We want our children to feel that we are there for them and are listening to them.
The truth is, though, that we may frequently be busy with other things, and not paying real attention to them.
Yes, we might be present physically, but we’re so pre-occupied by work or other commitments that we’re not giving them the benefit of our full presence and undivided attention.
Ever found yourself giving automatic answers to questions? The danger with this is that you’re not reading between the lines and really hearing what they’re trying to say.
How to be fully present with your children:
Give them moments of undivided attention (and be honest when you can’t)
To really enjoy spending special time with your children relies on being fully present and giving them full and undivided attention. Of course, there are times when this simply isn’t possible. So, if you’re in the middle of doing something else, rather than listening to kids with half an ear, you can tell them: “I’d love to spend time with you, but I really need to get dinner started, grab a carrot and help me do this and then we’ll sit down with a hot chocolate and I’ll be all ears”. Children are far more likely to want to open up again in future if they know that you are willing to make the time to listen to them.
Lead by example
The most effective way to show children the importance of focused undivided attention is by modelling this behaviour yourself.
This not only encourages children to open up and talk, but it also increases the likelihood that they will listen to what you have to say in return. By encouraging them to become active listeners, you are also equipping them with essential life skills that will continue to be of great benefit as they grow to become adults.
Book in some one-on-one time
It’s important to schedule in some regular one-on-one time with each child by following the steps below:
1. At the beginning of a day or a week, schedule some time to dedicate to each child individually.
2. For children younger than five, schedule around ten minutes of ‘special time’ every day – which can be tricky with more than two children. With children older than five, try it less regularly, but for longer periods. Try to schedule at least 30 minutes once a week.
3. At the beginning of the session, say: “This is our special time together” to make sure that they value it.
4. Offer a choice of two or three of your child’s favourite activities to do together. It could be sitting together to read, cook, draw (most children love drawing with their parents), go for a walk, do a puzzle, play cards etc.
NB: We strongly recommend that your activity includes playing, as this is something that we don’t usually have enough time to do with our children.
Not only does this fulfill their need for Fun and Play, but it is also one of the key ways they learn essential life skills, particularly when they are younger. It’s also important to let children ‘lead us’ in the game that they choose.
- Designed with busy parents in mind, Nadim’s book, ‘The Working Parents Guide’ is full of practical tips and advice to solve common parenting challenges and to help parents raise their children to become happy, confident and resilient adults.