Mindful Parenting Manual Session 6
Welcome to our final session. Feedback and questions from Thought inquiry (if any – often not as it’s a deeper subject)
Mindful Exercise: Breath + senses
Remind benefits of basic mindfulness practice without any parenting content. Research shows the brain can change structurally with regular mindfulness practice:
- The amygdala reduces in size – seat of fight/flight and stress response
- The hippocampus increases – seat of learning and memory (also noticeably shrinks during depression episodes)
- The temporo-parietal area increases – seat of creativity, compassion and empathy (seeing another person’s perspective) (research: Sara Lazar)
This session we’ll be looking at the Goal of Growing a Mindful Family.
Draw ROG circles on WB for Goal-setting
R = dissatisfied until goal achieved (fight) or unable to achieve it/hopeless (flight)
O = not able to relax until you achieve it
G = Clear goal and present to the moment. Happiness in the moment fuels movement towards the goal, not a result of achieving the goal. Called being in Flow. Or enjoying the journey.
There’s a danger of going Orange even doing the course: “We are going to become a mindful family!” So let’s look at what mindful families are and aren’t, as even the word can conjure up the wrong idea – like some kind of calm, harmonious home. I call it the mythical or the facebook family.
Mythical Family Brainstorm on WB (Have fun with this)
Let group brainstorm the aspirational ideas they have of what impressive families look like. Usually fills the whiteboard quite easily (Keep some space to the side).
How does this make you feel? (some say it’s ridiculous and unreal, some acknowledge the pressure). The reality is we all carry some of the weight of these expectations, and most of us take part to some extent. Why isn’t this family (WB) a mindful family? What’s missing? Offer session 2 as a clue.
The 4 emotions we need to be healthy. Only ‘happiness’ is here.
Write Anger, Fear, Sadness in green beside list.
Without Sadness what cant we do? No loss, No disappointment, No grief. So no one can really matter to us. Imagine sadness in this family. It changes the list a bit. Without Fear what don’t we have? No courage – Courage is fear walking. Probably no safety either. If you add fear to this family it changes again. Without anger (boundaries/injustice) there’s no individuation – so someone in this family is totally authoritarian. In order to find out who we are and how the world works we push some boundaries. Imagine anger in this family. Again the picture shifts.
My home looks nothing like this, but I think we have a mindful family. So if they’re not like mythical/facebook families, what are mindful families? Let’s look at a diagrammatical version of what mindful families are.
Draw Karpman drama triangle on WB in Red/Orange (Persecutor + Victim generally Red and Rescuer generally Orange) and GB version beside it. The drama triangles show the automatic patterns we get into as parents when there is drama.
Can you see who the main players are in a mindful family? The parents. And the main characteristics of a mindful family are that the relationships are growing in Green.
Being able to get across or bridging from Red to Green in conflict or drama is key to mindful families, as there will be no lack of drama in either a mindful or a non-mindful family.
– “I am responsible” core belief will lead automatically to Rescuer responses. In the moment it may be hard to do a genuine MLP and keep away from fixing, so your longer-term bridge is Thought Inquiry – “I am not responsible…” But you can still have a go at starting with “it looks like” rather than “you need to….or how about…” in the moment.
– From Persecutor sometimes we need to go across to Self-Aware and just take a few breaths before we engage with either boundaries or empathy.
– Me: Going from victim to self-aware is too hard in the moment so I often go to Pilot quite strongly when it all kicks off to keep me out of victim mode. It sounds like “It’s not working guys!” to get their attention…and then I can move more softly to MLP: “you’re struggling to work this out I can see…it is tough sharing”
So as you can see we don’t always go across to the partner Green Brain pair as we bridge across.
Any questions about the triangles before you draw your own?
Insight Questions: Draw your own triangles.
What are your ‘favourite’ roles in the Red/Orange triangle?
What are your patterns of movement around the Red/Orange triangle? (give my example)
Which of the Green Brain skills are you already getting comfortable with?
And what do you think your best bridges across are in the tricky moment that help you move from a red/orange brain reaction into a green brain response?
Discuss with neighbor. Feedback. Often participants give great examples of the techniques they’re starting to use as bridges across from R to G triangle.
So mindful families look like this – point to GB triangle. Not all the time of course – it’s a journey. Can you see there are no children here? Mindful families are all about the colour of the parents brain, both in terms of developing green as our own home-base, but also what we do in drama.
Example: Course participant came to see me for a session with a list of problems with her 6 yr-old daughter. “She has force 10 tantrums, kicks and hits us, and then tells us she’s the most horrible person in the world”. I asked gently about her (the mum’s) brain colour and she said totally orange, “I’m wired that way.” We spent an hour together going through these (green) strategies again together. A basic mindfulness practice, more connection, some MLP, some immovable boundaries. She emailed a few days later today to say it’s already working. 5 days, with no changes to her daughter, but a gentle focus on the mum.
SPACE FOR DISCUSSION and Q+A.
This time can be used to answer questions, give examples from clients or personal ones. I sometimes offer some ideas for scripting (see below, but better if they are your own).
So let’s sum up the 6 skills we’ve learnt on this course. First the personal ones:
- To still our mind to pay attention to the present moment with kindness (B+S)
- To know what our emotions are and be able to process them (ALL)
- To observe our thoughts so we don’t get lost in mind-wandering, and turn around the core unhelpful ones (TI)
And the skills more directly linked to our children are:
- Connection above everything else
- MLP for their Emotions
- Healthy Boundaries for Behaviour
One last brief exercise before we finish.
I want you to write down one skill from each section that you are going to focus your practice on for the next few weeks:
Breath + Senses, Acknowledge-Link-Let Go or Thought Inquiry + turnaround.
Connection, Mirror-Link-Pause or Green brain Boundary-setting.
This is your goal-setting exercise – Being clear about your next steps.
So that’s it. Well done – you made it!
Before I pass around the Feedback forms here’s some things we offer to support you as you go from here:
- Half price discounted session + how people use it
- Buy the Book and the CD
- Next course dates – We get lots of returners so come again and tell your friends (brochures for next course if available)
- Workshop possibilities
Pass round Feedback forms. Thank you all so much for coming.
Scripting responses is a great way to help bridge between red and green. It may feel unnatural but when the cortisol floods your system any help you can give yourself is a good idea. We looked at some of these in session 4 but I’ll go over a few of mine.
Assertive/Boundaried parent – Pilot voice
“Follow your trail.”
“You’ve asked twice and the answer’s not changing.”
“You don’t have to want to, but you do have to do it.”
“We will be leaving in about 10, whatever state you’re in.”
“You don’t have to be asleep, but you do have to be in bed.”
“Because I’ve asked you to.”
If you hear it all kicking off:
“It doesn’t sound like its working.”
“Do you need any help?”
Assertive/Boundaried + Supportive (not rescuing)
“The answers not changing, but let me know if you need help to get through it.”
“Have you got any ideas? Your ideas are often better than mine.”
“What have you tried?”
“I’m right here if you need a cuddle, just let me know.”
“If you ask again I’m not listening. If you want to talk about anything else I’m all yours.”
“That’s too rough for me/her – off you go. You can come back anytime you like though.”
“It’s so hard to keep your hands to yourself when you feel that angry, isn’t it.”
Practice your own pilot voice. You’ll know you’ve got it when you feel strong, factual and unemotional. It can help to do it in front of a mirror. Goal is behviour and connection.
Caring (Healthy Distance) parent when just Empathy is needed
“Hun, that’s so hard.” “It really sucks when…”
“I can see that….” “It sounds like…” “It really makes sense because….”
Practice your empathy voice. Some are soft and kind. Some humorous. Some quite direct. Some casual. Avoid “I understand”. Again the mirror is a good place to practice how it feels to be on the receiving end. Goal is empathy not making them stop.