Christmas is a crazy time of year for parents and children. In the ‘perfect Facebook family’ posts, we see happy holidays, everyone smiling and an abundance of Christmas trimmings. From the antics of many ‘Elves on Shelves,’ to the piles of presents and delicious food.
As every parent knows, the reality is somewhat different. Tantrums and meltdowns over toys, sugar-highs and lows, continual threats to, ‘tell Santa’ and favourite movies and TV shows on repeat.
Let’s take a moment right now, to stop, breathe and consider what do children really need, not just for the festive season? The answer is straightforward and doesn’t cost a cent. Our children need US. Not a distracted version of us, not a shared version of us, a simple moment in time with us.
Now, I said the answer was straightforward, but I didn’t say it was easy.
Let’s have a look at some common obstacles hindering our time together with our children:
Siblings – when multiple children are involved, it’s easy to cater to the masses, not the individual. Here I like to draw on my teaching experience. Quality presence from you, does not mean hours of one on one time with that child. It means looking that child in the eye, listening to them and engaging with them. This can be as easy as discussing the colours they’re choosing in a drawing. Children thrive on knowing that you are watching and listening to them.
So much to do! When I catch myself using this one, I give myself a firm reality check and ask, ‘What can wait?’ You will never have this moment in time with your child again, but the dirty washing will still be there.
I am also an advocate for less sleep. By this I mean, I will stay up an hour later or get up an hour earlier to get the day to day tasks done, so I’m not always rushing my child or neglecting time with my child.
And again, I am not talking hours of time here, your child/children will be enthralled to have you joining in a game with them, reading a story or playing dress ups together for 7 minutes, (I say 7 as 5 is not enough and parents freak out at the10 minute mark, ‘I don’t have 10 minutes’, but everyone has 7)
Social Media. Technology companies and app developers spend billions of dollars on creating addictive devices and apps and it’s working. I, along with most of you, put my hand up to being distracted by my phone or spending time on technology ahead of time with my child. In these situations, I like to kick my own arse and say, ‘What’s my priority here? Checking in on my Facebook or checking in on my child?’ This makes putting the phone down quick-smart, a lot easier.
Unsure how to engage with your kids, or what to do with them that will be quality time together? Reading this sounds strange, ‘What parent doesn’t know what to do with their kids?’ Honestly? Lots. Many parents are so used to the screen time go-to, that they, along with the kids, are quickly conditioned to screens as an activity.
Don’t get me wrong, you can definitely engage with your kids over a TV show, movie or computer game. In fact, this is recommended by many experts to stay in tune with what your kids are doing with technology. But in this instance, we’re talking about other activities to do together. I could list hundreds of ideas here, but for now remember this; ‘Your child wants you and your time.’ The activity is not so important, the time together is.
So when they get upset at the TV or iPad switching off, start up a game of chasey. Tell them you’re going to catch them and start running. If they are expert level sulkers, sit next to them and start doing something, drawing, building lego, painting your nails – anything that they will not be able to resist wanting to do with you for long. Once your kids are used to less technology time, these steps become easier and a lot more natural. Remember again – the tech companies have deliberately created addictive devices, your child is not the bad guy here.
So with all of the above in mind…
Here are my top tips for being the ‘ultimate’ present and being present with your kids:
- When you’re at the park or outside with the kids, leave your phone inside or in the car. Again, this is all about getting used to new habits because you are prioritising differently now. You are prioritising these moments with your child and not being distracted by your notifications
- Set yourself a time limit for phone use and make this time when the kids are in bed
- Slow down – allow yourself more time to do simple tasks so you can be more relaxed about getting it done and even better, include the family in the task. Kids ‘helping’ often means more work for you and the job taking longer. Rethink the situation here and flip your perspective. You’re not taking longer to cook dinner, you are spending more quality time with your child and being present with them.
- If your child participates in any out of school activities and you are there, sit in a position where you can easily see them and even better, hear the coach or instructor. Let your child see you cheering and supporting them. Don’t let your child turn to look at you and see your head in your phone. What’s your priority? If it is your phone, step outside for a moment and come back to be present.
- Reward yourself! Like any new habit, the right reward will help with the process. Now trust me when I say the ultimate reward is a better relationship with your kids, a happier family mix and more strategies for dealing with behaviour.
But small mental pats on the back go a long way. Thank yourself for building a better relationship with your family, bask in those secret smiles you will receive from your kids and enjoy the next level of your relationship with your family.
Now hopefully you’ve read this, and are excited about making some small changes that will make a huge difference to your experiences with your kids. Comment below about what changes you have made!
Enjoy the moments x