Last week I had an older gentleman in my office. I let him know that it was nice to see him. In response, he stated, “It is good to be seen.” I was touched by his response due to encountering so many people in my office who don’t feel heard or seen by persons in their lives. It was a good reminder of how we as adults teach children about these values by “being present” in each other’s lives both physically and emotionally.
Caregivers demonstrate being present through the quality of your interactions with your children. There are very basic tasks to facilitate this process such as looking at your child on her eye level, being in the same proximity when talking to her, clarifying what your child is saying and/or engaging in reciprocal conversation. Being present is also shown by setting time away from technology (i.e. cell phone, computer, tablet, TV), by observing differences in your child’s appearance or energy level and by socializing during mealtimes, playtimes or household chores. Invite your child to help you make dinner or to fold laundry–there is nothing like being wrapped in a warm item of clothing or bedding.
You as the caregiver will potentially feel less stressed due to your actions being more preventative and proactive vs. reactive and out of control. Any time you are distracted or stressed as a caregiver, this energy transfers to your child resulting in her acting out, shutting down, isolating herself or being overly clingy. This is a part of caregivers learning to boundary their issues from your children and to take better care of yourself.
Children need to be seen and heard in order for them to feel good about themselves and to learn how to connect with others in a positive manner. Children are dependent on adults to teach them how to be in the world and how to relate with others. When a child has this need met, she will develop the following outcomes:
- An increased sense of belonging and attachment with her caregiver;
- A sense of security and feeling valued for who she is;
- An ability to seek out guidance and/or comfort rather than keep things to herself, acting out or shutting down;
- A means of trusting others and learning to accept support as well as to soothe herself.
I challenged you to be more present with your children. Practice this by slowing down and being more in the moment. In the long run, you as caregivers will be adding to the cumulative impact of your parenting style on your children as well as creating healthier memories. The more positive interactions you have with your children the fewer negative interactions will you have.