Being Truly Present With Children Is a “Priceless” Gift

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.”

The gift of bring present  - giving your full attention.
The gift of bring present – giving your full 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.

 

Free Resources for a Healthy New Year

Are you looking for research-based, practical, and easy-to-use resources that promote healthy eating and physical activity in young children? We can help! Take a look at the games, fun activities, and healthy snack ideas here.

 

 

July is National Picnic Month!

Planning a picnic with children can be fun and it involves brainstorming and making choices – great skills for life!  What sandwiches?  Which fruit will travel well? What toys should we bring? Even a picnic in the back yard or in another room is fun for children. Pack water, a blanket, and hand sanitizer– you’re good to go.

For more great skill-building tips, check out In a Nutshell on the AcornDreams homepage.

 

 

Children Should be Seen AND Heard!

Why Involve Children in the Activities of Daily Life?

Sometimes it is just easier to do it yourself. Toys need to be picked up in a hurry? Table needs to be set? A four-year-old needs to get dressed?  Activities for Saturday afternoon need to be planned? In our busy day-to-day lives, if there is a job to do or decision to make, we tend to mull over the options, choose one that seems manageable, and just do it. Quick and easy, right? But when we do it all, we are missing opportunities to involve children in meaningful ways that can help them become more independent, creative, and resilient.

Everyone Needs a Voice in Family Life

When we find ourselves making the decisions, telling children what to do, where to go, what to wear, what to eat, we are inadvertently depriving them of the chance to think for themselves and to voice their opinions. Like adults, kids begin to bristle when they are micromanaged all the time. Even the youngest children benefit when they get to be involved in life’s little decisions.

When given opportunities to express themselves, share their experiences and make decisions, children feel valued and develop a sense of self.  This gives them the message that they are an important part of the family.  And when they are involved in a way that has meaning to them, when they have a Voice, children become more cooperative and behavior issues decrease.  So how can we let children know that we value their ideas and experiences?

Joining in children's play helps them have a Voice
Joining in children’s play helps them have a Voice

We Need to Listen

One way for children to have a Voice is to take a few minutes to let them know you are genuinely interested in what they have to say:

  • Listen to how their day was. Prompt them with something specific like “tell me about one person you played with (or talked to or laughed with) today.”
  • Ask them to tell you that joke again (even though you’ve heard it 100 times).
  • Have them tell you about the picture they made or the block structure they built.
  • Ask a silly question like “What super power would you like to have?” or “If you discovered a new planet, what would it be like?” or “If you were the boss of the world, what rules would you make?”

While most adults can listen and do something else at the same time, to a child it feels like you are not tuned in. So when they are talking, be sure to stop what you’re doing and really pay attention. Let them know you are listening by looking at them and responding to what they say.

Involve Children in Decision-Making

Another way to help children have a Voice is to encourage them to share ideas and opinions when decisions must be made or problems need to be solved. Some examples:

  • Giving ideas about a family activity (which park to visit, which movie to watch)
  • Working through a problem with a sibling by brainstorming possible solutions
  • Helping to pick out gifts for relatives or friends celebrating birthdays
  • Brainstorming dinner ideas
  • Helping to plan a party or celebration

While they may not end up getting the final say, children get the message that their input is valuable and is taken into consideration. Needless to say, certain decisions are not appropriate for children to be involved in such as bedtimes and how much TV is watched. It’s important for children to understand that some things are not negotiable. Giving children a Voice is not the same as letting them ‘rule the roost’. Having a Voice means being involved in the process of child-appropriate decision-making and problem-solving, not necessarily the outcome. Life does not always feel fair, but it is valuable and reassuring for children to learn that there are times when caring parents make the decisions

What Caring Adults Can Do

To help children have a Voice, Dr. Richard Grossman, a psychologist in Brookline Massachusetts, suggests that we keep 3 guidelines in mind:

  1. Assume that what your child has to say is just as important as what you have to say.
  2. Assume that you can learn as much from them as they can from you.
  3. Enter their world through play, activities, and discussions; don’t require them to enter yours in order to make contact.

By letting children know that we value their thoughts and ideas, and that we want their active participation in the life of the family, we give them the message that they matter. Research tells us that involving children in a meaningful way helps them become more resilient and ready to take on the challenges that life will certainly throw their way.

Wingspan’s Bullying Prevention Training for Early Childhood Educators

Understanding and Preventing

 Bullying in Young Children

 Training for Early Childhood Educators

This three-hour interactive training expands early childhood educators’ understanding of bullying behavior in young children.  Participants learn how they can intervene when bullying occurs and what they can do to prevent bullying.  The workshop addresses these questions:

  •   What is bullying and why do some children bully others?
  •  What does bullying behavior look like in young children and why should educators be concerned?
  •  How is bullying different from aggression typically seen in young children?
  •  How can adults curb aggressive and bullying behavior demonstrated by young children?
  •  What strategies help prevent bullying behavior and promote more positive social interactions?
  •  What are effective ways to build empathy in young children?

[ more ]

How Much TV Is Okay For Young Children?

Lots of Screens In Children’s Lives

Screens here, screens there, screens, screens everywhere — in our pockets, on our phones, in our cars, and in our homes.

It can be hard to tear children away from the TV.
It can be hard to tear children away from the TV.

It’s no wonder National Screen-Free Week was created!

And it’s not just mobile devices, computers, and smartphones — TV screens are everywhere.  You see them in the pediatrician’s  waiting room, restaurants, convenience stores, banks, and car repair shops.    Even movie theater lobbies have TVs running previews of movies!

Preschool age children spend between 2 and 4 1/2 hours using some sort of screen each day. However, according to the “Zero to Eight:  Children’s Media Use in America” study (published by Common Sense Media’s Program for the Study of Children and Media), 74% of young children’s screen time is television.  Although the use of apps and video games is on the rise, for preschool children, TV is still the number one screen of choice. [ more ]

Playtime Matters: Are Some Kinds Of Play Better Than Others?

Put the Play Back Into Playtime

“Get back in the game, buddy!” calls out a dedicated dad when he sees his 4-year old athlete poking twigs in the ground to make a stick house.

Hmmm.   Two kinds of play here.  Soccer and imaginary twig towns.

Remember “Just Playing?”

Today’s young children certainly play more soccer and t-ball.  They jump on bouncers, flap parachutes and scarves together, and clamber through ballpits in “play places.”  Our children master video games created just for them and many maneuver a smart phone better than adults!  There are fewer twig towns out there these days.

Playing in hay bale houses - interesting!
Playing in hay bale houses – interesting!

 

Do children play the same way today as we did when we were kids? [ more ]

Snowflakes Young Children Can Make for Sandy Hook

Although young children don’t benefit knowing the details of Sandy Hook, they can still be involved in acts of kindness.  Making snowflakes to create a winter wonderland is a simple gesture that will welcome Sandy Hook children to their new school.   Deadline is Jan. 12.  Mail snowflakes to Connecticut PTSA, 60 Connolly Parkway, Building 12, Suite 103, Hamden, CT 06514.

 

Teaching Children the Gift of Giving, Not Getting

It’s Never Too Early to Show Children the Joys of Giving

The “Gimme” Attitude

What gifts can young children give?

Lots of people love to talk about children being spoiled today, being raised with a sense of entitlement. Usually, we’re talking about other people’s spoiled children but not always.

Did Socrates have specific children in mind when he observed: “The children now love luxury…have bad manners, contempt for authority…disrespect to their elders….” ?

During the busy month of December, many caring adults work very hard to create special traditions and choose perfect gifts that will delight children – who will then appreciate and remember warm holiday experiences. You know, we’re making memories! It’s a lot of work.

What Really Makes Children Happy

How frustrating and disappointing when instead of sweet gratitude and general contentedness, children instead look around for ANOTHER present or are cranky or get overstimulated by our memory-making activities. [ more ]