“They grow up so fast.”
We may not have understood the truth of these words before becoming parents, but we certainly do now. Our kids grow up so fast–too fast! In a blink of an eye, our babies grow into toddlers, our toddlers turn into little people with minds of their own, and all too quickly those little people stand taller than you.
As our children get older our days fill with more responsibilities, activities, and distractions that demand our attention. In a world that encourages us to multitask, think ahead, and seek the next moment of instant gratification, it is imperative that we stop, and soak in the imperfect moments of parenting. Take the time to listen, really listen, to your children.
There are days when it feels as though our kids talk nonstop from the moment they wake up to the time that they’re tucked in bed at night. It may even feel like they are talking in their sleep.
But are we listening? Are you actually lpaying attention to the tales of the cafeteria-clique dramas, the battles of the playground, and new seating assignments on the school bus?
I’ll be honest, I occasionally realize that I am not truly listening to The Boy, that I am too focused on my daily responsibilities, my to-do list, and even my phone. When I find myself struggling to be present, I do the following:
1. Listen more than I talk
As a parent, this is incredibly challenging, but it is important to give our kids an opportunity to share what is going on in their lives, with their friends, problems they may have at school, or something that they are looking forward to.
2. Pay attention to the unsaid
Communication is not only what is being said. Body language can reveal more than words. Perhaps, your child is fidgeting or avoiding eye contact, or biting their fingernails down a little too far.
3. Don’t formulate an answer as they speak
Just listen to what they want to tell you. You do not need to give them a lecture about their grades, share your concern about the topic they just shared, or complain about a task they have left undone.
4. Reflect on your experiences
Take in everything they have to say and reflect on your own elementary, middle and high school experiences. Remember how you felt and try to laugh at memories of your terrible haircuts and mistakes you made at their age.
Life is busy. Just as we must go to work and drive to activities and make dinner, spending quality time and listening to our children should be at the top of our priority list. We can give our children our undivided attention and communicate in a way that reminds them that they are special, significant, and worthy of our time.
There is no magic formula for spending quality time with our children. But take the time to listen and be present with them in the moment. Make note of the occasional comments that stands out as they share their days or relate a funny story. Those are memories you’ll treasure, and you can share them with your kids when they have children of their own!