Family_playing_a_board_gameMany years ago I wrote an article about being present in the moment with your kids. I had gone to a movie theater and, while waiting for the movie to start, I observed a number of people sitting around me. One father in particular took my notice. He was with two children, a boy and a girl, ages about 7 and 9.

The children were obviously excited to be there and were trying to get their dad’s attention. He had pulled out a newspaper and was engrossed in reading it and ignoring the kids’ attempts to talk with him. I felt he was really missing out on a chance to spend special time with his children. Not only that, he was giving them a message that the paper was more important than they were.

These days, the same situation can be seen when parents are at the park with their kids, or in a restaurant. Instead of a newspaper, however, the cell phone is the culprit. Mothers are pushing strollers and talking on the phone. They’re grocery shopping with their little one in the grocery cart, talking on the phone or busy texting. They’re walking with their children but their attention is on their phones.

We have so little time to spend with our kids. Our schedules are frantically busy with all the things that have to be done. Many parents have told me that they wish they could have more time with their children. Yet, when with them, so many are not fully there.

Have you thought about what a child feels when his parent is with him but is not present? If you put yourself in his place, I think you’d feel left out and, possibly, ignored. All parents want their children to have good self-esteem. Many are not aware that they’re eroding that self-esteem by their lack of attention.

If you’re with your child, be with your child. Look her in the eye. Have a conversation. Listen to her. Laugh with her. Make grocery shopping fun for both of you by interacting with her. Pay attention to her at the park. Give your child your full self.

At home, have a day where all electronics are turned off so the family can spend time together having fun, listening to one another, and getting caught up on the week’s events. Going on a picnic or to the beach together without the phones gives you a chance to make your children feel valued.

Another way you can help a child feel special is to take him out on a “date” with you, leaving the other kids at home with your spouse or partner and going to a restaurant or movie. That special feeling translates into increased self-esteem, as your child sees he has your full attention. You can turn off your phone or let a call go to voice mail.

Text and phone on your own time. Be present when you’re with your kids and value the moment. Your family relationships will benefit many times over.

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