MindUP for Families Pilot
By Claire Farrell, Training and School Partnership Lead
The development of a series of 6 parenting workshops based on the MindUP framework could not have been better timed. Who could ever have thought that when we started the pilot of evening parent workshops at the end of January that we would be faced with the unprecedented times that we are now living in?
As one participant reflected, “the course came at exactly the right time, just before this (Covid19) all kicked off. I almost think it was sent from heaven, almost to prepare us. You can actually use it now. I think it’s something that we will really appreciate.” This dad’s appreciation was echoed by so many participants who talked about the MindUP for Families pilot programme of workshops helping to develop a greater sense of wellbeing.
The Brain and Emotional Regulation
During the programme, participants gained an understanding of the brain, which helped them understand that they have control over their emotions, and they can learn to choose whether to react or respond mindfully to stressors that they encounter.
Learning to harness the power of the breath provided the group with practical strategies for responding more calmly in various situations. Deep, focused breathing can help to calm the mind and body, allowing us to regulate strong emotions and stress. Effectively managing stress is so important, as research informs us that a parent’s stress is contagious, it transfers to children, which can result in children producing high levels of stress hormones.
By developing mindful awareness, parents learnt to notice their thoughts and emotions, pausing to think before consciously responding. One of the mums summed this up very nicely with her comment, “the way things are at the moment, I don’t have answers, so I’m just trying to use a lot of positivity and do mindful breathing”. Another mum spoke of approaching the daunting task of home-schooling feeling much calmer and looking at the lockdown as an opportunity to spend time with her children rather than feeling stressed at the prospect.
After each workshop, parents were invited to undertake some practices back in their own family situations to develop their learning and understanding. The practices were shared enthusiastically each week, resulting in a lovely bond being formed with the participants in the group. Parents were happy to share the practices that worked well, or, as one mum called them, her “hallelujah moments”. It was also encouraging that these mums and dads were also equally at ease to share their struggles.
One of the workshops explored the importance of self-compassion in parenting and how we all share in struggles as part of our experience of common humanity. This workshop particularly resonated with many participants who shared their struggle with taking time for themselves. They now understand the need to take more time to pay attention to this in their own lives.
Practices for Families
In addition to parents enhancing their own wellbeing, they were also equipped with tools and strategies to develop MindUP practices within their families.
The MindUP for Families workshops were designed to mirror the MindUP programme for schools, which reinforced the language of MindUP and the tools and strategies, enabling a consistent approach at home and at school for the children. Using these shared practices and reflecting the same language has resulted in families being able to refer to the brain, be more mindful about recognising and managing emotions, and use Brain Breaks as a calming practice together.
It has been really heart-warming to hear how simple gratitude practices have helped to change attitudes in families. Some parents reported that they were very thankful with colleagues at work and friends but hadn’t really thought about being thankful to their children. They were amazed at the difference just a simple thank you can make. Children started to do things without being asked! As a result of these practices families have reported feeling calmer, closer and more connected, a great legacy of these workshops.
I feel immensely privileged to have worked with the parents on this pilot programme. It has enabled me to share MindUP with the parent community. Being a mum myself, I fully appreciate how useful MindUP is for family life and only wish I’d had this when my boys were growing up!