The Power of Presence

Being truly present with your kids is more than sitting next to them while they’re watching TV and you’re on your phone. Being truly present means that you are both there physically and emotionally.

We know that caregivers have more than just a full plate — they have a full buffet of responsibilities to worry about. Between managing the family calendar, juggling work responsibilities, planning and making meals, and keeping the house clean, it can be hard to prioritize your family’s mental wellness. With all of life’s tasks, it can be hard to stop and take time to be truly present in our children’s lives, but it’s incredibly important to their development.

“The dirty dishes will always be there, but we have such a small window of time to make an impact on our kids,” shares Emily Weitz, On Our Sleeves’ children’s mental health expert. “When we are truly present with our kids, we have a chance to appreciate their silliness, thoughtfulness and unique personality. We gain a new perspective and appreciation for the simple things when seeing the world through a child’s eyes.”

If you’re wondering where to start with being truly present with the kids that you care about, here are five simple steps you can take today.

1. Limit distractions. With so many thoughts racing around in our heads and many distractions competing for our attention, it is important to be intentional in setting these distractions aside so we can give our kids our full attention. Here are some ideas to try:

  • Put electronics that might distract you in a separate room while you do an activity with your child.
  • If possible, make a rule for yourself to not check work emails at home outside of work hours.
  • If someone calls when you are doing an activity with your child, ask if you can call them back later or better yet, don’t answer the phone!


2. Create time for kids to open up. When we aren’t rushing, we can allow a space for natural conversation to blossom. If time is limited, these ideas don’t have to last for hours or be every week. Here are a few simple ideas to try:

  • Start bedtime 5 minutes earlier than usual to allow for a slower-pace and more downtime between activities.
  • After book or bath time, spend a few extra minutes before bed lying next to your kids or sitting next to them on the couch to create space for them to open up to you.

3. Take control of your calendar, don’t let your calendar take control of you. Running from activity-to-activity causes stress and can put a strain on our relationships. If we are always worried about getting to the next thing, we won’t have the capacity to focus on the moment. Being present means slowing down and being in the moment. Here are some ways you can do that:

  • Be intentional about protecting downtime for your family. Resist the urge to fill quiet time with more events or activities.
  • Use time in the car to play I Spy, or the License Plate game. This can draw attention to your surroundings.

4. Laugh and enjoy the moment. Laughter decreases our stress and helps us bond with our kids. Tap into your inner child and be silly with them.

  • Play dress up
  • Have a family play
  • Make silly faces in the mirror while brushing teeth!

5. Make time for your own self-care. It’s likely you’ve heard the phrase: “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” When your own needs aren’t met, then it can lead to being grumpy, hungry and unable to enjoy time with our kids. Here are some ideas for simple self-care:

  • Take a weekly bubble bath
  • Spend 15 minutes reading a book you enjoy
  • Get in some exercise

Finally, at times when you feel like there are so many responsibilities screaming for your attention, take a moment to take a deep breath and remind yourself that your most important job right now is being there for your kids.

Find More On Our Sleeves Resources

Learning how to be present is a journey, not a destination. On Our Sleeves is leading the movement for children’s mental health, to build a world where mental health is part of the upbringing of every child. Our mission is to give expert-created resources to all U.S. communities so everyone can understand and promote mental health for children. Visit to access new content monthly to help you on this journey with the children in your life.

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