January. Isn’t it great. New year, new start and all of that. Forget that it is cold, that the house is still covered in the cardboard boxes that the kids won’t let you throw away from their Christmas presents and that we are all feeling just a little bit miserable on the come down from all the festivities. January. An opportunity to start again and do things differently. So why do we feel so stressed out about it all? All of these New year's resolutions and calls to action flying around the internet at a time when we are all feeling about as motivated as a Pig in blanket. One friend is quitting smoking, another is shoving their new fitbit in your face while your sister quit her job and is intent on finding herself this year. But you haven’t even managed to take your decorations down yet and your cupboards are empty. The kids have started arguing over their new toys already and there is no way you could take time out to go to the gym even though everything you buy in the sales will have to be a size bigger this year! The pressure. The pressure is absolutely crushing isn’t it? Not only is everyone around you talking change and intentions and mindset, your own brain turns on you too with ‘if only you do this your life will be better’.
But just wait a minute. Press the pause button. Sit down and eat that last mince pie. It is January. It is the new year. That means another year has passed. Another christmas come and gone, another set of birthdays celebrated, another set of memories made. The years pass so quickly and those little tinkers; they grow up too soon. Do you really have the time to spare to sit thinking about gym memberships you won’t use and fad diets that make you miserable. Do you have time to spend a month wallowing in guilt and self-pity and pangs of failure? When you are a parent, with 1001 things sitting on your to do list do you really have time to think about any of that? You have other things to think about, things much more mundane but no less important. Things like making sure someone’s favourite clothes are clean for the weekend or remembering to give someone a goodnight kiss, or making sure you all go over the park and get some fresh air tomorrow before they are all back at school stuck in a classroom again. These may be everyday things for you but they are so important for your kids. Our children don’t care what we look like, what we are wearing, if we went to the gym this week or ever. They don’t actually notice if we are doing the 5:2 diet or just stuffing our faces with the leftover Christmas chocolates. What they do care about is that we are there and that we are present.
In the current climate of technology and social media we find it increasingly hard to be present and in the moment with our nearest and dearest. We are, as parents often absorbed with what we are doing next and later and tomorrow, accompanied with distractions from our phones and social media. Non stop news articles and beeping notifications. We are available on demand all day everyday to the people who want to Whatsapp or text us, to the companies wanting to sell us their products and to the social media companies wanting us to engage. But how available are we to the people who really matter?
This January, as parents, there is only one new years resolution we need to make and that is to be more present with our families. More available to our children and more conscious of making memories, not from the extravagant or the impossible but from the mundane.
But with a to do list that never seems to get any shorter and in an increasingly busy world how do we give more of our attention to our children? Here are some ideas to help you.
- Involve them in the day to day.
Have them help you change the beds or do the laundry. Make it a game to have them run around picking up the toys before you hoover them up. In the words of the great Mary Poppins: ‘In every chore that must be done, there is an element of fun’.
- Have a ‘Family day’ every week.
Make a day where you go out and do something as a family. You can make this easier by writing down all the things you would like to do on pieces of paper and folding them up and putting them in a pencil case or tin. Then on each family day you simply pick one out and go with that.
- Have meal time as a no technology time.
Make sure all TV’s phones and devices are off so that meal times can be times to talk to each other. Ask them questions about their likes, dislikes, their favourite things to do as a family and what they would do on the weekend if they could do anything at all! You might be surprised at their answers.
- Teach them to be more independent.
The more they can do themselves, the more time you have to sit down and spend with them. You can spend time teaching them now or spend time doing it for them later.
- Find a shared family interest.
Whether it’s bike rides or Marvel movies; if you are all interested in the same thing it is easy to spend enjoyable time together. Granted, this is much easier as kids get older.
- Take time out just for yourself.
When you have a break, you are much better able to be present with your children. You are more relaxed and available to listen. Not only that but going away from them reminds you how much you enjoy being with them.
- Get fit together
Go to the park, walk through the woods, go swimming or get out on a bike ride. ‘The family that gets fit together; sticks together’ (Maybe!).
- Cook together
At least one day a week cook a meal together as a family, It is good teamwork and gives opportunity for conversation and we have to cook anyway! Food made with love tastes better too.
- Make time to play
Don’t see play as something you can do if you get all of the housework done, factor it into your weekly routine as a job in itself that needs to be done. Play dolls or action figures or sit and do some arts and crafts or play-dough. Whatever it is, leave your phone alone and enjoy; it is good for you too!
- Do something different at least once a year.
Go on holiday, a road trip, camping or a day out doing something completely new. See it through the eyes of your children and go make some happy memories together.
Let us know what you intend to do to be more present with your family this year!