There is a lot written about the power of being in the moment, of Being, truly present, at one in the here and now and this we often apply to ourselves, striving always to be mindful…
But how often do we apply this to our children? How often do we make the space to Be present with them, wherever they are and whatever they are doing – or being? We all know the power of someone, a dear friend perhaps, who is a good listener, who can enter into our moment with us and give us a space to Be. We emerge from those shared moments feeling loved, held, valued, refreshed. How often do we give this space to our children?
Many years ago I did some training in Non-directive Play Therapy and Intensive Interaction – both therapeutic approaches that require the therapist to be in the moment with the child or adult, establishing joint attention, following their lead and responding sensitively to their communications and interactions. Both were used, in that context to develop language and communication skills. I loved these gentle, non-invasive approaches – in part because I could witness the profound therapeutic effects they had, but also because of the deep connection you could establish with other people, some barely able to communicate at all.
When I had my children I fell into using these approaches instinctively, carving out time when I could simply follow their lead and Be present with them, commenting if necessary, being involved if required, and simply holding them in a space where they were free to Be. As life has continued and our family has grown it has become increasingly hard to create this space – there are simply more people to spend time with! And more Things To Do! And when you’re home edding, well, you’re with your kids all the time anyway, feeling stretched rather thin as you juggle all their varying needs! But time shared together is not always focused and entirely present, and it is this intense love and attention that children need.
Perhaps they’re a bit off colour. Perhaps a few more arguments emerge. Perhaps a bit more weepy. Accident prone. Defiant. Hyperactive. Demanding, And this is where Being Present with them comes in.
You might call it Special Time, or Quality Time – setting aside designated periods to spend exclusively with a child, doing something or simply being together.
Oliver James takes it one step further with his concept of Love Bombing. Now I have to make a confession here, I haven’t actually read the book, but I came across Love Bombing in an article written by Oliver James in a Juno magazine a few years back. It was an idea that instantly resonated with me, as I suppose that it was one that we were already trying to employ and it just makes sense.
The premise is that you can “reset the emotional thermostat” of your child by creating a “special emotional zone” where they are “completely loved and completely in control”. They are in charge for a period of time, and during this time you devote your entire attention to them and lavish them with love. It goes against more mainstream parenting methods which might advocate increasing control over children who are “non-compliant”. But you know what – it works (whereas stricter, coercive parenting really doesn’t – it might work to control and suppress the immediate behaviours but doesn’t reach deeper than that into actually addressing the root of the problem).
We try to set aside Special Time for each of the girls periodically – it’s not always easy, but we are very blessed in having my mum just across town, and she happily steps up to look after whatever combination of children is necessary to give me time to focus on the other, or to offer the Special Time herself to whoever needs it (bless her – she is amazing). Oliver James recommends a period of 24-48 hours and suggests even going away, or having the rest of the family go away to give space for the Love Bombing to occur. Well, for some of us, lovely though this may sound, it simply isn’t possible. We just do what we can, in anyway we can…
It might be the bast part of a day, or just an evening, or just a half hour squeezed in here or there – whatever form it takes, it’s about putting the child at the centre, holding them in that space where they are in charge and feeling fully loved.
What does it look like?
Well Bod7 had a day last week where we dropped Bod10 and Bod3 off with my mum and came back home, just the two of us….I had told her a couple of days in advance that we were going to set aside the day for her, that there would be time constraints but that within this period we would do what she wanted to do and I would be totally focused on her. She started planning things immediately! On the day itself it was bitterly cold (the day before it snowed), so she decided that she didn’t want to go to the park after all (her original plan), but instead snuggle up on the sofa with tea and crisps to watch a film. This we did. After lunch, eaten watching the film, she wanted to have a bath together and massage my back! Then we walked into town to visit the second-hand book shop where she chose presents for her sisters, and then to her favourite cafe for tea and a cupcake, before picking up her sisters. During our time together we nattered and chatted about this and that, and cuddled and snuggled even more than usual and generally basked in each other’s company.
Just last night, Bod7 went to stay over with my mum and Bod10 got an evening with us (once Bod3 was settled in bed) – again, she got to choose what we did and how we did it. So we found ourselves snuggled up on the sofa watching a film with her favourite chocolate and tea. Not terribly exciting but just what she wanted. Lots of cuddles, lots of kisses, and there’s nothing like a shared weep over a sad bit in a film for bringing you closer together.
It can be unplanned – a spontaneous moment snatched to be together. Only today Bod3 was getting very angry about something (on the surface quite small but to her very big) so I scooped her up and asked her what she wanted. “Hot chocolate” came the mumbled reply. So we whizzed into the kitchen and she made the hot chocolate, mixing in the cocoa with the sugar, swirling in the milk, pouring it into the mugs, which she proudly delivered to her sisters. Then came another request – “stories” – so we snuggled up, just us, with a pile of books and our steaming mugs of hot chocolate. It was simple and short, but dropping everything to be entirely present with her was enough to redress the balance.
After these times together we have noticed that we feel more connected, the bounce and joy has returned, our child is happy, eager to help with odd jobs, perhaps more independent and less demanding, they are calmer, perhaps less agitated, maybe more confident, less argumentative, there are fewer sibling fights and perhaps they are able to walk away from ones that occur or resolve them peacefully themselves. Most of all we notice a lightness and a softness about them and our interactions with them.
It’s worth Being Present and making that space for them – after all, as C.S.Lewis said,
“Children are not a distraction from work. They are the most important work.”
Spread the Love – it’s All You Need 😉