There’s no doubt about it, parenting in this day and age is probably the hardest it’s ever been. I’m going to guide you through some simple ways to be a present parent, without added stress.
Why do we get so distracted?
The answer is actually pretty simple – because we’re trying to do it all, juggle all the hats, be a number of different people all in one day.
Honestly, it’s enough to drive anyone insane. By the time you get to playing with your kids or doing an activity together, your mind has jumped to something else, or you’re simply not used to 100% focus and get easily drawn to something more entertaining.
Why is it important to be present?
Please don’t think of this post as a lecture to get you on your hands and knees 24/7 or running after your children’s every beck and call.
No no. I believe that a good small chunk of focused time is better than the whole day trying to cater the needs of your little one.
However, when we are with them, it’s vital that we create an environment in which they feel seen and heard – this develops their sense of belonging and their emotional development skills.
And it honestly doesn’t take much! Shall we get started?
1) Ditch the mom guilt
You might have read that and thought, what does it have to do with present parenting?
Well,guilt in itself is not healthy or useful for our own wellbeing as mamas, and when we shift our emotional state from guilt to knowing we’re doing our best, our parenting changes dramatically.
When we parent out of guilt, often we will conceed things we wouldn’t normally, we let our boundaries slip and this can confuse them as they don’t see coherency in our actions.
If we allow ourselves to feel whole for who we are as women and mothers, it will be much easier to spend time with them – without feeling guilty for not catching up on the washing either!
2) Start listening to your kids
Children really don’t need much.
Sure, it’s nice to make a fort in the living room and dress up as pirates, but often I find that what they need is for you to answer their questions, clear up any worries they may have or simply be a bit silly together.
So when you’re asking yourself, what next? What activity can we do now? Check if your child is already suggesting something to you, follow his lead…
You don’t always have to play. Sometimes merely sitting on the sofa for a cuddle and a chat can do them the world of good.
Take time to stroke their hair (if they’re willing), look them in the eyes when they’re talking to you, answer thoughtfully rather than being busy.
3) Put. your. phone. down.
I know it’s hard, I know that for many of us, social media can be a pleasant escape from the day to day mundane, but we’re creatures of habit and it can get a bit much!
If you find yourself reaching for your phone, ask yourself why – if it’s to answer an email, get it done and bring your focus back.
A mindless scroll now and then is fine but if you find yourself checking it all day, it might be time to dig a little deeper into why you’re checking it.
What feeling are you searching outside of yourself? Are you avoiding your own feelings?
Try to set certain times of the day to check if you’re struggling, or set an alarm.
4) Get up and get your me time
The secret to not losing your wit with a million and one things to do?
Get up before them. Seriously, I know sleep is golden but just half an hour on your own to gether your thoughts and prepare yourself for the day works wonders.
If you want to cultivate more patience with your kids, you have to start with you.
Trust me, as a stay at home mom I know how hard it can be to never get a minute to think without interruptions, and this is something that when I get on board, really works for me!
5) Create mental space
Now you’ve created a few minutes of me time – what do you do with it?
When your mind is buzzing from the amount of things you have to do and take care of, you have no space for more questions or play.
Find the way that works for you – write things down and get them out of your head, get your kids to help you with the chores if that’s where your brain goes, meditate/do yoga for a few minutes a day.
Whatever it is you choose, it’s important that you give back to you, rather than adding to your plate (by cramming in more stuff you need to get done)
STOP! This time is for you. Relax, rest, regenerate.
6) Let your children join in!
Kids thrive off team work, and when you make it fun, even better.
Joining in with you cleaning, tidying or cooking not only sets up them up with life skills from a young age, but saves you a load of stress.
Oh and guess what? You’re being present with them, naturally!
I think sometimes when we think of being present, we paint a picture of being fun or doing something they’ll love…
I’ve got news for you. Your kids love YOU and that’s all that matters to them.
My toddler loves to sweep up – granted she makes more mess than when she started, but that’s how she learns! She waters the plants, puts her clothes in the wash, hands me her dirty plates – and she’s just 18 months!
7) Solo play is the way forward
Okay, at first glance this looks like the opposite of being a present parent.
But stick with me, you’ll see what I mean.
Encourage your child to play on their own – this not only builds their imagination and gets them out of the ‘I’m bored’ loop, but also gives you a break/
The more you get a break from incessant demands, the more patient you’ll be to spend time together.
Your child that has built independent skills, won’t come looking for you all day long either – so the moments you do spend together will be quality.
I will be writing an article in the following week on introducing independent play, so stay tuned.
8) Reduce distractions
If you want to be present together, your kids need to be focused too – there is no use trying to have a conversation with the television on in the background.
Switch electronics off, keep a calm environment wherever possible (without yelling or stressing), make sure any excessive energy has been burned off!
Your child will be able to better focus on your time together and you’ll both feel the benefit long-term.
9) Use specific times of the day
When everyone knows the morning is for chores and the afternoon is for spending time together (for example), it adds predictability to family life.
Kids are more likely to wait their turn if they know they get to to chill out with you after.
Plus you can use time-specific activities, such as cooking in the morning, crafting in the afternoon or reading before bedtime.
If you only have weekends together, perhaps you could visit somewhere outdoors together. There is a lot of fun to be had in the nature!
10) Track your progress
As the days roll into one, it’s hard to know if you’re keeping on top of your goal to be more present.
One thing I like to do is write a few sentences on how I felt the day went, where I’d like to improve – and most of all, how I can give myself more grace.
Don’t be too hard on yourself! You’re probably doing way more than you think, and journaling will make you more aware of that.
11) Know yourself
The more centered we are, the more smoothly our days will go, even after sleepless nights and long days.
We often think we know ourselves but motherhood changes and moulds us into something new that we have to come to terms with.
Get to know your needs, triggers and stress factors can help you avoid a serious mommy burnout – and no one has energy for 1:1 time when running low on their own tank.
In my free Toolkit, I’ve included an emotional needs tracker as well as journal prompts and bitesize meditations – so you can tune into yourself in even the teeniest moments of me time during the day.
Download yours below!