By Dr. Teandra Gordon, LMFT-S, Clinical Director of School-Based Behavioral Health
What does it mean to be present in your child’s life? To each person or parent, it can mean something different. To most people, it means being fully engaged in the moment; not focusing on your phone or any other distraction. As parents, we should be focused and present in the moments we have with our children.
I find that a person’s sense of relationship with their parents is often embedded in their perception of how present their parents were in their lives. Participants in a research study I conducted identified a close relationship with their parents as being “with me most of the time” or “always present.”
Life is busy. As parents, we have many responsibilities. At the top of our priority list should be spending quality time with our kids. It doesn’t require lots of money, just a willingness to be present.
There is the old adage, “Put your money where your mouth is.” I propose a variation on that, “Put your time where your heart is.” If the success of your children is a priority, being present with them must be a priority as well. That is because presence communicates significance.
There are many ways to show your child that you are present in their lives. Those can include:
· Nurture routines for morning, dinner, and bedtime. Eat dinner together without TV or other electronic devices around.
· Foster a positive atmosphere of happiness. Greet your children with a smile when they walk into a room.
· Talk to your children about their day. Have everyone share “the rose and thorn” of their day at dinnertime or on the car ride home.
· Hang out and play together. It can be anything. Plan movie nights. Dance in the living room. Play board games. Play at the park. Spend time together.
Just as we must go to work or make dinner, spending quality time with our kids doing activities that we both enjoy should be at the top of our priority list. That doesn’t mean we are obligated to sacrifice our careers for the sake of parenting. Just understand that our presence in our child’s life is essential to their well-being.
There is no magic formula for time spent together during the week, but the key is to communicate to our children that they are special, significant, and worthy of our time and attention.