by Mariola Strahlberg
And poor Ben, lethargic with dark circles under his eyes – it takes him forever to
fall asleep. It started in the 5th grade after seeing scary war images on the news.
It was the color of blood – it seemed so real, not like a paint in the science fiction
movies he saw many times before.
He never mentioned it to his parents, they never asked and besides, his Dad really likes
things relating to the military. He mentioned it to his friends but they laughed at him.
So at night, all alone in his room, he anxiously waits to hear the sirens and war planes
It takes only moments of focused attention to notice these “things”, to allow us to
hear what they are saying and to gain a deeper understanding into the lives of
our children. We pride ourselves at how efficient we are, multitasking all day
long: working on the computer while talking on the phone, listening to news while
cooking, preparing “to-do” lists in our heads while sitting at a meeting, or
anticipating today’s homework with Betty, while listening to her practice her violin.
We are always rushing into the future or dwelling in the past. We miss the
opportunity to be here, now. We fail to notice what is going on with us and our
children, in this very moment.
When we are with our children, let us be fully with them, let us make every
Here are some specific examples. While Betty is doing her homework, we are
thinking about her homework from yesterday or even the week before or we are
focusing on that science project that took hours to complete earlier in the month.
Those hours are long gone and we need to remind ourselves that Betty has
learned something from her project. She is also older by a day or a week, and
“today” is another day, a different one – let us be here and now.
So what can the parent do?
We need to gain some control over our minds, teach it to work for us, to listen to
us. Small steps at first – let’s dedicate 15, 10, or even 5 minutes at a time to
focus and be fully present with your children. No phone, no TV or computer, no cooking
Let your children feel that, at this particular moment of the day, they are most
important, not a burden. Let them feel they are not wasting your “precious time”,
but are here to teach you important lessons. By being fully present with your
children, your breathing will deepen, your minds will relax, your eyes will be able
to see and your ears will be able to hear what your children are feeling, struggling
with and longing for.
Ask them questions, listen to them, try to figure out what
they need. When they say they “hate” school, they are not telling you much –
your job is to specifically pick out what is bothering them. Even four and five year
olds have great insights into these things – take the time to listen to every word
they say, don’t rush them, don’t add your views, your solutions, don’t solve their
Rushing to another therapist or doctor, giving them another pill, getting
another or different tutor, may not be the answer. Really listening to and
understanding what is going on has so much more power. The recommendation I
offer to parents of children I see at the Shining Mountain Children’s Center is talk
to your children first and clearly identify the issue. Once the issue is identified,
spend a few minutes before going to sleep, picturing the opposite image of the
issue you just discussed.
The parent and the child are to individually see and feel
the “new” picture, then let it go and go to sleep. For the next few days, they are to
notice if things are different. Based on what happens, they are to take the next
Using these simple steps, they may notice that specific issues get easier,
that for example, homework may be less stressful, there is more communication
and ease. Parents may also notice that by practicing single-tasking, life becomes
less dull, less busy and s/he has more energy and more time.
As Eknath Easwaran, founder of the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation said: “time does
not hurry us; we hurry ourselves”. My wish for all parents is, from time to time,
to fully exercise their freedom to be completely in the moment and to choose
wisely how they listen, love and live with their children.