How can we show psychological presence to our children?
We are so busy. So being in the same room or doing the same thing at the same time, can be a comforting intimacy without demanding too much energy. Hanging out (physical presence) is good. Kids don’t need to heart to heart chats (psychological presence) all the time. Mostly, they want to do what they want to do and get you to let them do it. But, sometimes, in middle of hanging out, they need you to really pay attention to them for a moment. The trick is noticing that moment and finding the energy, patience, time and bravery, to meet them with full attention.
Sometimes they need a hug, sometimes they need to be seen, sometimes they need to be stopped, sometimes they need to talk and sometimes they need to be heard. If you can take a breath and a moment to check their emotional temperature, you have a better chance of offering the appropriate response.
When you check a child’s fever, you look at them closely to see if their eyes are glassy, you place your wrist on their forehead, wait a moment and let the temperature register as warmer (or not) compared to your own, ask a few more questions and sort through possible explanations and then decide what to do. The same set of behaviors: look closely, wait a moment, compare your reactions, ask some questions and then decide what to do, works pretty well as a model for psychological presence.