Present…To Our Children, To Our Lives
by Alice Hanscam,
PCI Certified Parent Coach®
Denali Parent Coaching
We are a nation of multi-taskers. What once seemed like an accusation has become an affirmation—if you can successfully multi-task, put a feather in your cap. Technology alone has increased our opportunities to accomplish things, as well as increased the things we need to accomplish. And I wonder, at what cost to the important relationships around us?
As your attention gets pulled in multiple directions, how are you feeling? Satisfied at accomplishing so much? Energized by your success? Or perhaps, like many of my clients, you are feeling frenzied and stressed, finding relief and ease only when you've put multi-tasking aside, bringing your attention to what's right in front of you—maybe a chore, or more often your child.
As parents, we are continuously looking at what's best for our children. How often have you found yourself saying, "Not now, I'm busy," "Yes, I'm listening," "Let me just do one more thing," "Just a minute…maybe later…I'll be right back." Are these familiar to you? What message are we giving our children when in so many of our interactions with them our attention is divided? It seems to me as if we are saying, "You are not important enough to have my full attention." How sad. We are, intentionally or not, communicating disrespect to our children—these same kids we find ourselves wishing would "show us some respect" come teen years!
Take a moment and think about an experience with your child that left you feeling absolutely wonderful. What were you doing? Where was your attention? How were you both feeling? Most likely it was a time when you were involved in something together—be it a walk through the zoo, a board game after dinner, a wrestling match leaving you both belly laughing. Or maybe it was being there for your daughter when she was struggling deeply with something.
These are times of real deposits into your relationship with your child. These are what build a foundation of trust, respect, and love providing stability for tough times and joy for celebratory times. And these are times when your cell-phone is ignored, the computer out of reach, the dishes left in the sink, the message machine doing its job. These are the joyful, simpler times when multi-tasking is easier to let go of.
What does being fully present look like during a busy day running errands? How about when your preschooler is yelling for your attention as the phone and doorbell ring? What about when you have to respond to a few more emails and your child is tugging at your sleeve—"I need you now, mommy!" Maybe you have to finish those emails right now—and you'd probably finish them faster if you weren't trying to appease your child simultaneously. There's a paradox here. The more we can slow down and become present—be right here right now—the less overwhelming these moments become, the more we accomplish.
What does being present look like? Perhaps touching your child's shoulder, affirming their feeling frustrated/mad/impatient and letting them know exactly when they can expect you to help them. Then, turning your attention fully on the emails, finishing them despite the whining by your side, and showing your child responsibility and respect by following through on your promise.
What would being present look like as you are buzzing through Costco pushing a cart full of food and children? Perhaps minimizing distractions (leaving your cell phone off or in the car?) allowing you to really listen to your kids, respectfully engaging them in the process. When my girls were young, I found that by minimizing distractions I felt more connected and focused, able to redirect them as needed in positive ways. Ultimately, my children reaped the benefits of a less stressed mom—and I ended up accomplishing more.
Being present to those around us (and to our experiences) requires us to slow down, minimize our multi-tasking or put it fully aside—ultimately making positive deposits into our relationships and into our own emotional health. The more often we can do this, the less detrimental it will be when we do have to accomplish multiple things at once—we will have a full bank account of deposits into our relationships with our children and can afford a withdrawal or two.
What would it be like to be fully present to those around you through out your day? What will you feel like after a day of knowing you gave your full attention to everything you attempted to do? What deposits can you make today with your child by being present to them? I believe our children deserve to have adults who show them they are important enough to warrant our presence.
Alice Hanscam is a PCI Certified Parent Coach®, Certified Screamfree Trainer, and owner of Denali Parent Coaching. Visit her Web site at or contact her at (907) 868-6933 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.