How do you describe that magical sensation when you and your child are playing together; concentrating on a task nose-to-nose; hugging; sitting side-by-side in comfortable silence; having a heart-to-heart; listening to a song together; giggling at a joke...? Whatever it may be, it occurs in the absence of one's mobile phone, laptop, wandering thoughts, stressed body language, day-to-day multitasking. That time you slowed down and focused on him or her, those moments you really heard and felt your child's words, presence, emotions, affection. You saw and accepted them for them; you shared a beautiful moment.
I'd take a chance that it felt pretty special to you (and to them)!
And now let’s be honest with each other; how hard is it to do this?! I know! It really is hard! Why aren't we doing it more often when it's so beneficial to them, and us?
Why, oh why? Well, that’s because we race around, feel stressed, tell ourselves there's no time, feel too tired.... Oh, and we find it nigh on impossible to be present with ourselves, let alone our kids!
What to do?
Start practising. Practise BEING PRESENT with yourself AND your children.
Practise moments of stillness where you are just 'being'. You aren't rushing, racing, or stressing. It is as simple as this. BEING, NOT DOING. And, should you wish so (I highly recommend), then a regular meditation practice can be cultivated from this simple start. If you are feeling especially overwhelmed with your day/ life, then this stillness practise is even better to try in that moment.
How do I do even start doing this?
Stop mid-tidying, mid-washing-up,mid-whatever, for just 1 little minute! Most things can wait 1 extra minute.... Be seated if possible, close your eyes, try to concentrate on your breath going in and out through your nose, or the rise and fall of your chest; this is 'watching' your breath. Place a hand on your heart or tummy if that helps, and feel the breath come in and out. You’ll notice you start to feel calmer, too. Don't worry if you cannot stop thinking the gazillion thoughts that fly in and out, just set the intention to be as quiet and still as you can.
Practise your mindful breathing and being completely present with a task/ situation e.g. walking to the shops, cleaning, waiting for your kids in the car, having a shower, sitting down for 5 minutes... Your mind will thank you for it. Your children will start to notice it, too.
And then, don't feel riddled with guilt if you haven't been present with your children for even 2 minutes today, just go and do it now. Take only yourself, and your intention to focus on them. Even a minute can make a huge difference. It could be sitting opposite them at eye level and just telling them how much you appreciate and love them, it could be inviting them to play with you (a game of their choice), read a book with you, listen to music with you, have a cuddle, eat a snack together, take the dog out for a walk, talk lovingly about any issue that’s cropped up of late, talk about their favourite band or TV programme…you get the idea.
An extra bonus? You're modelling mindfulness to the kids which is a HUGE plus. Their emotional development will be eternally thankful. They see you practising being quiet with yourself, they see how you find some peace and calm internally when perhaps you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed with the external storm of everyday life.
Oh, I forgot to mention the PRESENTS part, didn’t I!? And it's only 26 days until Christmas!
Ok, here it is; when we become better at being more present with our children, better at focusing solely on them (sometimes) and not a screen/ another conversation/ another being/ another task, then they feel heard, seen, valued, connected to us, and LOVED. If we try to replicate this by buying them a gift, for example, instead of being present with them more often, then although we may see an instant thanks from them and see a smile or hear a joyful retort, that material item is only transient and offers zero chance for true connection. It cannot show them unconditional love.
A gift simply cannot conjure the same connected-relationship magic that presence commands.
Most children, given half the chance, would choose your presence, over a present, time and time again.