“Life gives you plenty of time to do whatever you want to do if you stay in the present moment.” – Deepak Chopra
As parents, we live busy lives, and now more than ever, it’s important to spend quality, uninterrupted time with your kids. One of my challenges is how to react to my daughter when I’m watching a football game on TV, checking Facebook on my phone, or crossing off my “to-do list” around the house? When my daughter breaks my concentration with a question, a need, or a plea to play or tickle her, how should I react? How can I transition to a state I like to call “parenting in the present moment.”
I admit it: I am guilty of responding to a tug on my shirt from my daughter with a “just a second,” or “not now,” and the classic, “can’t you see I’m busy.” The truth is, my daughter doesn’t understand that I am busy. She only understands that whatever I am doing, no matter how important or unimportant that activity may be, is more important than giving her my time and full attention. The sad result of not spending time with our kids in the present moment, is that, at some point, they may get the message and stop coming to us when they are in need.
Four Strategies You Can Use to Help You Parent in the Present Moment
But there’s good news! As with anything else in life, the more we practice spending uninterrupted time with our children, the more skilled we become. I practice the following four strategies to help me close the gap between dismissing my daughter’s requests, and slowing down, taking a deep breath, refocusing on what’s important, and giving her my full attention.
Remind Yourself Why It’s Important to Spend Quality Time with Your Kids
Every morning I remind myself that I get another opportunity to let my kid know that I am available to her when she needs me. Because I am a stay at-home dad, I am often home when she returns from school. I need to remind myself to drop what I’m doing, meet her at the door, and give her my full attention for about half an hour. She usually has a full day’s worth of school-related ups and downs she wants to share and process.
Put Your Device in Another Room to Spend Uninterrupted Time with Your Kids
Many times, the source of our distraction is a phone, tablet, or laptop. It’s impossible to have a genuine conversation with my daughter while I’m on any of these devices. When she comes to my office, I often get up and walk with her to another room while we talk. This way, I’m less likely to be reminded of what I was working on when she entered the room or be distracted by a device.
How Do We Spend Quality Time with Our Child? Get on Their Level
When I am genuinely curious about my daughter’s world and what she’s learning, time seems to stop, and most of my distractions melt away. Here are a few tips I use to help me get there:
- Get down to your child’s level. With my daughter I often bend down or sit next to her so that we can make eye contact. This is so important and closes the distance between us.
- Be an active listener. I want to give my daughter plenty of opportunities to share what’s on her mind. I often let her lead our conversation, repeating what she’s sharing with me, and asking clarifying and open questions to keep the conversation going.
- Make physical contact. When I’m with my daughter I also make physical contact to let her know I’m present— I hold her hand, rub her shoulder, or sit close to her as she explains her universe.
These are a few tips I’ve used to help me get in the present moment, an in turn, to let her know she has my full attention.
Take Advantage of Those Opportunities When You’re Together.
We lead busy lives, but there are times we are naturally together throughout a day. For example, meals are a great time to leave the phones in the other room, turn the TV off, and be proactive in asking your kid about their day, what they learned, what they are looking forward to. In our case, we make pancakes together almost every Saturday morning. This is our father-daughter time, just the two of us. Evenings and bedtime are also excellent opportunities to turn your phone off, check in and listen, review his or her day, and talk about what’s happening tomorrow. Don’t worry, you can go back to your phone after they fall asleep!
Remember, Practice Makes Perfect.
Living in the present moment and catching yourself from not providing your child your full attention when called on takes practice. Set a reminder to slow down and listen on your phone or put up a sticky note where you’ll see it in the morning. The more you consciously remind yourself to slow down and give your child your full attention, the better you’ll be at it.
Our kids look up to us as heroes. To them, we have all the answers. No one can help my daughter feel more safe, secure, or loved than my spouse and me. As they grow up, we want them to come us when they need us. Let’s start planting those seeds and making sure they know that they have our full attention today.