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Being fully present with our kids Sep 18, 2016

Parenting style is such an individual thing. I think we all know what being fully present with our kids looks like. The question more is what we need to do to make it a habit that we ensure surfaces enough and at the right times. But just to start with a picture of what it looks like, here is a brief list:

1. Stopping what we are doing, sitting down and facing our kids
2. Listening to our kids talk and not speaking until they have finished
3. Asking them what they thought about something and why
4. Postponing phone calls or television when our kids are interacting with us
5. Letting situations unfold rather than trying to direct them
6. Grounding ourselves and being fully present in our own bodies, so we stand a greater chance of being fully present

These are “easier written than done”!

“Being present is one of the most profound tools of Neuroparenting, where our behaviours can influence the chemistry that helps children learn easily, behave positively and enjoy life.”(Dr Sandy Gluckman). We communicate with our non-verbals as much as our verbals. Dr Tina Bryson suggests that we replace the “huffy sigh, gritted teeth, frantic rushing around and aggressive body posture with a squinty-eyed smile, a good belly laugh, a responsive look or a loving touch.”

Intention & Attention

Others offered a different tack – the need for intention, focus and attention. First we need to intend to be more present, secondly to focus specific attention toward them and to stay focused on the conversation or exchange at hand; and thirdly to pay close attention to what your kids were saying so that you can respond accordingly. (Sharon Ballantine)

Relax into the present moment

A more insightful article quoted Eckhart Tolle “Most people treat the present moment as it if were an obstacle that they need to overcome. Since the present moment is Life itself, it is an insane way to live.” They urge us to resist the temptation to fast forward or rewind life to…when they can walk, when they can go to school, when they finish school. Rather, they advise us “Each stage of our child’s life offers us the possibility of great joy if we relax into what is.” (Susan Stiffelmann, MFT)

I vividly remember the ever present demands of my time when the kids were young. While I hear the truth in these words, we all need to realise it is a journey, and some progress towards what we know to be right, is better than no progress at all.

Letting go of our thoughts

But I’ve digressed…let’s go to Eckhart Tolle himself to explore his ideas about a better way to live – which is what bullet point number 6 above is about. Eckhart explains it this way. In order to be free for “presence”, we need to let our minds be still. We do this by letting go of our thoughts. Following thoughts, he says, can be like a dog chasing a bone. It can deplete our energy (for example, fear or anger). We need to become aware of consciousness itself. Attention, with thought forms taken out, then remains as “pure attention”.

What are we identifying with?

Eckhart then links this wisdom back to the Bible, noting that this was the essence of the words “Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the Kingdom of Heaven”. Just as a poor person can identify with a lack of possessions, a person who is “poor in spirit” is one who is “free of identification”. It is our identification with “forms” (that is, our thoughts about who we want to be, who we should be, what we own, who we may like or dislike etc.) that stops us from being fully present and getting the most joy out of life.

Simply just “be there”

To be present with our kids, we need to “not always be doing” so that we can bring spaciousness into relationships – no thought, but rather just an alert presence. Simply “being there” is an aware presence:
• Observing our kids
• Giving attention to our kids
Eckhart goes a step further to state: “this presence is you”.

3 things to do to be fully present

At a more practical level, Eckhart tells us 3 simple things we need to do to be fully present with our kids:

1. Set aside 5 or 10 minutes where we bring alertness to that time with our kids;
2. Whatever they do is okay – still tell them things, but in a different way, coming from a place of acceptance (not non-acceptance). Just accept the “is-ness” of the situation; and
3. Finally, take them out into nature, without gadgets.


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