After our blog titled, Why Showing Up Matters More Than Being Perfect, was published, we got some great questions from parents wanting to know how to improve their ability to show up and actually be present.  We know that showing up, while necessary, can be meaningless if we’re not present. We’ve all seen, and likely even been, the parent who shows up for their child’s sporting event or performance and has become distracted by their phone. As the child scans the crowd for their parent, they look away after seeing mom or dad busy looking at their phone or conversing.  It breaks my heart when I see that realization fall across the faces of the little kids out there, and I’m quickly convicted of how often that is me.

And the thing is….it doesn’t even have to be a physical distraction like a phone. It can be an emotional distraction of a problem that just won’t go away or just simply any distraction … squirrel.  

Here’s what we know; we are a preoccupied people! 

Despite our sincere desire to be present, we really struggle to put down all of the things that intrude on our time. So how do we flip that switch?

How do we change that habit? 

How do we practice the art of presence for our children?

The opening lines of an article from LiveScience state that “Distractions turn on a different part of our brains and do so more quickly than the daily grind of paying attention….”  So while it’s easy to see why we are so easily distracted, and it’s ok to give ourselves a little grace, it doesn’t negate our desire to actually be present for our children, our spouse, and friends.

Well, for me, the solution boils down to two things….Nudges and Visualizing.

When I find myself distracted from being present, I use that realization as a nudge/reminder to bring myself back into focus, much like an errant child.  And as I begin to be intentional about this practice, I find I have to nudge myself less and less often.  If a distracting thought seems important enough to pursue, make a note or schedule a time on your calendar to ponder it, process it, and maybe even journal about it (especially if it’s an emotional distraction) and return your focus back to being present.

The second technique is one that is often used in sports. It is called visualizing and involves taking time to see yourself moving through a situation and being successful at it.  For example, if I struggle with my free throws in basketball, I’ll visualize myself going up to the line, holding my arm at the 90-degree angle and the ball on my fingers, and then lifting my arm, bending my wrist, and following through with my fingers.  Visualizing myself in the follow-through is the critical component. Personally, follow-through is something I struggle with. I usually want to rush the shot, and I have to remind myself to breathe and slow down. Follow-through is important because that ensures the ball is sent in the right direction.  

So the next time you want to make sure you are really being present, consider visualizing. Take a few moments ahead of time to picture yourself at your child’s game or performance, sitting down to eat dinner together, or playing a game with them. Visualize how you want that to look and how you will follow through.  How will you interact with them?  Will you listen or talk? What stories could you share that might create space for them to open up and engage with you? 

Remember being present takes practice, and practice makes perfect. 💙

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