How often are you fully and completely present when you are with your children? One of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is to be fully present with them. This can often be a big challenge.
When my three children were growing up, I worked full time as a counselor, wrote books, traveled on book tours, and pursued my passion as an artist – in addition to spending time with my husband. The only way I could be fully present when I was with my children was to set aside “time alone” with them. “Time alone” was daily quality time I spent with each of my children, doing whatever they wanted to do. During this time I did not answer the phone or deal with the many issues of running a household. It was time set aside to be fully present with them, not even thinking about other things.
The message you give to your children when you don’t spend quality time being fully present is that they are not important. When answering the phone, or getting things done, or thinking about what you have to do tomorrow is more important than being present with your children, they get the message that being with them and really knowing them is not very important to you.
When I was growing up, my mother was always busy. She never had the time to just be with me. She never wanted to know about my thoughts and feelings, or about how things were going at school. She never had the time to play with me or just hang out with me. While she said that she loved me and that I was important to her, I never felt it. Words don’t cut it when the actions don’t follow.
If it is not important to you to just be with your children – talking with them, playing with them, taking a walk, holding them, listening to them, sharing love with them, gazing at them with love – then they will likely not feel loved by you. No matter how many things you buy them, or how often you tell them you love them, if they are not important enough to you to REALLY be with them, then it is likely they will not feel loved and cherished by you.
Your children need your focused attention, and when they don’t get it, they may pull for it in various ways. They may chatter on and on, trying to keep your attention. They may act out by fighting with each other, or by not listening to you or going into resistance regarding chores, homework, hygiene, bedtime, and so on. For many children, even negative attention feels better than no attention. This may create a very negative vicious circle, in that the more they act out, the less you feeling like being with them, but the less you are with them in a loving and attentive way, the more they may act out.
Think about how you feel when someone gives you his or her full attention. Doesn’t it feel wonderful? How often does someone look you in the eyes and give you his or her full attention? How often do you feel really listened to and heard by someone? Unfortunately, many people are so intent on being listened to and heard that they don’t listen and hear.
The simple act of being fully present with your children will do more for them than you can imagine. I have many clients who were deeply impacted by a friend or relative who really listened to them – even if it only occurred occasionally.
You have an opportunity to give your children a great gift – being fully present with them with your love, compassion, empathy, interest, sense of humor, playfulness, and affection. You have the opportunity each day, even if it is just for half an hour, to fully cherish them.
They grow up so fast. Don’t miss this opportunity each day.