In today’s day and age, it’s so easy to unplug from life – Facebook, Instagram, Netflix. Consequently, you are probably not being as present with your child as you would like.
They grow up so fast and, if you’re not careful, those precious years will simply fly by without you noticing.
Sometimes we as mothers need to slow down and remind ourselves to pay attention to our little ones.
This doesn’t make us terrible mothers – we are simply a product of our time.
I know I tout a lot of self-care and finding time for yourself on this blog but we need to be mindful of spending quality time with our little ones as well.
It doesn’t have to be as difficult as we often make it to be. Spending time with our kiddos doesn’t have to be an extravagant and Instagram-worthy affair.
Here are 8 simple tips for making more time to be present with your child:
8 Ways to Be More Present With Your Child
1. Put Away the Screens
Of course, this is going to be the first thing I mention because it is the number one thing keeping us from our children nowadays.
I’m not saying that you should ban phones, tablets and televisions from your home. Anything is okay in small doses – but if you find screen time getting out of control in your household, it may be time to institute some ground rules.
The Online Mom is an online resource geared at helping parents navigate the world of technology when it comes to raising children. They focus particularly on keeping kids safe in the online world and encouraging online responsibility.
In this article, they recommend some great ways to cut down your child’s screen time (which also works great for adults, too):
- No screens during meal times.
- No screens during homework.
- Limit screen time to an hour a day.
- No screens in the bedroom.
Most importantly, you need to set a good example. You can’t expect your child to put down YouTube if you’re sitting there perusing Facebook.
As you read through this list, you’ll see some great ways to be present with your child. When you begin to shift your focus back to your little one, you may find yourself picking up your phone less and less.
2. Relish in the Simple Pleasures
The best moments in motherhood happen when you engage with your child. Those snuggles, hugs and conversations are what make for beautiful memories.
Not everything that happens with your child needs to recorded and shared with the world. You are allowed to keep those moments to yourself.
It’s also okay if those moments are not Instagram-perfect. Some of my happy memories with my daughter include doing things like allowing her to paint my face or put on my makeup. We get so silly and have a good laugh – and I don’t feel inclined to post anything on Facebook.
Any moment is worth taking a step back and relishing in the simple pleasures. For example, I always feel my heart swell when I watch my daughter sleep or when I catch her singing in the bathtub.
Try this little exercise the next time you eat a meal with your little one: Stop for a minute and watch them eat. Watch as they use a utensil to pick up a piece of food or if they can hold a knife and cut their meat.
Think back to the time when they couldn’t hold a fork and simply shoved mushed-up food into their mouth. Think further back to when they couldn’t even eat and relied on a bottle or the breast.
See how far your precious one has come? Remember those amazing moments when they did things for the first time?
This is just one way to appreciate those tiny moments. Paying closer attention to what your child is capable of doing helps you to stay present with them.
3. Slow Down
Life goes by way too quickly and being a busy mom certainly doesn’t help this from occurring. As hectic as your life may be, there is always a way to slow down so you can appreciate time with your child.
Sometimes we get so caught up with keeping our children busy with activities, or trying to take care of our day-to-day responsibilities, that we lose track of how present we are with our little ones.
A busy schedule is a distraction from life.
Try to make time for your child by streamlining your schedule. Have your little one help prepare meals, carry out chores or take them grocery shopping with you.
The payoff? You are spending time with your child as you complete these activities together AND you’ll have more time to focus on each other.
You can also take advantage of your routine in order to be present with your child. Use bedtime as a time to connect and engage with your kiddo. Read two books instead of one or take this opportunity to ask about their day.
Overall, it’s important to alleviate your busy schedule and make time to just hang out with your kid.
4. Acknowledge Your Positive Feelings
Next time another mom posts about their child on social media, pay attention to the tone of what they are sharing. Are they complaining about their child’s behaviour? Are they lamenting how hard it is to be a mom?
I’ve noticed a big change in how moms speak about their children on Facebook – it’s actually mostly positive. But there are still those moms who seek attention or validation by talking about their children in a negative light, even offline.
I can’t say I’ve never shared stories about when my child has driven me nuts. However, I know that most of what I have to say about my child is about how awesome she is.
You’re allowed to be proud of your kids. You are allowed to blast your pride all over the interwebs. And you know what? You’re allowed to tell your kids that, too.
Even if you are that mama that sings your child’s praises all over your Facebook account, the most important audience for that message should be your little one.
You can’t spoil a child with positive reinforcement. You’re not going to create an egotistical monster by pointing out their strengths. Your child isn’t going to become narcissistic because you tell them on a regular basis how much they rock.
When you give your child well-deserved praise, be specific as to what you are praising them about. Let them know how their behaviour makes you feel happy.
Not only will this boost their confidence, but they will know that you are paying attention to them and their achievements as well.
5. Try Not to Multitask Too Much
Multitasking may be the new #momhack of the century, but you have to be very careful about how you use this precious tool.
For example, when your little one is telling you about their day at school, it’s probably not a good time to catch up on your emails.
The secret to multitasking is to try and pair up two menial tasks that don’t require 100% of your attention or by involving your family in the task as a way to bond and spend time with them.
I’m not saying that multitasking is wrong and you should never do it. For the love of all things sacred, I am a single mother. Multitasking is as necessary as coffee.
But I learned how to do it without sacrificing the attention my daughter needs.
If I’m working on my computer and she wants to tell me a story, the computer goes away. When she’s having a bath and wants me to play with her, I set the laundry aside. Supper preparations can wait until after homework is done.
However, even if we should be dialing down the multitasking to pay more attention to our kids, there is developmental merit in allowing them to play independently and to even get bored.
That is to say that sometimes it’s okay for your little one to stare despondently at you in search of entertainment while you catch up on your budget or plan your meals for the week. It has been proven that boredom fuels creativity, so your kiddo needs to learn how to entertain themselves sometimes.
It’s up to you as a mama to decide when your child needs your immediate attention and when they do not. Overall, if they have something important to say, you should probably take a break and listen.
6. Do a Project Together
Focusing on a common goal with your child can be an amazing bonding experience.
And when I say do a project together, I don’t mean anything extravagant or expensive. Simply building a pillow and blanket fort together is a great way to be present with your child.
To create more routine bonding time together, consider finding a hobby you both enjoy. You can work on puzzles, try a new recipe or even make gifts and cards instead of buying them.
As an aside, my daughter and I decided to make ornaments in lieu of Christmas gifts this year.
Primarily, I chose this route to save some money. The beautiful consequence of this is that we had a wonderful time not only cutting out the ornaments but painting and decorating them as well.
Finding something you can do with your child that works toward a common goal doesn’t have to be a part of your every day routine, but it is a great way to reconnect – especially if life has been particularly crazy and busy.
7. Ask Them Questions
As soon as I pick up my daughter in the afternoon, I ask her: “How was your day at school?” I typically get a positive response and then we continue on our way.
(Side story: We were sitting at Burger King one day when my daughter was six and she looked at me and said, “How was your day at work?” It was so sweet!)
While touching base with your kiddo after school by asking this question is a great way to connect with their day, there are many more questions you could be asking to elicit more thoughtful responses.
Here are some alternatives you could ask to “How was your day?” that will have your child opening up:
- What games did you play at recess?
- What new thing did you learn today?
- What was your favorite part of the day?
- Did your friends do anything funny today?
- Who made you smile today?
Asking more detailed questions shows your child that you really want to be present with their experiences throughout the day.
Questions don’t have to be limited to after school. You’ve probably seen those cute surveys circulating Facebook where parents ask their kids questions and post the answers.
For fun, I asked my daughter the questions. She loved being asked things about herself that I had to Google more questions to ask.
Eventually, she wanted to start asking me questions! It was a great little game.
(BTW, according to my daughter, my favorite food is the Whopper – and if I was a My Little Pony, my cutey mark would be a Whopper. She’s not wrong.)
For a list of questions to ask your little ones, check out 100+ Funny Questions to Ask Kids from We Have Kids!
8. Don’t Force Yourself to Play With Your Kids
Shouldn’t we be playing with our kids, like, 24-7?
Confession time: I struggle to find the wherewithal to play with my kid.
I think it has a lot to do with the busyness of being a mom – even if I take a moment to be complacent, there is always something that needs to be done.
Whenever I sit to play with my daughter, my mind races with all of the other things I could be doing. I feel unproductive when I take time to play.
(Unless it’s a board game, then I’m super focused on winning.)
So while I’m writing out this list and touting the importance of being present with your child, I will admit that this is the one thing I struggle with.
And it’s definitely not for a lack of ideas. Between my background working with Autistic preschoolers and my daughter’s wildly beautiful imagination, play scenarios know no bounds.
This was her recent attempt at running a restaurant:
I would just like to point out that the restaurant had no pizza and you had to pay for everything else.
The service was fantastic, though.
I found this transcript from Infant Educarer Janet Lansbury’s podcast. She responds to a parent’s struggle with her child’s demands to play with her by saying: “It’s really okay to say ‘no’ to playing with your child.”
She explains that in the fast-paced world of parenting, our focus should be on care-giving moments and giving our children our full attention when it matters most. Engaging in play should be the icing on the cake.
She does warn to only engage in play if you really want to. Children can sense your irritation, frustration and resentment when you force yourself to play with them. Imagine how that would feel to your child.
I definitely recommend you read the entire transcript, but my takeaway for you is this: When you make efforts to be present with your child in other ways, you don’t have to feel bad about not playing with them.
Instead of fretting about not wanting to play Princess Fairy Tea Party with them, find those activities you both have a common interest in – and you can always combine those activities with play too. When your child is insistent on playing school, try to incorporate coloring or making a craft into the play.
That way, you are focusing on an activity you enjoy while fulfilling your child’s need to engage in imaginative play.
Most Importantly, Our Children Need to Know That We Are There
Being present with your child is so important to their emotional health.
When a child knows that their parent is there for them, they are more confident in opening up to that parent about their life and their struggles.
Creating a sense of presence in your child’s life perpetuates a relationship of trust and honesty.
How do you stay present with your child? Do you struggle with this? Let me know in the comments below!