“How Can I Be More Present With My Kids?”

“I'm constantly distracted by work, by my to-do list, and by my phone, but I feel unable to focus totally on my kids even when I put down my phone. I am on meds and I see a therapist, but I still have a problem just being in the moment with my children.”
The Experts | posted by Terry M. Dickson
Terry M. Dickson

When my son was younger, he would say, “Dad, I want to spend time with you. Would you please look at this project that I'm doing?" I was constantly saying, “Well, I’ll be there in a minute. I just want to finish something.” There was always something more important, or something I just wanted to finish and look at.

A lot of this was my ADHD symptoms that were not under control. We are wired differently and it’s easy to be distracted. When I was on my way to the living room to spend time with my son, I’d see something else and pick it up and forget where I was headed. As time went on, he became less trusting, and would not depend on me or ask me to do things with him.

My biggest advice is to force yourself to sit down, and eliminate distractions. You have to put everything down, get rid of the phone, get rid of the to-do list, and just say to yourself, "During this time, I am going to shut out everything else and spend time with that child."

Part of it is convincing yourself that I am going to do whatever he is interested in even if you are not interested in it at all. Ask your child questions about the things he is interested in. You’ll be amazed at how much you learn. You may find something in there that is interesting to you, and can help you stay focused. With ADHD, the less interest you have in it, the harder it is to focus, so you need to make a vow to yourself to find something to focus on. Listen more and talk less.

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