The "Power of Now" for Parents and Children
Have you ever spoken with an adult and during the discussion realized that they were not focusing on the conversation? Maybe they were looking away or robotically nodding at you. Maybe you could just sense that they were thinking about something else. This kind of conversation can never go beyond a superficial level. The relationship with this person will likely remain limited.
Now lets imagine that you are a young child spending time with your parent, but this parent is not focusing on you, they seem distracted. You want their attention but don’t know how to get it. How would this make you feel? To most children this would feel bad; the child would feel hurt, rejected and unimportant. The child is looking to make this connection and bond however the parent is thinking about work, dinner, shopping, future plans or any of the many other thoughts that run through an adult’s mind.
This is obviously not an ideal opportunity for the bonding that every child needs. Children are born ready to bond with their parent and one ingredient necessary for this bonding is the parent being present or ‘in the moment’ or ‘in the now’. This means thinking of nothing else but what is going on in the present with the objects and people around you and experiencing this in a physical sense. It is not always possible for parents to provide their child with undivided attention but it is important for a parent to realize that the child needs this experience at times throughout the day.
If the parent is ‘present’ while engaged with a child, the message the child receives is "you are valuable to me" on the other hand if the parent is constantly thinking of something other than the present activity, then the message is "you are not that important." Some other benefits of being 'present' with your child are:
- Bonding - Being present with your child creates an everlasting connection.
- Concentration - If you are simply concentrating on the activity with your child you are teaching focus by imitation.
- Peacefulness - There is a sense of peace when you can let go of everything else in your life and just be.
- Joy - There is no greater pleasure than being ‘in the moment’ with your child.
- A legacy – Not only will the child learn to be present with you but with all other people in their lives including friends, future spouses and then their own children.
If I had my child to raise over again
I'd build self-esteem first and the house later
I'd finger paint more and point the finger less
I would do less correcting and more connecting
I'd take my eyes off my watch and watch with my eyes
I would care to know less and know to care more
I'd take more hikes and fly more kites
I'd stop playing serious and seriously play
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars
I'd do more hugging and less tugging
I'd see the oak tree in the acorn more often
I would be firm less often and affirm much more
I'd model less about the love of power
And more about the power of love.
It is never too late to start being present with your child and giving your child the gift of this kind of interaction. It takes some effort for a parent to let go of these other thoughts, but with practice this living 'in the now' can become more and more part of your life.
How to Begin being Present
One way to start is by focusing on your breathing. You can do this right now. I want you to take a deep breath, filling your lungs and then slowly letting the air back out. Notice how once you consider your breathing you start breathing slower and deeper, sensing this breathing helps you to feel more present by thinking about your body. If there is a plant in the room try looking at the plant for 10 seconds; this will help you become more aware of your surroundings and connecting with what is around you. These are simple techniques that quickly and effortlessly bring you into the present. You can continue breathing and sensing yourself and your environment. This is not difficult and just takes making the choice to do it.
Now that you can do this for yourself you can apply this method to the time you spend with your child. The next time you are with your child you can begin by focusing on what you are doing in the moment. If you are reading a book to them, focus on the book and the child, letting go of any other thoughts. If you are talking to your child, focus only on this discussion. Notice as much as you can about your child, including what they are saying, their energy and their tone as well as your own reaction. You can practice this in small ways and it can grow from there. It is not possible to always be present with your child since life has many demands. When you are present, in the moment with your child, you will be handing down the best legacy of all, which is all of you.