Is it Possible to Be More Present With Our Kids?

Is it Possible to Be More Present With Our Kids?
By Nicky Hammond

Yes, it’s totally possible and here are some ideas for you that I have learned through my work as a life coach. There are no hard and fast rules in parenting, I would love for you to take the ideas that resonate and leave the ones that don’t.

One major obstacle holding us back from being more present with our kids, are our feelings. We feel restless and bored and agitated and frustrated and  annoyed and disappointed. Yes, there is fun and enjoyment and love and humour but somehow I don’t think you need help with that side of life.

Let me give you a hypothetical example (definitely not from my personal experience – no never!).

You decide to do something nice with the kids. Perhaps you decide to do some art and craft at home, something special like making decorated butterflies for the grandparents. You set out all the items. Cardboard, paint, scissors, glue and glitter. The kids take forever to cut out shapes and they are not really looking like what you had in mind. Your mind starts wandering, they are taking a very long time... You are feeing bored. You are wondering if you should have just let them watch TV. Your tummy rumbles and you realise it is almost lunch time. You feel agitated. Maybe you should go and make some lunch as everyone will be hangry shortly. You explain to the kids how to complete the art and craft project and leave them to create their masterpiece. You return to the scene, sandwiches in hand and there is a great big pile of glitter, glue and cardboard strew across the table and floor. The result is very different from what you had imagined and it looks like the clean up is going to take longer than the art activity. You feel frustrated that the project didn’t go to plan. You feel annoyed that you didn’t experience quality time together and now you are disappointed. Has anyone experienced this? Or something similar? Usually when it comes to art and craft, the result is me in a fit of rage hahaha but I digress. 

Let me now tell you about the tools that I am using to improve my experience and the result.

Often we exacerbate all these feelings simply by our expectations. We have this idea that this should be just fun, that we should feel engaged, that we should enjoy the entire process, the kids should be able to follow instructions, they should do it all and they definitely should be grateful at the end of it. 

Notice a pattern? The “should” creates an extra layer of emotional discomfort. We end up feeling frustrated that we are frustrated, annoyed that we are annoyed… When we notice all these expectations we have, we can let go of our “should” and when the “should” falls away so does a layer of our own pain.

Instead of fighting the feelings, the first step is to just expect them to come up. You might think “oh there is boredom, it’s just a feeling and that’s ok”. Remember that feelings are uncomfortanle but they don’t actually hurt you. You might even expect a few obstacles along the way, because that is life. If you expected it to be messy, if you expected the kids to get bored along the way, if you didn’t have a plan of exactly how it would go, or even be flexible about the end result, then you would be more open to other possibilities. This makes the time we intentionally carve out with our kids more enjoyable and less of a battle like experience.

Then we could ourselves why we want to be more present. There is no wrong answer. Do you want to be a better mum? Build stronger relationship with your kids? Create amazing memories? Teach them something? Give them access to a new experience or transfer a skill? Spend time together? Or, all of the above? When you know your WHY, then ask yourself “how can I do this?” “How long do I want to spend with my kids each day/week?” “What would that look like?” “What activity should we engage in?”  Here are some examples. It could be 2 hours of time a week where the smart phone sits in your handbag and the sole focus is on your kids. It could be 20 minutes a day reading to your kids. Sitting next to your kids for 30 minutes a day watching a TV show of their choice with them. 10 minutes of conversation. 1 hour of whatever your child chooses to do with you. You decide!

I have one more tip. Don’t make the commitment to your kids really big, make it very realistic. If currently spending 10 minutes a days feels like a stretch, choose something achievable – just 5 minutes a day!

And finally, make sure you honour your commitment to spend that amount of time doing that activity with your kids that you have planned ahead of time. Its going to get easier over time! The small consistent efforts truly add up to big results. The result ultimately will be you know that you are the kind of mum who consistently is present with your kids. Your kids will decide how they will interpret your time with them and you cannot change that, but you can be confident that you are showing up in your kids life in a way that you choose.

If it doesn’t go to plan for some reason, make sure you’ve got your own back. None of us are perfect. Notice what went wrong and figure out how to make sure you honour your commitment to yourself next time.

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