As a parent of young kiddos, you likely know — intellectually, at least — that meltdowns and tantrums are a part of childhood development. There isn’t necessarily a lot you can do about them.
But even if you know that yelling/huffing/jumping-up-and-down-and-screaming-in-frustration won’t help your cause, it can be damn hard to keep your cool. It’s not easy to remain unruffled when a small person whose butt you’ve dutifully diapered, and whose tears you’ve lovingly kissed away, is screaming and hissing at you — probably because you’ve had the gall to say “no” to something. And it’s especially hard to remain calm and patient when you’re exhausted. Alas, research shows that new parents don’t get enough sleep for at least six years. Ugh.
This is where where meditation can really come in handy. It’s no panacea, but research shows that mindfulness meditation can help with things like anxiety and stress.
Wondering where to start? Here are four meditations that can help you keep calm when your kid goes nuclear. Bonus: They’re quick and easy enough that even the most wiped-out, overscheduled parent can swing them.
Mini-meditation #1: The daily five-minute guided option
According to Shonda Moralis, a women’s mindful empowerment coach, psychotherapist, and author of “Breathe, Mama, Breathe,” it’s important that parents be as proactive as possible when it comes to mindfulness.
“Ideally, you don’t want to practice just ‘crisis meditation,’” she told HuffPost. “How do we set ourselves up to be a little more calm as a baseline?”
Her advice? Commit to a daily five-minute guided meditation, using any app or track you can find that you like. If possible, try and stick to a certain time. Moralis thinks it’s great to do it first thing in the morning, but she knows that’s not always an option for parents who tend to hit the ground running. So just find a window that works for you, and stick to it. Moralis likes guided meditations because they make it simple and help demystify mindfulness a bit.
Within a week, she says, you should start to notice a difference. And within a couple of months, it’ll have become a real, long-term habit.
Mini-meditation #2: The SNAP break
When you do need more of a crisis-moment meditation, Moralis recommends what she calls the SNAP break. The “S” stands for stop — or stepping away if you safely can, though that isn’t possible with very little ones, of course. The “N” is for noticing your body sensations. Are your shoulders hunched up in stress? Is your face contorted in please-stop-this-public-freakout agony? Tune in to that, then try and adjust.
Next comes the “A,” which stands for accept. Yes, it can be a total bummer when your kid has a tantrum. No, you’re probably not enjoying parenting all that much at this precise second. “Accept that this is how it is in the moment,” Moralis said. “What happens is that we tend to try and resist when things are unpleasant” — and that can actually ramp up feelings of unhappiness and stress. Last up is “P,” for pay attention to your breath. For a few seconds, carefully notice your inhales and your exhales.
The point of this quick sequence is really just to break up the tension a bit and to stop yourself from escalating the situation.
Mini-meditation #3: The re-setting breath
Last fall, Suze Yalof Schwartz, founder and CEO of Unplug Meditation, shared the following meditation with HuffPost Parents, which can be great to use mid-meltdown: the 16-count re-setting breath.
If you can safely do so, close your eyes and focus on whatever is currently driving you nuts — in this case, probably your kid. Then breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, audibly exhale for four seconds, and breathe in for another four.
Schwartz says she likes this technique because it’s a pattern interrupter. You can’t focus on your breathing and on what’s stressing you out at the same time. Plus, it gives you something to do in the moment rather than yelling.
Mini-meditation #4: Hug it out
Moralis is a big fan of the three-breath hug, a technique popularized by Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh.
Basically, you and your child give each other what Moralis describes as a “big bear hug” and then coordinate three big, deep inhales and exhales together.
“It can be really calming in the middle of a meltdown,” she said ― or just a great way to connect with your kid at any moment, anytime during the day. And it’s a tool your kids might really come to love. Moralis recalls that when she was once having a tough moment of her own, her kiddo asked her to meet in the bedroom for a three-breath hug.
“They can remind us,” she said, “when we need a hug, too.”