Mindfulness for Special Needs Parenting
Virginal Satir, renowned family therapy said “Parenting is the most difficult job in the world”. Indeed, the demand and expectation on parents can be overwhelming. It is more so for parents of children with special needs. Having to support their child with special needs often lead to parents neglecting their own needs and well-being, easily resulting in parental burnout.
Findings from research indicated that mindfulness program reduces parental stress, reduces children’s stress level, improves relationship with children and parents feel more satisfying in parenting. In another research where parents of children with autism were taught the practice of mindfulness, the parents reported their children’s aggression, non-compliance and self -injury behaviours decreased after the parents' mindfulness training.
There are several mindfulness program and the most commonly practised mindfulness program for people who are dealing with pain and stress is the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program.
History of MBSR
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a program that incorporates mindfulness to assist people with pain and a range of conditions and life issues. Developed at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in the 1979 by Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, MBSR uses a combination of mindfulness meditation, body awareness, and yoga to help people become more mindful. While MBSR has its roots in spiritual teachings, the program itself is secular.
Research on effectiveness of Mindfulness-based approaches program
In recent years, clinical research on meditation suggests that it may have beneficial effects, including stress reduction, relaxation and improvements to quality of life. Grey matter concentrations in brain regions that regulate emotion, self-referential processing, learning and memory processes have shown changes in density following MBSR. Additionally, MBSR practice has been associated with improvement of the immune system which could explain the correlation between stress reduction and increased quality of life.
What does MBSR program entails?
The MBSR program is an eight-week workshop taught by certified teachers that entails weekly group meetings, a one-day retreat and homework. It includes three formal techniques: mindfulness meditation, body scanning and simple yoga postures. Throughout the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program you will be consciously and systematically working the challenges and demands of your everyday life. Your teacher will create a safe and supportive environment for this work and learning through.
When parents are able to deal with their stress better, they would naturally build more capacity to support their child as well as being a good role model for their child in coping with stress.