We are living in a time in the United States that encourages us to be anything but PRESENT with ourselves and our family. The constant emails and advertisements give us little room to digest what is happening now. Our culture is hyper-focused on what’s next…the next holiday, the next season, the next activity, the next thing to buy. Planning and goal setting is essential, but it’s the lack of savoring and being with what is happening in the moment that has gotten more and more lost with each passing year.
It is not uncommon to get caught up in this hustle and bustle, leaving parents feeling overwhelmed and anxious. And this obviously impacts our children. Stressed out parents equal stressed out kiddos. The barrage of distractions are not going away and will most likely intensify. However, we all have the power to avoid getting sucked into what appears to be our cultural norm. And in turn, we can teach our children to do the same.
Connecting with our Children
The antidote for living in the realm of distractions, both outer and inner is BEING PRESENT. Although the idea of BEING PRESENT sounds simple, putting this into practice is actually quite complicated.
If you haven’t caught on yet, kids want very little. I know, all of our kids are demanding little beasts. Can you do this? Get me that? Help me here? etc. etc. However, if you really examine their statements and deeply listen to the essence of what’s going on underneath their demands, all they really want is our love, to feel their connection to us and have their basic needs met.
If our connection/attachment to our children is weakened through the myriad of distractions in our adult world, our kids often become that much more demanding at home. Deeper disconnects or poor attachments in the household can cause children to become more problematic in school and perhaps in the greater community.
In Gordon Neufeld’s book, Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, the author outlines the importance of having strong attachments/connection to our children. According to Neufeld, trained psychologist, Deborah MacNamara states, “Children can’t be too attached (to caregivers), they can only be not deeply attached. Attachment is meant to make our kids dependent on us so that we can lead them. It is our invitation for relationship that frees them to stop looking for love and to start focusing on growing.”
Practice Makes… Pretty Good at It
PRESENCE is an ongoing practice that has the ability to foster and deepen our connection to our children. Done regularly you and your household will not only be happier but you will also operate like a well-oiled machine. Stress will be minimized and your household will lose the chaotic vibe and take on a peaceful essence.
So how do you get there? It’s all begins with YOU.
What are you doing in your life to be more PRESENT? What practices do you have in place? What do you do for you? Self-care…what is your regime? How much time do you carve out time just for you? Happy parents lead to happy children.
Tips and Tools to Help You Get Started on Being Present
The following are some tips/tools that may help you get started if you struggle with the art of BEING PRESENT.
1. Get up an hour before your kiddos.
This is no easy task but could be essential if you simply cannot claim alone time during the day. To avoid less sleep, consider ditching the late night tasks and go to bed early. A great question to ask yourself in the evening when you find an earlier bedtime escaping you, how important is it?…this task, this show, this conversation?
Getting up earlier will most likely take some organization. You might want to make lunches while making dinner the night before. Use a timer to get your tasks done earlier in the evening. Get your kiddos to bed on time, etc. etc. Claim this hour for you. What will help you feel more PRESENT before the household wakes up? Skies the limit. This is your time. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Reading an uplifting book
- Walking the dog
- Taking a long shower or bath
- Simply being alone with your cup of tea or coffee
2. Get into your body.
The body doesn’t lie, rather it is a truth teller. So many illnesses and poor decisions could be avoided if we took the time to really listen to our body. We can all travel all over the world in our mind. However, our body is always right here…right now. What are you noticing in your left toe right now when you read this? Is it cold? Warm? No sensation? Can you feel it against your shoe? And now what are you noticing about your left foot? Any sensation there? As you did this exercise were you thinking about dinner tonight? Problem-solving? More than likely you were being present with your body.
Whenever you find yourself struggling with BEING PRESENT consider tuning into your physical body and note the sensations. You can also tune in to your senses. What do you smell? Hear? What is the temperature on your skin? Giving your loved one a hug and engaging in eye contact are powerful ways that we connect with another. With permission, grab your kiddo and give them a long hug. What do you notice? What do you smell (keep comments to yourself)? Can you feel their heart beating? What is the temperature of their skin? What’s happening with you in this hug? Do you feel lighter? Warmth?
And then gaze in their eyes. What do you notice about their eye color? Do they look vibrant or sleepy? This can all be done in one minute. Connection happens in quality interactions, not necessarily quantity. Yes, your kiddo might think you are weird, but they secretly love the meaningful connection.
And finally, exercise. Everyday. The body needs and craves movement. It can be vigorous or more mellow. Movement is the key.
3. Ditch the technology.
Create at least one hour a day when in the presence of your family to be technology free. No tv. No phone. No video games. Our family doesn’t necessarily need quantity time from us. They simply need quality. Whether it is a nice long meal, a board/card game, singing, dancing, conversing or creating. Meaningful connection does not happen in the realm of distractions.
4. Consider meditating.
The research is in. Meditation helps reduce anxiety, depression, and symptoms related to PTSD and ADHD to name a few. If practiced regularly, we are more prone to be more PRESENT. Some people continue to carry the misperception that meditation is a spiritual practice. It can be, but science is proving that it helps us improve our overall well-being.
Everyone can meditate. Even those with super busy minds. If you don’t know how to meditate, take a class or go on Youtube. Two apps that get rave reviews and take you through guided meditations are Headspace and Insight Timer. 5 to 10 minutes a day is a great start. Get your kids involved. Teaching them mediation is priceless and a gift that will last a lifetime. It will help them improve academically, socially and athletically. How cool is that?!
5. Make yourself a priority.
In America, there are so many parents who neglect their own needs and put their children’s ongoing demands first. This leads to spoiled kids and resentful parents.
The most selfless thing you can do is self-care.
Fill your cup up first and you will have that much more to give. It will come from a heart-centered place rather than a “should” or “have to” space. If you have a partner, fill this cup up second. If your relationship is in need of repair, the consequences will not only be miserable for you and your partner, but your children as well.
Self-care leads to joyful connection. Take a class, go on dates, shut your door for a half hour and read your favorite book, connect with your friends, get a sitter or do a child swap with friends. Happy and connected parents mean happy and connected children.
6. Keep it simple.
Use this statement as a mantra. We have made things so much more complicated. Our not enoughness is leading so many of us to overdo and overconsume. How many activities does your child really need to feel full? How many toys or clothes do they really need? Do you really need to go to the grocery store or might it be a lot easier and simple (and fun) to have pancakes for dinner? Do you really need to spend money you might not have budgeted for to go to Disney when the simplicity of being at home might be exactly what everyone needs?
Spring is in the air (finally!) and we are in the PRESENCE of nature reawaking. Consider aligning with the season and using nature to bring you back to the PRESENT MOMENT. As adults, our children’s fondest memories will be the moments where you took time to be PRESENT with them. Watching a sunset together without words, tending to your garden or really listening to them talk about their day.
If you need help fitting this into your day, that’s what I’m here for! Contact me here online and see how being present can benefit your life.