Your Complete Attention is a Wonderful Gift to Your Kids

By: Len Stauffenger

You can be rich or you can be poor and each one of you can give your child a free gift that can be of tremendous impact on the way he turns out. That gift is your undivided attention. It will be the mortar in his foundation for stability and steady unfoldment.

To provide this gift for my daughters in what was the biggest opportunity of my lifetime to exercise strength of character, I saw very quickly that the first step in being an effective parent for them was to get my head right. I worked hard to put myself in a place where I was free from the pain of divorce, and free from a connection to my ex so that I could be fully present for my kids, because this gift is what ultimately gave them stability and a place to feel safe.

In order to get free from the pain of divorce, I did a lot of introspective work with a therapist. I knew that I could not come from a place of blaming and call myself healthy. Since I am a long way past those early days, I now can say that in truth, blaming is a sign of vulnerability. In those days, my ex could hurt me. Divorce is like tangoing - it takes two to tango. I did a lot of work to look on at my side of the equation, not just hers. I believe that it pays a major compliment to your ex to acknowledge that in their own time and in their own way, they will handle all of their life challenges and it doesn't matter how long it takes them. What matters is the length of time you use. It's important to quit blaming them so that you can handle all of your life challenges. When you learn to stop putting the blame on someone or something outside yourself, you create a phenomenal present for your children.

When you quit blaming and see your role in the divorce, you simultaneously set yourself free emotionally from your ex. You are focused on your role, not hers (or his.) I've discovered that it's possible to continue to love her, to keep myself at an emotional distance from her, and to interface with her harmoniously for the sake of the kids.

Of the highest importance in any divorce are your children. They are the most susceptible to negative input. Your kids always feel emotionally torn when you argue with your ex. You can prevent buffeting them emotionally if you learn how to stabilize yourself.

As you work to gain your own stability, and you work to dedicate yourself to the best parenting you know to provide, your kids will create many situations to test your new skills. When you've had an exhausting day and you just want to hibernate at home, they'll need something from the store. When you could use a cold beer and want to watch the news because you haven't been able to do that for over a week, they'll need help with a science project. When you're ready to drop from the challenges of your job, they'll need to be rocked and read to.

To be sure that your children receive your full attention and presence, consider the following:

1. Decide here and now that you will give them your full attention.

2. Decide here and now that whenever they speak to you, you will stop whatever you are doing and give them your attention.

3. Set up boundaries for them around tasks where you need your full attention and they cannot interrupt you; e.g. important phone calls.

4. Decide here and now that even if you are in to watching a program on TV, reading a book, talking with a friend, unless you have asked not to be interrupted, you will set aside your own wishes and give them your attention.

5. Decide here and now that your children won't have to repeat themselves unnecessarily to get your attention. You will give it freely because you are aware they are speaking to you.

It is easy to get lost in our own tasks and become oblivious to the fact that our children are talking to us. An effective attention-getting tool is touch. Touch your children when you are speaking to them and want their full attention. When they want your undivided attention, teach them to tap your shoulder or your face to get your full focus.

I'm not saying that you won't drift off track occasionally, get lost in your own thoughts and not hear your kids. I'm saying to get back on track and resolve to be more aware. Your kids deserve your attention. If you can keep yourself present in this moment, this gift will allow them emotional and mental stability for now and for their adult years.

Kids and Teens
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