Do you want your children to feel stability, resilience and resourcefulness so they can cope with challenges, disappointments and losses that are part of living life?

A can brain develops when the adults in a child’s life support their curiosity, sense of adventure and view problems as opportunities for learning. Author Carol Dweck calls this a growth mindset.

Children can easily and accidentally develop a can’t brain. This happens when they are frightened, confused, stressed, expectations are unreasonable and problems are viewed as failures. Dweck calls this a fixed mindset.

Parenting is challenging. Raising young children today doesn’t come without its share of worries and stressors ranging from technology to the current pandemic. With all of the pressures of today’s challenges, it can be hard to parent children in the I can brain; sometimes, it is difficult to know what to prioritize.

So, what is mindful parenting? It is practicing relaxation through exercise, being present, spending a few minutes a day giving children your full attention. It is managing stress so you can bring your best self to the relationship with your child. It is honoring your children’s individuality and their right to develop their own personality. And, lastly it is teaching them kindness, compassion and empathy for themselves knowing that what they give to themselves, they will give to others.

Whether it is called the I can or I can’t brain, growth or fixed mindset, language is essential to a child’s development. When your child makes a mistake, let them know that mistakes help them learn. If they say something is too hard, let them know that with more time and effort they will succeed. If they say they can’t do something, let them know they can’t do it yet.

Whether it is the pandemic, distance learning, social distancing and/or financial concerns, parents are more challenged than ever. Worries and stressors impact parents and their children by triggering their fight or flight response. This is a part of the brain that is designed to recognize danger and then respond. When you are triggered by the fight or flight response, identify what you are feeling with the strategy name it to tame it.

Talk with children to help them make sense of their experience, acknowledge your feelings and theirs as valid, and if necessary engage in some type of physical activity such as walking, running and outdoor game playing to help bring the body and mind into balance.

And last but not least, use growth mindset and the I can brain to give yourself grace. Be a good enough parent by acknowledging that frustration and mistakes are unavoidable; they are opportunities to learn.

Cynthia Hurkes is the early learning facilitator for the Kindergarten Partnership & Innovation program and a parent education facilitator at Douglas ESD. She can be reached through Take Root Parenting Connection at 541-957-4814. For more information on parenting classes, please contact Susan Stiles-Sumstine at Take Root Parenting Connection, susan.stiles-sumstine@douglasesd.k12.or.us.

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