Mindful Parenting Workshop Scheduled for Palisades Elementary School

By Laura Abruscato
Staff Writer

In a mindful meditation, having your mind drift off is not a problem. It’s just another opportunity to lovingly bring your mind back to the present moment. That practice, called mindful awareness, can help parents change their automatic reactions with their kids.

That was the essence of a mindful parenting workshop led by Palisades Elementary School parent and psychiatrist Lana Benedek and attended by about 40 parents in the school’s library on November 3.

Parents were led through a five-minute guided meditation, and Benedek taught parents the STOP technique to use in a difficult moment with their children.

Lana Benedek

This is an acronym for Stop where you are, Take some breaths, Observe what is going on in your body and mind and Proceed from a more grounded, aware place.

The Palisadian emphasized that being kind to oneself is an important aspect of the mindful approach. She cited a recent study that showed when parents are kind to themselves, their children are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.

Benedek, who also teaches mindfulness to groups and individuals, feels that groups or guided meditations are a good way to start a meditation practice.

“Meditation is an act of self-care which we’re not used to doing,” she says. “Our minds are super busy, but the longer we sit with them the easier it is to observe the busyness.”

“I’m new to mindfulness, and I thought Lana did an excellent job explaining it and guiding us through a brief meditation,” said Pali Elementary parent Christopher 

Heisen.”She inspired me to attend a couple of workshops at Against the Stream, a meditation center in Santa Monica.”

Benedek also suggested choosing one aspect of the day and trying to do it mindfully, for example, brushing teeth—focusing on how it feels to brush your teeth, and as your mind drifts away, gently bringing it back to what you are doing.

Several parents were interested in how they can share mindfulness practices with their children, and Benedek mentioned that she and her children sometimes have mindful meals.

“We pause and savor the food and eat slowly. We think about where this food comes from, who was picking the fruit, their families, the people who worked to get it to us,” she says. “It invites gratitude, which is inherent in mindfulness practice.”

A secularized meditation based on Bud- dhist practice, mindfulness was brought to mainstream health care in 1979 by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who started what is now known as mindfulness-based stress reduction. Subsequently, he wrote Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, with his wife Myla Kabat-Zinn in 1997, one of several books recommended on the subject by Benedek.

Benedek, who has a private practice in Santa Monica, explained the tenets of mindful parenting: acceptance, empathy, understanding children’s experience and seeing them as unique individuals. These are in addition to general mindfulness principles such as curiosity, patience and non-judgment.

“Mindful parenting is a unique approach because it starts with parents,” says Benedek, who has lived in the Alphabet Streets neighborhood for five years with her husband Rafael Simon, an environmental technology consultant, and their children: Jesse, 5, and Ava, 7. “What’s most helpful to me is that it gives me permission to pause in the moment with my kids.”

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