What’s a Perfect Present for Young Children?
There is a no-cost, easy-to-acquire gift that supports the overall well-being and personal happiness of young children: Be More Present.
Being more present with children sounds simple, but for many of us our daily lives feel more and more chaotic. We often feel stressed and distracted – so much to do and so little time.
Tune Out the Distractions and Tune In to Children
Many adults today are plugged in non-stop and maintain hectic schedules. Balancing work lives (in or out of the home) and family lives can be tough. Parents and children are often “together”, but not really together. How many of us have found ourselves talking with our children, nodding our heads, but not really hearing what they are saying because we are distracted by other things? We are physically present but we might be thinking about a disagreement we had with a friend or an email that needs to be finished. Without even realizing it, we are often focused on the past or the future, preventing us from being truly “present.” It takes conscious effort to focus on the moment at hand.
Connecting with Children Helps Them Feel Valued
Young children are intensely present every day, every moment, absorbing and learning. They can be thoroughly engaged watching a squirrel wind its way up a tree or stomping in a puddle. In a child’s perfect world, their favorite adults will slow down and appreciate their interest in the squirrel’s acrobatics or how high the puddle water will splash. Those adults will take a little time to have that meaningful, in-the-moment interaction.
Consider offering your child (and yourself) the sweet gift of tuning in. Create some time to simply be more present, on purpose, with your child – even for just a few minutes. When you focus on your child and engage with him, you give your child a valuable message: “You matter. You are important. You deserve my time and attention.”
Tips for Being (More) Present with Children
Of course, we can’t always be tuned in to our children. We have things that need to get done. And we are busy. And tired. And sometimes, in our jam-packed world, it’s ok to “listen” and nod while we think about those things. But connecting with a child for just a few minutes can have a huge impact. A few strategies are:
- When your child is telling you something, try to stop what you are doing, and really listen when you can. Let your presence show by validating your child’s feelings, making comments, or asking questions.
- Watch for opportunities to connect with your child: in the car, walking the dog, settling down at bedtime. Whether for 10 minutes or an hour, focus on being ‘all in’ during this time. Let your child know she has your attention by looking at her, touching her shoulder, or holding her hand.
- Put your phone away when possible. Let your child see that you value him above all else.
- Plan a ‘together time’ or ‘just us time’ or ‘the two of us time’ and let your child choose a quiet activity for the two of you. Keep ‘together time’ media-free. Just making a long line of cars or drawing with markers or doing puzzles together creates opportunities for quiet sharing, or simply being close. If you have more than one child, let each know that they will have their chance for ‘together time’ too. Maybe it’s once a week, and maybe it’s for 10 minutes, but it’s invaluable.
Don’t worry if it’s not always a magical “movie moment.” Sometimes children are cranky just as we are taking a moment to be present. That’s life. You’ll have another chance.
Being Present Can Reap Many Positive Benefits
While we all struggle to find the right balance, it is worth the time and effort to deepen our bonds with our children. Being present with your child helps them feel valued and develop a sense of self-worth. They may even be more cooperative and are likely to show improved behavior. All the result of our truly listening and showing genuine interest in them.
As we reflect back on our own childhood, it is not the stuff we got for birthdays or holidays that stands out, but it is those times spent with a caring and present adult that was the best gift of all.