ways. Not only can regular mindfulness practice help to reduce parents' stress and depression, but it can also ease emotional reactivity when dealing with challenging behavior.
If parents of children on the spectrum can use mindfulness to better manage their stress, they may also find that their child responds positively as well.
Below are seven quick and easy mindfulness activities that parents can seamlessly incorporate into their daily routine:
1. Breathing Breaks
Take a moment to step away from a stressful situation during the day. Focus on taking 5-10 deep breaths with your eyes closed or with a softened gaze. Bring attention to your breath as you inhale and exhale and attempt to hold your attention there.
2. Body Scans
Take a few minutes out of your day to notice the sensations that you feel within every part of your body. Notice the spots that may be sore or that may hold tension. Pay attention to the movement of your breath in your chest. The goal of this exercise is simply to become aware of your body and the sensations within it.
3. Active Mindfulness
Parents are very busy as they move from one activity to the next, and you may feel as though you're juggling multiple commitments at once. This can make it hard to set aside time for mindfulness. Active mindfulness is concerned with maintaining awareness of the present moment while still engaging in your daily activities. Whether you're cooking, cleaning, folding laundry, or working, you should aim to actively pay attention to your thoughts and feelings while doing so.
4. Gratitude Journal
Each night, set a goal to write down 3-5 things that you are grateful for. Sometimes, especially in high-stress situations, it may be hard for you to hone in on all of the good that surrounds you. Spend some time highlighting those moments or the people that you were especially grateful for that day.
5. Seated Meditation
Whether it is a guided practice through an app like Headspace or just some time to sit quietly by yourself, try to set aside some time to practice meditation. Set a timer for 10-15 minutes, find a quiet and comfortable place in your home, and allow yourself to be fully present and aware. If you notice your mind starting to wander, gently remind yourself to bring your attention back to your breath.
6. Mindful Mornings
Morning may be one of the only times of the day that you have some time to yourself. Before you start your busy day, take some time to relax. Maybe you want to take a shower, make some coffee, or meditate...whatever you need to do for yourself before your kids require your attention for the day.
7. Get Moving!
When we get our bodies moving, it can help us clear our minds and elevate our mood. Start your day off with some movement, whether it’s taking a walk, going for a run, or doing an online yoga class, just get your body moving!