Do you long to be more present with your family?
I’ll be the first to admit it. Being present was not my strong suite.
While I am playing dolls with my 6-year old, a majority of my mind would be on the dishes in the sink that still needs to get washed, the loads of laundry to wash or the million and one things on my to-do list.
This time of year especially, with gifts to buy, errands to run and the house to get ready for company, being present pretty much takes a back seat.
Sometimes I try so hard to be present. To soak up the moments and ingrain them into my memory bank but for some reason it does not naturally happen for me. Before I know it, the moment has past and fluttered from my memory as well. If this happens to you too, read on because I really think these tips will help you as well.
I don’t know about you but years from now, I want to be able to reach into my memory and remember these days while my kids are young and at home. I know you want that as well.
Here are three things I do that have helped me so much to be present and pay attention to my family more. Using these tips empowers me too see the joy in front of me instead of being distracted by everything else.
Tip Number 1: Describe It To Me
The next time your 10-year old asks you to play legos or your 6-year old waits 5 minutes before putting down her card during an uno game and you want to pull your hair out, keep your mind from wondering by doing this little trick. I call it Describe It To Me. It might seem silly at first but when you’re engaged in an activity that you really want to fully be present in, pretend you are describing it to a friend or writing it down in your mind’s journal.
Look at your child’s face as they are engaged in the activity you are doing together. The squinting of the eye as he or she concentrates, the little pouting of the lips as they contemplate their next move, make a note of it all.
Using all your senses, notice the lighting in the room, the temperature, the time of day, maybe the way the sun is coming in through the window.
This works even if you are just hanging out on the couch together watching TV. Sometimes, I tell myself that I have to draw a picture of my child’s face. How would I describe it so I can draw it correctly. When I started doing this I realized that I it had been a while since I’ve really looked into my son’s face and just fully examine his features. When he was a baby I would stare at him constantly. So now I make it a habit of staring at him (when he’s not looking of course) and really concentrate of his features.
Why It Works: As you fully describe what’s in front of you, you keep your mind from wandering and you forget about all the other things you think you should be doing. I recently did this as I baked cookies with my daughter and I know that memory is one I will cherish – messy kitchen and all. Give it a try the next time you are with your children. It works great to be present with your spouse as well.
Tip Number 2: Use A Timer
Last night by 6-year old told me the dreaded words “mommy, let’s play barbies.” Now before you yell at me for not wanting to play with my daughter, let me just say that I actually really enjoy playing barbies and babies and any other games with her. She is so much fun! Truly.
But 30 minutes into pretending to be Barbie’s obnoxious sister, I start to get restless and pray that my husband will walk in and asks whats for dinner so I have an excuse to scoot.
Anyway, the thing that has been a life saver to me is having a timer. Now when my daughter asks me to play, I say “sure honey, mommy can play for 15 minutes, is that okay?”
Why It Works: Knowing that there is an end time takes the pressure off. I can be fully present for the full 15 minutes and sometimes I am so into playing babies that we play beyond the timer. During those times, I think of nothing but playing with my daughter. It truly has brought joy into our playtimes and she really enjoys that mommy gets into character every time we play. Plus the timer becomes the boss of when play-time is over and not you.
Tip Number 3: The 5-second rule
This 5-second rule does not refer to the food you dropped on the floor. Nor is it related to a count-down to get yourself motivated.
Instead, the 5-second rule works like this. When giving your child a hug or holding their hand, hold it for 5-seconds. It might sound like such a short time but let’s count together. Imagine you are hugging your son or daughter right now. Ready: 1-one-thousand, 2-one thousand, 3-one thousand, 4-one thousand, 5-one-thousand. Did that seem really short?
While it might seems short, you can use this as a minimum time. Believe me its a lot longer that the one second squeeze I use to give my kids. Even when we’re rushing, I have time for a 5-second hug. Or if my 11-year old pretends he is too cool for a hug, I just lean in really close and rest my head on his head for at least 5-seconds, or until he pushes me away with a smile and a “you’re so weird mom.” I love you too buddy.
Why It Works: There is so much research and articles out there about the benefits of physical contact and how it centers and calms us down. According to experts a good hug should last 20 seconds to release all the health benefits of lowering blood pressure, releasing oxytocin and other benefits but I’m going to try at least for 5 seconds and go from there. When you’re busy breathing in the smell of your child or your spouse (hopefully its a good smell) you really can be fully engaged and present. .
You Can Do It
I hope you will try at least one of these tips in your effort to be more present to your children and family. To help you, I’ve created this handy sheet that you can print and stick on your fridge to remind you of the tips. Try one a week and see how you feel, then move to the next and so on.
Don’t let those special memories fade by without locking them into your memory bank by describing it, using a timer or finding a way to hold each other longer. Your kids will notice a difference and so will you.