. Being A Present Parent- Manitoba Parent Zone | Healthy Child Manitoba

Being a Present Parent

The world of a parent is a busy place – running from one activity to another, making dinner, the pressures of balancing work and family…it’s no wonder many of us feel distracted and rushed sometimes. And when you add technology like cell phones and laptops into the mix, it gets even harder to stay in the moment. But not being present for our kids can impact how we feel, as well as how our kids behave. Parents might feel pulled in many directions at once, as though they can’t keep up with all the demands, or might feel guilty for not being able to ‘do it all’. Kids might act out in different ways to get attention, or might whine or cling. If this sounds familiar, be kind to yourself – our current North American culture encourages multi-tasking and fast-paced living. But many parents have noticed that it’s when we slow down and pay attention that we really start to notice and enjoy the little moments that make parenting worthwhile.

You might have already heard about the benefits of being mindful and present with your kids. But what exactly does it mean to be mindful or present? Mindfulness refers to a particular way of paying attention, on purpose, and in the moment. To be a present parent means that you are in the moment with your kids, with both your mind and your heart.

While this sounds easy, most of us can relate to the distractions that most of us face every day: what will we make for dinner? What time is soccer? And where did they put their mittens? Being mindful as a parent means we are aware of our emotions and thoughts while we are with our kids. This also means starting to think about how we were parented, how it made us feel, and what we might want to do the same, or differently.

Here are some tips for becoming a more present parent:

  • Put down the phone. It might seem like a crazy suggestion when most of us feel lost without our mobile devices, but our phones can be a big distraction. Think about how it feels when you are talking to someone and they are distracted by texts or emails. It feels the same way to your kids! It’s often easier to put the phone out of site so that the temptation to check for a new message is gone.
  • Take some time to really tune into what your kids are interested in. If you have a preschooler, this might mean getting down on the floor to play Legos; if you have a teen, maybe it means sharing your child’s enthusiasm for a favourite movie or band. Give your child your undivided attention while you hang out.
  • Pay attention to the distractions, and just let them go for the moment. While you’re on the floor playing, it can be easy to notice the dust on the windowsill or the cat hair on the couch. Notice the thought, and just let it be for now. That dust will still be there in an hour, and right now, you are with your child.
  • Take the opportunity to connect when it arises. Life is busy, and sometimes we don’t think about really connecting with our kids during those ‘in-between’ moments – like when we’re sitting on the bus, or standing in line at the grocery store. Since you’re together, why not take some time to chat?
  • Connect in simple ways. A smile, a hug, a pat on the shoulder: these are all quick and simple ways to show your child you love them and notice them.  
  • Notice the little things. Whether it’s the fact that the juice didn’t spill, or that your kids are getting along, take a moment to notice and appreciate it. Since kids thrive on positive reinforcement, you might also want to check out this list of 98 Ways to Say Very Good from the Canadian Child Care Association.

Interested in learning more ways you can be a more present and mindful parent? Check out these links:

The Canadian Child Care Association: How Well do you Know your Child? If you’re working on being more present with your kids, this handout from the Canadian Child Care Association offers a thoughtful list of 30 questions to consider.