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The Presence of You
By Christine Louise Hohlbaum
Children require years of investment: time, patience, love, and, yes, money. More than the latest video game or the hottest trendy clothing, your children need you in their lives. While we all agree that being present with our kids is a good thing, we have also been guilty of not always being completely conscience of what they are saying, doing, thinking, or feeling. I call it the parental zoned-out look we all get. It is the look which says our brains cannot possibly absorb another iota of information. We may be stressed out at work, have personal issues with friends or family, or be plain exhausted from the daily grind.
Here are a few tips to avoid entering outer space when your kids are around:
- Get what you need. It may sound basic, but getting enough sleep, food, and exercise is essential in maintaining a physical, mental and emotional balance. Like a see saw, our moods can go up and down if our blood sugar is low, our brains are fried, and we are sleep-deprived.
- Get it out. If something is consuming your mental energy, write down all the things that are preoccupying you. Or talk to a good friend or counselor to get perspective on what is happening. Oftentimes just releasing what is irking you can clear your mind so you have a clean slate when your kids get home from school.
- Save the date. Set up "special time" with your child. Don't answer the phone or interrupt the flow of play for a full thirty minutes. Your child will regain a sense of balance and behave better when he feels connected to you. Giving him an uninterrupted thirty minutes will assure he acts out less and stays even-keeled.
- Do a special activity together. Check out local fairs, farmers' markets or library events to do with your child. It could be as simple as sharing a hot fudge sundae. But do it alone without the distractions of your cell phone, laptop, or pager.
- Leave it at the office. Make a conscious decision to leave your work at work. Even if you have a home office, it is possible to create boundaries that you yourself do not cross. If you get up before everyone else to do an hour's worth of work in your home office, be sure to stop what you are doing when you hear your kids stirring.
- I always know when my children aren't getting enough of my attention in the mornings. My rule is to turn off my computer by 7 a.m. It seems to fit their rhythm the best. Find out what works for your family and do it. It might take some trial and error, but the effort is worth it.
You don't have to be a supermom or superdad. Leave that job up to the superheroes. Chances are the presence of you will guarantee that an "S" forms on your chest in your child's eyes anyway.
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