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How often are you fully and completely present when you are with your children? One of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is to be fully present with them. Being fully present can often be a big challenge.

When my children were growing up, I worked full time as a counselor, wrote books, traveled on book tours, and pursued my passion as an artist – in addition to spending time with my husband. The only way I could be fully present when I was with my children was to set aside “time alone” with them. “Time alone” was the daily quality time I spent with each of my children, doing whatever they wanted to do. During this time, I did not answer the phone or deal with the many running issues. It was time set aside to be fully present with them, not even thinking about other things.

When you don’t spend quality time being fully present, the message you give to your children is that they are not important. When answering the phone, or getting things done, or thinking about what you have to do tomorrow is more important than being present with your children, they get the message that being with them and knowing them is not very important to you.

When I was growing up, my mother was always busy. She never had the time to be with me. She never wanted to know about my thoughts and feelings or how things were going at school. She never had the time to play with me or hang out with me. While she said that she loved me and that I was important to her, I never felt it. Words don’t cut it when the actions don’t follow.

If it is not important to you to be with your children – talking with them, playing with them, taking a walk, holding them, listening to them, sharing love with them – then they will likely not feel loved by you. No matter how many things you buy them or how often you tell them you love them, if they are not important enough to you to be with them, they will likely not feel loved and cherished by you.

Your children need your focused attention, and when they don’t get it, they may pull for it in various ways. They may chatter on and on, trying to keep your attention. They may act out by fighting with each other, or by not listening to you, or going into resistance regarding chores, homework, hygiene, bedtime, and so on. For many children, even negative attention feels better than no attention. This may create a very negative vicious circle, in that the more they act out, the less you feeling like being with them, but the less you are with them lovingly and attentively, the more they may act out.

Think about how you feel when someone gives you his or her full attention. Doesn’t it feel wonderful? How often does someone look you in the eyes and give you his or her full attention? How often do you feel listened to and heard by someone? Unfortunately, many people are so intent on being listened to and heard that they don’t listen and hear.

The simple act of being fully present with your children will do more for them than you can imagine. You have an opportunity to give your children a great gift – being fully present with them with your love, compassion, empathy, interest, sense of humor, playfulness, and affection. Each day, you have the opportunity, even if it is just for half an hour, to fully cherish them.

They grow up so fast. Don’t miss this opportunity each day.