How present are you? Are you truly living in the moment? Or are you off somewhere else? Your mind may wander to a past event, get lost in a daydream, or shift from one thought to another without any real focus. Remaining present is an integral part of The Son-Rise Program and something many of us struggle with – including me. Over the past 14 years of practicing and teaching The Son-Rise Program, I‘ve worked very hard on this. I’ve learned that being present on a consistent basis is an ongoing process that requires both intention and action. When your attention isn’t focused on staying in the moment with your child, you may miss opportunities like his/her attempt to communicate or engage you in play. Here are some of the ways our thinking steals our joy, and causes us to miss out on important moments:
- Regretting choices you’ve made concerning your children
- Worrying about your child’s progress and whether you’re doing enough to help them
- Stressing about your children’s future
- Making comparisons about your child’s progress
- Feeling uncomfortable about something your child is doing or not doing
- Avoiding repetitious questions and things, i.e., reading the same book for the 100th time
- Thinking about our to-do lists, work projects, or the next step of play while interacting/joining our children in their repetitious and exclusive activities
Here are five ways you can become more focused on “now”:
- Intention! Know and trust that being present does not mean you will never dream, plan, or set goals for the future. It simply means that when you’re with your child, the goal is to stay attentive and remain in the moment. You can focus on your tasks at a later time. Right now, join them, celebrate them, entertain them, and then when you get the cue make your request. Remember it’s important to take time with each step, be attentive and hone in on their cues.
- Practice makes perfect! When you’re completely in the moment during your daily tasks, you’ll get better at staying present with your child. Try making a cup of tea without thinking about anything else but what you’re doing, or listening to a friend without forming opinions or problem solving in your head. While driving your car to the store, instead of running through your shopping list, notice how the wheel feels in your hand, listen to the sound of the engine, and pay attention to how the road looks in front of you.
- Be aware of the times when you find yourself drifting. You may notice a pattern. Perhaps you zone out when your child does their exclusive and repetitious activity (what we refer to as an “ism”), or when your mother-in-law starts complaining about something, etc.
- Accept yourself. When you catch yourself lost in thought, take note of it and say, “I’m doing the best I can” and gently bring yourself back to the here and now.
- Try to understand yourself. Because we often have a lot on our plate, it’s easy to prioritize other things over being present. When we’re in this place, it’s the perfect time to ask, “Is this really more important than staying in the moment with my child?” If not, let it go without judging yourself.
When children on the Autism Spectrum do things they love (i.e. exclusive and repetitious activity), they are incredibly present and focused. Nothing else matters. They can become so involved and engaged with a certain topic of conversation that they simply do not allow anything else in. Because they are masters of being present, we can learn a great deal from them.
When we follow these steps and are fully awake and present, we have the opportunity to connect more deeply to our children, and engage them in a more meaningful way. At the same time, you’re making it easier for them to bond with you.Children challenged by Autism are adept at decoding our attitudes and our level of openness towards them. So if we can stay in the moment during our time together, we’ll be a magnet to them. In essence, you’re showing them just how wonderful and useful it is to be with people. By remaining present, you’ll not only see their beauty and uniqueness in a brand new way, you’ll continue to discover more ways to help them grow.