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How often are you fully and completely present when you are with your child or children? One of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is to be fully present with them. Of course this has its challenges.

Before I became a full time stay at home parent, I worked as a full time residential counselor at a nearby children’s home and even working night shifts while pregnant with my first child, who is now a college aged adult. The only way I could be fully present when I was with my firstborn child was to be a stay at home parent. The childcare costs alone were horrendous and I knew that I would be working just to pay the childcare costs. The decision was a no brainer.

About 4 years after my first child, I then I had my second child, who is now a teenager. But I still try to spend some “Time alone” , even now that they are older. During the weekends and week, my quality time is spent with my oldest whenever she needs an ear and wants to talk about life or whatever is on her mind; whereas my youngest may be something as simple as just being present while he is cruising the internet and I am catching up on my favorite shows, listening to my favorite novels or cooking. During these times I may/may not answer the phone unless it is an emergency or if it is another family member calling. Other than that I deal with the many issues of running a household and being fully present for my children which is very important to me and just not even thinking about other things.

The message you give to your children when you don’t spend quality time being fully present is that they are not important. When answering the phone, or getting things done, or thinking about what you have to do tomorrow is more important than being present with your children, they get the message that being with them and really knowing them is not very important to you.

When I was growing up, both of my parents worked because they had to and were always busy. I usually took the city bus to my private school that was about an hour away and when I came home, the house was usually empty. I was what you would call a latchkey child/kid. Thankfully we lived in a college town and our neighbors would check in on me from time to time. But my parents did make time with all of us(younger brother & older sister), especially on the weekends and whenever they could.

If it is not important to you to just be with your children – talking with them, playing with them, taking a walk, holding them, listening to them, sharing love with them, gazing at them with love – then they will likely not feel loved by you. No matter how many things you buy them, or how often you tell them you love them, if they are not important enough to you to REALLY be with them, then it is likely they will not feel loved and cherished by you.

Your children need your focused attention, and when they don’t get it, they may pull for it in various ways. They may chatter on and on, trying to keep your attention. They may act out by fighting with each other, or by not listening to you or going into resistance regarding chores, homework, hygiene, bedtime, and so on. For many children, even negative attention feels better than no attention. This may create a very negative vicious circle, in that the more they act out, the less you feeling like being with them, but the less you are with them in a loving and attentive way, the more they may act out.

Think about how you feel when someone gives you his or her full attention. Doesn’t it feel wonderful? How often does someone look you in the eyes and give you his or her full attention? How often do you feel really listened to and heard by someone? Unfortunately, many people are so intent on being listened to and heard that they don’t listen and hear.

The simple act of being fully present with your children will do more for them than you can imagine. You have an opportunity to give your children a great gift – being fully present with them with your love, compassion, empathy, interest, sense of humor, playfulness, and affection. You have the opportunity each day, even if it is just for half an hour, to fully cherish them.

They grow up so fast. Don’t miss this opportunity each day.