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What Your Children REALLY Want for the Holidays
Your Presence More Than Your Presents

    Long after the paper is excitedly torn from the last gift, your child will be left with only the feelings they associate with the holidays. It�s the same for all of us. Which can you recall more clearly from last year, the gifts you received or the overall tone of the holidays? Even more than presents your child desires your presence this the season.

    You can experience three levels of presence with your child. The levels are:

    Low-Level Connecting: At this level, you�re �there, but not there.� Your physical body might be in the room, but your mind may be miles away thinking things like, Did I remember to put eggnog on the grocery list? What shall I get for Aunt Millie this year?

    Medium-Level Connecting: At this mid-level of connecting, you�re �there with your agenda.� You may be present, but you�re less likely to connect with your child because you already have a goal in mind. Some medium-level activities include: shopping, driving, going to a movie and various family activities planned by the parents.

    Medium-level connecting is certainly an improvement over low-level connecting and many medium-level activities are great fun. I�m not at all suggesting that you abandon these types of activities. The problem happens when we mistake medium-level connection for high-level connection. Medium-level connecting does not usually fulfill your child�s emotional needs (feeling heard, important and loved). High-level connecting does.

    High-Level Connecting: In the strongest level of connecting, you are �there with their agenda.� You�re fully present, making the current moment the most important thing on your agenda. I doubt that any parent can operate in high-level connecting mode all the time. I certainly can�t. However, we can all benefit by noticing how often we do manage to create this level of connecting.

    The Karaoke Machine: Three Levels of Connecting

    Here�s an example of how the same event can lead to very different levels of connection:

    Low-Level Connecting: You buy your children a karaoke machine for Christmas or Hanukkah with the thought that maybe this will be one of those gifts that keeps the kids busy for long stretches of time. Your spouse and you agree to put it in the basement during the holiday party, hoping it will keep the kids �out of your hair.�

    Medium-Level Connecting: You buy your children a karaoke machine with the thought that they will really enjoy it. They ask you to help them set it up a few times and though you mean well, after putting the turkey in the oven, you call a friend and lose yourself in a discussion about the 30 ingredients you had to buy to make Martha Stewart�s holiday cookies. You do at least unpack the machine and toss them the instruction manual.

    High-Level Connecting: You buy your children a karaoke machine with the thought that you will have a great time connecting as a family. After you finish with the turkey, you reluctantly let go of the idea of preparing those 30-ingredient cookies, and instead go into their room and enthusiastically say, �Let�s set up that karaoke machine.� You hear the phone ring and though it�s tempting to run and pick it up, you think, it can wait, I want to connect with the children for a few minutes right now.

    Each child sings a song, then you take a turn. Even though you�re tone deaf, you belt out a few lines of �Auld Lang .� After watching a few more rounds, you say, �This was fun. The turkey�s calling me now.�

    Reach for More High-Level Connecting

    If you want to feel more connected to your child, during the holidays or any time of year, add more high-level connecting moments to your day. Begin by stopping a few times each day to simply observe your connection level. Then, make an effort to add just one or two more high-level moments each day. The rewards are great; a decrease in misbehavior for one and a connection with your child that will be fondly remembered for years to come.

    � Vickie Falcone

    Vickie Falcone is the emerging voice of today�s parents. She is founder of Positive Parenting Network and author of Buddha Never Raised Kids and Jesus Didn�t Drive Carpool: Seven Principles for Parenting with Soul (Jodere, 2003).
    Parenting with Soul.