Parenting is a challenging yet extremely rewarding endeavor. With so many pressing responsibilities, parents often feel overworked and overwhelmed on a daily basis. It’s difficult to stay calm and collected when your baby is crying, your kids are arguing, and your “to-do” list is a mile long. Spending quality time with your child can be a challenge when your mind is racing thinking about the next thing you need to do. Here are several suggestions to help you stay in the moment and parent with presence.
Balance Your Responsibilities
In order to be mentally present for your child, your must balance your responsibilities. If you have a job outside the home, make a directed effort to leave your work at the office. Separating work and home life can be especially challenging if you are self-employed or if you work out of your home. However, if you prioritize your schedule and stay well organized, you will find that it’s easier to complete your work and put it out of your mind so that you can be present for your child at the end of the day. Make a concerted effort not to let work spill over into your home life. During family time, turn off your cell phone, don’t check your email, and be fully present. Always remember how much your children need your time and attention.
Children typically crave predictability, but it’s also important that they learn flexibility. Life is unpredictable, and it’s likely that there will be times when your schedule will have to change. For example, if you get slightly off schedule with your toddler’s naptime, don’t stress out. Your child will pick up on your anxiety, and research tells us that long-term exposure to stress can be harmful to child development. Take three slow, deep breaths, relax, and focus on being a calming presence for you little one. If your child becomes anxious when the routine gets off track, calmly explain the situation and reassure you child that it’s okay to have a change in plans every now and then. Flexibility is a necessary life skill, and modeling this approach for your children is the best way to avoid unnecessary stress and focus on the present moment.
Being present with your child involves listening to what he has to say. When your child knows he’s being heard, this confirms that he is valued. By listening carefully, making eye contact, and acknowledging your child’s feelings and thoughts, you are increasing your child’s confidence and creating a special bond between the two of you. If your child is hesitant to engage in conversation, it may be helpful to ask open-ended questions and avoid questions that require a simple response of “yes” or “no.” For example, you might ask your child “What was the best thing that happened to you today, or was there anything that made you feel frustrated at school?” Inquiring about the specific details of your child’s day at school allows you to get to know him better, and offering your undivided attention lets him know how much you value him.
Take a Technology Break
The time with your children passes quickly, so it’s important to stay in the moment and treasure the time you spend with your family. Don’t let technology be a substitute for your personal attention. Designate a “technology free” afternoon or evening. Put away laptops, turn off cell phones, and switch off the television. Instead, have fun making conversation and playing board games. Playing games is a wonderful way to work on social skills such as turn taking and listening, and your child will appreciate your undivided attention.
Children grow up so quickly. Setting aside special times during your busy schedule to be fully present and give your child your full attention is the perfect way to demonstrate your love. Your undivided attention communicates that you value your child and enjoy her company. It is well worth the effort!
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