I love this blog post from my guest Rowan, as I often find myself struggling with the same things she talks about in this article. I really WANT to be present with my kids, there just always seems to be something (not) important vying for my attention. We all get distracted, here's some ways to come back to your kids, or any other little ones in your life. Thanks for the great ideas Rowan!
Staying Present with Kids: tips you haven't heard.
If you are a parent like me, you read a lot of parenting resources. I bet, like myself, you’ve read plenty about the importance of playing with your kids, of child led play, of being present with kids.
Here’s my problem: I space off.
I try not to, I really do. I want to stay engaged, I want my children to know they are important to me, I want them to know I appreciate their creative genius.
Even so, within a couple minutes, I find myself thinking of my to-do list, rewording blog posts I haven’t published yet, remembering the laundry slowly rotting in the washer.
But as time has passed I have come across a few tricks that really help me to stay in the present moment with my kids and give them my full attention.
Yep, really. I have yet to meet a young child that doesn’t squeal with glee jumping in a cloud of bubbles. Here’s what it does for me: it encourages me to take slow, deep breaths. As I bring in those deep belly breaths and slowly, gently blow a long string of bubbles, my mind quiets, my body calms, and my attention narrows to my kids in front of me. And there’s a bonus: being present with their joy brings me joy.
Walk a baby to sleep.
Ok, so my baby, Brie, is not a baby anymore. Brie is 22 months and we are transitioning from walking them to sleep and laying down with them until they fall asleep. They still love it though and if it didn’t hurt my back so much, I’d probably indulge in this routine forever.
There are still times that I space off, especially when it’s a late night and I’m thinking about how much I want them to just fall asleep already. But I bring myself back by using our laps around the living room as a walking meditation. I pace my breathing with my steps - breathe in with two steps, breathe out with two steps - then increase the number of steps per breath until I have calm, long, deep belly breaths. My mind quiets, my body calms, and I am here with Brie as we stare into eachothers eyes, as I feel the weight of their body in my arms, as they grin contentedly while they gently drift off. These are moments I cherish.
Walk a toddlers pace.
Boy it is so easy for me to just pick Brie up and encourage Avery, my 3 year old, to pick up the pace. But really, why do I have to be in such a hurry all the time? Granted, there are times that it is warranted, but most of the time it is ok to just slow down. I try to remember to intentionally walk with my children, at the youngest’s pace. By slowing my body it is easier to slow my mind, and then my world opens in a way that still always surprises me. The smooth rocks Avery finds and slips in her pockets, the bug Brie notices and crouches down to peer at, the red and orange leaves crunching under our boots - none of these I would have been aware of if I hadn’t taken the moment to slow down and walk at my toddler’s pace.
Color with your non-dominant hand.
This mostly works because it has been instilled in us to color within the lines and it simply takes more focused attention to do this with a non-dominant hand. But the extra effort is worth it because it better enables us to keep attention on the kid coloring beside us. It helps us notice the way they suck in their lower lip when they concentrate, the way they put so much weight on their left elbow on the table, that they use their right hand to brush hair out of their face, that their curls seem to be growing a mile a minute.
What about you? I would love to hear about ways you stay present with your little ones.
You can learn more from Rowan at activistparenting.com