How can you as a parent spend time with your children in a way that communicates your deep love and appreciation for their unique qualities? Many parenting experts speak about the idea of “focused attention.” Focused attention involves paying full attention to the child, screening out distractions, listening without judging, criticizing or making suggestions – just being in the moment with your child as you follow his lead. This action says to your child that you care enough to put down what you are doing to really be “present” for him at that particular moment.
Share Your Attention
It is not necessary to give focused attention constantly. But you can consider whether you do it at all, or whether schedules and activities have taken over your lives so that there is little time to just be with your children and share a quiet moment with them. Even setting aside 5 or 10 minutes daily, time that is devoted specifically and without interruptions to each of your children, paying attention to what each wants to do or talk about, is often enough to fill them with the sense that you care and respect them. It is during this “focused attention time” that you and your children can share a fun activity that they initiate, letting them know that you enjoy their company.
One result of giving focused attention to your children is that you take the time to appreciate the ‘wonder’ of them. Another result is that children often become less demanding or needy when they are given regular attention – when they know that they can count on your time and that their needs will be met, they often become more patient and more independent. The message you are sending is that your child is important to you and that message positively influences how he views himself.
Often children especially need this sort of focused attention when they are under stress, such as when they are making major developmental changes. Even the beginning or end of the school year can be stressful because it may involve alterations in household routines, modifications in your expectations of them and the learning of new skills.
Share Your Day
Another way to build your relationship with your children is to spend time doing everyday tasks together. By bringing them along with you as you go through your day, you won’t be giving them the focused attention discussed above, but you will be using this time to share important lessons about living and life.
Without waiting for big events or life passages, you can teach your children what needs to be done in an ordinary day. You can model how you accomplish tasks and chores, how you relax, and how you handle everyday stresses. When you run into a problem or obstacle, how do you respond? When you go to the grocery store, how do you organize the task? How do you decide what to buy? You can use these everyday chores to model your approach to life and to share what your values and priorities are. By sharing experiences, you can teach critical thinking and decision-making skills, provide lessons in delaying gratification, making choices, distinguishing between needs and wants, and dealing with frustration.
Share Your Stories
Additionally, sharing involves telling your children about your childhood, including your struggles and successes. They can learn from you about perseverance and overcoming adversity as well as what coping skills have worked for you. You can also share stories of celebrations and joyful events, tales about their ancestors and their family heritage. Recounting these memories can give children a sense of belonging and connection, both of which will raise their self-esteem. Furthermore, you can use these stories to pass along family values and a sense of pride.
By spending focused one-on-one time, by sharing the ins-and-outs of your days with your children, and by including them in the family lore, you are providing them with a great gift: you. As a well-known parenting adage states; “The best thing a parent can spend on his child is time.”
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