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Your Child Needs Your Presence

Nalina Ramalakshmi Nalina Ramalakshmi 10 Mins Read

Nalina Ramalakshmi Nalina Ramalakshmi


You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Your child needs your presence, not your presents.” Let’s dive deeper into the meaning of presence and see why it holds key to effective parenting

Your Child Needs Your Presence

Do you remember the days when grandma or mom would take the child outside, or up to the terrace, to feed him? The mother would engage her child by pointing to the birds or the butterflies, or even the moon and the stars at night. She would tell stories and sing songs to the child as she fed him.

Fast-forward to today. The mother still has the same intention of making sure the child is eating her food. But now she just gives the child her phone or tablet, or switches on the TV. The child is engrossed in listening to the rhymes or watching a story on the screen. The mother finishes feeding her child. Mission accomplished!

In both cases, the mother is physically present, and she’s making an effort to feed her child. Then, what’s different about the two scenarios? Let’s take a closer look.

In the first scenario, you’ll notice there’s a lot of interaction between mother and child as they share stories and sing songs and observe nature together. Now, in the second scenario, the interaction is happening between the child and her screen. The child is probably so engrossed in her screen, she’s completely oblivious to her mother’s presence or even to what she’s eating.

In the first scenario, the mother is more than just physically present. Through her interactions, she’s also mentally and emotionally present for her child. In the second scenario, where the child is focused on the screen, the mother is physically present, but mentally and emotionally, she’s completely absent from her child. So, when you hear the phrase, “Your child needs your presence, not your presents,” it’s actually referring to you being emotionally and mentally present for your child, not just being physically present for her.

Being “present” means you’re there for your child:

  • Sharing in his experiences, both good and bad
  • Listening to him without judgment or giving advice
  • Soothing him when he’s upset, hurt, or in pain
  • Ready to protect him and keep him safe when needed

Let’s first explore why your “presence” is so important for your child.

The need for presence

Your “presence” is the key to building a connection, a trusting relationship with your child. It builds a circle of love and security for your child. When your child feels connected to you, she feels:

  • loved
  • understood
  • valued and appreciated
  • safe and secure

Knowing that you’re available to her when she needs you, your child is ready to explore the world, to learn and grow. She’s ready to listen to what you have to say to her because she trusts you and knows you truly care.

More than the amount of time you spend with your child, connection really is about spending little moments through the day, letting your child know you’re available to listen and share. Let’s explore some ways to create these little moments of connection throughout the day.

Tips to be present and connect with your child1. Morning rush hour

In every home, mornings are rushed. Parents are getting ready for work, children are getting ready for school, breakfast must be prepared, lunch has to be packed, the list goes on and on. So how do you take the time to connect during this chaotic morning rush hour? Instead of screaming and yelling at your child to hurry up and get ready, you could pause for just a few minutes to connect.

What you can do to connect

  • Make morning rush hour a gadget-free hour for your whole family.
  • Greet your child with a smile or a hug. Let her know you’re happy to see her. You could ask, “Did you sleep well at night? What kind of dreams did you have? Funny? Silly? Scary?” Listen to her dreams and acknowledge them however strange they may seem to you. Share your own dreams, if any. Once you have connected, you could direct her to get ready soon and come down to breakfast. This way, your child too looks forward to a happy start in the morning.
  • If you have a young child, bath time is a great time to connect as you allow your child to share her wildest stories of floating ducks and splashing in the rain.

2. Mealtimes

A family that eats together, stays together. Great conversations can happen around the dinner table. However, today, each family member has a different routine and a different mealtime. Additionally, during mealtimes, we tend to turn on the TV, or we are busy on our mobiles, chatting or scrolling through social media. This takes away an opportunity to connect as a family.

What you can do to connect

  • Declare mealtimes as gadget-free time and the dining room as a gadget-free zone. Keep a box for everybody to deposit their phones and other gadgets during mealtimes.
  • Try to have at least one meal a day together as a family when all of you are not so rushed. If this is not practical for your family daily, plan to have family meals at least three times a week.
  • Use mealtimes as a time to talk about how each one’s day was, any interesting event, something new someone learned or found exciting, or something someone did or accomplished that day.

3. Back from school

The moment your child is back from school, take a few minutes to connect. Your child looks forward to coming home after a tiring day at school.

What you can do to connect

  • Welcome your child with a smile or a hug. It tells your child you’re happy to have him home.
  • Keep your gadgets away for a few minutes.
  • Try to pick up on your child’s moods. Does he seem happy today, or dull and sad? You could say, “You seem so happy today. Something exciting must have happened. I can’t wait to hear all about it,” or “Something seems to be bothering you. I can see you’re upset. I’m here to listen if you would like to talk about it.”
  • Before you rush your child off to the next activity for the day, sit down and share some snacks and drinks. He may be chatty one day and quiet the next. That’s okay. Just knowing you’re there is comforting.
  • Avoid asking too many questions, such as “How was school?,” “Did you do well in your test?” and so on. You’ll probably just hear, “Good.” Just let your child know you’re ready to listen to anything he would like to share.

4. Bedtime

It’s the end of the day, time to wind down. But it’s also a time to connect with your child. Instead, many of us relax at the end of the day by watching TV or watching a movie before we go to bed. Today, many parents put on audio stories for their children to listen to before going to bed, versus taking the time to read to them. This is another missed opportunity to connect.

What you can do to connect

  • According to research, the blue light emitted from gadgets can affect the quality of sleep. So, the hour before bedtime should be gadget-free time for your entire family for two reasons—one, it’s an opportunity to connect, and two, it improves your quality of sleep. It’s a good idea to make bedrooms gadget-free zones.
  • If your child is below the age of 12, read aloud to her or tell her stories as you allow her to settle down and fall asleep.
  • Spend a few minutes lingering near your child as she prepares to go to bed. You’ll be surprised by the things your child will start sharing with you. It’s almost like she wants to get everything that has happened that day off her chest, so she’s prepared to start afresh the next day.

5. Showing your appreciation

Your child looks forward to your acknowledgment and appreciation for what he has done. Moments of achievement can be turned into moments of shared joy and connection. Your child may come to you to show you something he has done—a painting, a math problem he has solved, a story he has written. Or he may be excited to talk to you about his cricket game. You may take a quick look and say, “Wow, that’s fantastic, I’m proud of you,” and then return to your work or your phone call. You have missed an opportunity to connect!

What you can do to connect

  • Take a pause from what you’re doing and turn off all gadgets, even if it’s for just five minutes. If you’re busy, let your child know that you really want to spend some time seeing what he has done or hearing what he has to say. Tell him that as soon as you’re done with your work in half-hour or so, you’ll see his work or hear what he has to say. Just remember to keep your promise!
  • Ask your child to tell you about his work, his painting, his story, his math problem, or his cricket game. How did he do it? What went on in his mind? What did he enjoy? What were the challenges and how did he solve them? Asking such questions lets your child know you’re genuinely interested in his work, and he’ll be excited to talk about it.
  • Remember to appreciate his effort and thought process without judging his work. You could always ask if there’s anything he would like to do better and wait for him to ask you for suggestions.

6. Lend your listening ears

Your child may be experiencing some difficult emotions. She may be upset or disappointed or frustrated over something that happened either in school, at home, or with friends. During such times, she needs someone she can turn to who will understand and empathize with her, someone who will soothe her and help her calm down. It’s a moment to connect.

What you can do to connect

  • During such times, your child really needs you to be present to help calm her overwhelming emotions. She needs your undivided attention. So, the first step is to switch off all gadgets and remove all other distractions.
  • Listen, but don’t rush to make judgments or give advice.
  • Acknowledge your child’s feelings and empathize, “Yes, that seems so unfair. I too would be upset.”
  • Once your child has calmed down, discuss what she can do to overcome the problem.

7. Special time

Besides sneaking in a few minutes through the day to connect with your child during your daily routine, your child will look forward to spending some special time doing different things with you. These are wonderful opportunities to bond and connect.

What you can do to connect

  • Again, the first thing you need to do is switch off all gadgets and get away from other distractions and let your child know that this time is completely devoted to him.
  • Spend time playing a ball game or a board game, building something together, listening to his favorite songs, scrolling through picture albums, cooking together, or just chatting over ice cream at your neighborhood ice cream store. Give your child the opportunity to choose the activity he would like to do with you. Yes, it could even be a pillow fight or a water gunfight! Keep it fun and light.

As you can see, there are many, many opportunities throughout the day to be present for your child and build those connections. But remember to switch off your gadgets to turn on these moments of connection.

Every connection you make strengthens the trust and bond between you and your child. It provides the spark for your child to thrive, learn, and grow to be a confident, caring, and successful person.

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Jyothi Prabhakar 191 days ago

A very useful article. Thank you ParentCircle. Keep them coming!

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