Being Present as a Family

Family of three smiling under autumn tree

“For me, conscious parenting is staying attuned to your child, 

being really open and in the moment. It means staying as present 

as possible in your own breath for the betterment of your whole family.” 

― Anna Getty

When was the last time you enjoyed uninterrupted family time? Throughout history, family has been a core value for so many cultures; looking after elderly relatives, spending quality time with extended family, giving young children amazing early experiences. This all remains important, yet in this modern age we tend to let career, friends and other areas of life overtake family on the priority list, whether intentional or not. If you’re feeling disconnected from family, here are a few ways to be more present and feel closer than ever. 

Leave work at the door 

When you arrive home from work after a long day, take a moment to decide how you will spend your evening. It’s easy to resort to your laptop, checking emails, finishing off tasks, checking your phone for texts from work colleagues, but working at home can be a slippery slope. It removes the boundaries between work and play, makes it more difficult to switch off, and limits the time we are truly present with family. Keep work for the office. 

Enjoy mindful mealtimes

One of the best ways to ensure you are regularly checking in with family is to sit down to eat together in the evenings. While this may not always be possible (getting everyone on the same weekly schedule can be tough!) it doesn’t have to be a big, elaborate sit-down dinner if you don’t have time. Taking just 10 minutes to sit together, enjoy a meal, and talk about your day will mean you get to know what’s going on with each other, discuss challenges and upcoming events. 

Start a regular “no-phone hour”

It’s not just moody teenagers who spend all their time on the phone these days, the whole family has some kind of device in their hand, and it’s affecting our in-person relationships. Cal Newport, author of Digital Minimalism, describes in his book how too much social media usage can take up so much of our time that it affects our ability to be intentional about our daily lives: “The urge to check Twitter or refresh Reddit becomes a nervous twitch that shatters uninterrupted time into shards too small to support the presence necessary for an intentional life.” With less social media comes a clearer mind and a longer attention span, which can have a tremendously positive effect on the time spent with family. For an hour after dinner, why not challenge the whole family to put away the phones and do something tech-free, like playing a board game or working on a craft project together.  

Prioritise playtime 

Children are usually happy to play by themselves, but have you ever set aside time to just be silly with them? Rolling around on the floor, playing with colourful toys and painting pictures for the fridge may seem like child’s play, but getting back into that childlike state of mind not only acts as a form of mindfulness when you’re feeling busy and overwhelmed, but also becomes the perfect activity to bring the family closer together. Be present, listen to what they care about, and don’t think of playtime as time wasted... it’s anything but! 

Pick up the phone

If you don’t live with your family members, whether immediate or distant, and you want to maintain a close bond with them, consider a ritual where you pick up the phone once a week and call the relatives you want to talk to. Catch up on their lives, let them know you’re thinking about them, and give them your full attention (that means no TV in the background!) Being present and connected is not reserved for families who live in the same house - there are lots of ways to connect with each other from afar. 

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