“I really want to be present with my kids,” one mom told me recently and while I applaud her desire, I started thinking about what it actually means to be present. We say that a lot these days and yet have we actually taken the time to figure out what it really means?
I like to give parents “handles” in their parenting, principles and habits that they can grab and hold onto to keep them moving steadily forward as they raise their kids. Parenting “handles” can also steady you when you are going through chaotic seasons with your children. So here are four handles to help you be present with your kids.
Focus on Your Listening Skills.
Your kids, no matter their age, want to be heard and seen. But in this era of busy lifestyles, listening has become a lost art. To really listen, you must put down the devices, look in their eyes and concentrate on what they are saying. Be very intentional about letting them know that they have your undivided attention.
Here’s a thought: let your child finish their sentences without your interrupting. Let them express emotions and feelings without correcting or judging. As parents we are often so focused on something our child just said that needs correction, that we are already formulating responses in our minds. You cannot be thinking of a proper response AND totally listening at the same time. It’s okay to take a few minutes to think about your response. That will allow you to really hear your child.
Focus on Paying Attention.
Paying attention means watching and taking notice, as well as listening. You may be with your children in body, but are you in spirit?
In his book Win the Day, Mark Batterson talks about making every day count.
According to psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert, the average person spends 46.9 percent of their time thinking about something other than what they’re doing in the present moment. We’re half-present half the time.
I don’t think any good parent wants to be half-present to their children, but learning to pay attention to our kids when we are trying to be present is going to be a major mindset shift for some of us. It’s a discipline that will not change overnight.
When you are talking with your child or playing with them or enjoying an activity with them, start asking yourself, what am I really seeing right now? Look at every feature of your child, memorize their smile, their laughter, their silliness, and their antics. Try to just think about THEM, and if your mind starts to wander to the myriad of things that want to distract you, shake your head to clear it and get back to focusing on your child.
If you are a journal keeper, write about your child: things they said and did that made you laugh, milestones they reached and important lessons they learned. I kept journals for all three of my kids and when they became parents, handed them over. Writing things down was one way for me to pay better attention as I relived it through my pen.
And last, but not least, put away your phone when you are with your child. They deserve time with you that is not interrupted by the phone.
Let Yourself be a Kid with Your Kids.
Routines are good and necessary. But routines don’t have to be boring; they can be fun too. Be silly with your kids. Don’t take yourself so seriously as a parent that you can’t laugh at yourself. Get dirty, get on the floor, get uncomfortable doing things (for me it was going on roller coasters) that you would prefer not to do–allow yourself to be a kid with your kids.
When you do that, you cannot help but be fully in the moment.
Take Care of Yourself.
Wait a minute, you may be thinking, you just got done saying that I need to focus on my kids.
Yes, I did, but in order to be healthy enough to intentionally focus on your kids, you must take care of yourself. Mind your own mental and physical health. Parents who are plagued with emotional issues will have a harder time being present for their children.
Get marriage counseling or coaching if your marriage is struggling. Marital problems will certainly distract you from being present with your kids.
Get counseling if you feel you are emotionally drowning. Or if you are barely keeping your head above water when it comes to parenting, get parent coaching.
As a couple or as a single parent, you do not need to do this parenting thing alone. Taking care of yourself may mean asking for help. If you are struggling and don’t know where to start, schedule a free consult with me and I will help you determine your next step.
What’s Important NOW?
Back to Batterson’s Win the Day. He explains that one way to win the day is to define what’s important now? In order to be present with your child, you must commit yourself to answering that question every time you are with them.
Time is measured in minutes, while life is measured in moments. Let’s make more moments with our kids!