It is not easy to show up for your kids in the way you want when you are struggling. It is hard enough to truly show up for them in today’s world when things are going well, since the world often demands more than we can give. Being present to your kids becomes harder when you find yourself hooked to certain thoughts and feelings that don’t serve you or when you find yourself having less time and energy due to the stressors in your life.

Research shows that it’s about quality time with your kids, not about the amount of time you have with them [1]. What is important for both parents and children is building connections and focusing on turning those minutes you have with your kids into moments that matter

What is important to you in your relationship with your kids and what do you love to do together? If you were seeing yourself through a video camera, what would you want to be seeing yourself doing or how would you want to see yourself being with your kids? This can help you in becoming more aware of what’s important to you as a parent and how you want to show up for your children. Another question worth asking yourself after is what is realistic for you right now, given what’s happening in your life. Maybe it’s not a visit to the zoo, but rather taking a few minutes to read a book about the animals at the zoo and asking them about what it would be like to be their favorite animal for a day.

What values are important to you that you want to instill in your kids? Values can serve as guideposts for how you want to live and what you want to teach your kids. Sometimes teaching values can be as simple as teaching kindness by being friendly with the person at the grocery store or teaching your children about being persistent and committed by truly showing up for yourself and practicing self-care. In fact, when parents practice self-care it helps teach children how to react to difficult situations and helps them develop empathy [2].

The truth is showing up for your kids often starts with showing up for yourself. When you take time for yourself, reach out for support, set boundaries, and respect your needs and limits, you can better show up in other areas of your life.

Here are a few ideas on ways you can truly show up:

• Invest in yourself: Chose one small thing that you will do for yourself either daily or at least something in your week to look forward to, that is just for you. If you have a partner, ask for their support with the kids so you can create a bit of time for yourself. If doing things alone isn’t possible for you, you can also involve your kids. For example, you can bring them for a walk in the forest if you’ve been wanting more time in nature.

• Commit to less: If you find yourself often saying yes to family, friends and acquaintances, even when you don’t have any more in you to give, take a moment to pause before saying yes. Turn off the autopilot response by reflecting on if you can truly take this on right now.

• Take breaks: We all need them. Create opportunities in your routine for breaks.

• Be kind to yourself: You’re doing the best you can. Be kind and forgiving with yourself. Parenting is not easy, and everyone has moments where they lose their patience with their kids.

• Chose to start something new with your kids: Whether it’s an extra book at bedtime or a new craft or LEGO project you can work on together, it helps build connection with your kids and can bring some good for both of when you introduce something new.

• Reach out for counselling: Working with a therapist or counsellor can not only help you feel supported, but also help you develop new strategies to cope with difficult life events and the thoughts and feelings that are coming up for you. This in turn can help you to be more present so you can enjoy the moments with your kids and focus on your life.

[1] Milkie, M, Nomaguchi K and K Denny, 2015. Does the amount of time mothers spend with children or adolescents matter. Journal of marriage and family, 77 (2): 355-372.

[2] Jones, S and R Weissbourd, 2017. How parents can cultivate empathy in children. Harvard Graduate School of Education,

Melina Ladouceur

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Melina Ladouceur is a registered social worker and practicing psychotherapist who offers individual counselling and is currently accepting new clients.