As an expat parent in Beijing, I’ve read books on parenting, attended lectures on learning and development, trained in Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.), and listened to “experts” and armchair know-it-alls argue the benefits of one parenting style or another. Yet despite all this, my fallback during times of stress tends to be whatever I learned growing up from my own parents. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as I think my parents did a rather exceptional job of raising three boys. The fact that all three of us survived childhood is proof of that, as we did not make the job of parenting easy. Still, when I heard about Kevin Fong’s workshop on Mindful Parenting, I was intrigued.
In the conference room at Daystar Academy, 20+ parents sat around the table and along the walls while Kevin gave a bilingual presentation in two hours that he designed to be delivered in a single language. Typical of daytime workshops, I was the lone male attendee in a beautiful sea of caring mothers. Despite operating in dual language mode, Kevin managed to get through the material and to allow multiple breakout sessions so that we could practice the deceptively simple tools he introduced to us.
Mindfulness got its start in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and has since become the subject of thousands of studies in various fields of human interaction and health. Research into the practice has shown benefits of: increased memory, regulation of emotions, self-referential processing, perspective taking, and stress reduction. Health specific benefits include: improved auto-immune system, regulation of blood pressure, mange and reduces chronic pain, reduces symptoms and/or suffering of untreatable diseases, and reduced stress and anxiety. Not to mention it benefits creativity, concentration, self control, and improves the sense of happiness and contentment.
So far it sounds great, but how does this relate to parenting, you ask? Kevin talked about six benefits to parents and children that psychologists attribute to Mindfulness:
- Reduces stress experienced by parents, thereby lowers their habitual reactions.
- Assists parents who are challenged physically or psychologically, reducing ruminating in fear or regret or focusing on negative thoughts
- Helps quick-tempered parents to plan better and make better decisions
- Avoids passing down poor parenting habits to the next generation
- Enables parents to take better self-care
- Improves relationship of couples so to enable/encourage better cooperation/collaboration in parenting.
According to Kevin, all of this may be achieved by taking a few minutes (1-5 minutes at a time) to calmly focus on your breathing throughout the day. Okay, I’m oversimplifying it a bit, but not much. The practice is quite simple, but that’s the catch, it requires practice. As Kevin pointed out, just as we need to lift weights or exercise regularly to improve our body, so too must me use Mindfulness in our daily lives to realize its many benefits. Kevin is living proof as he gladly shared with the participants his life story about how mindfulness improved his health and interactions with other so much that he quit his London-based career in finance to help people learn to be mindful and improve the quality of their lives too. A choice I’m thankful he made.
Kevin Fong is an accredited senior trainer for Corporate Based Mindfulness Training and the Co-Founder of the GAIA Tree Centre for Mindfulness. To learn more about Kevin and his Beijing workshops, visit his blog: blog.sina.com.cn/fongkevin (Chinese only) or email email@example.com.
Photo: Christopher Lay