Give yourself over to the experience. In the meditation technique known as mindfulness, the more attention you pay to the smallest thing you do and feel, the more it expands to fill your mind, while pushing out other stressful matter. Your time with children will transform you if you let it fill your mind. If part of your brain is busy planning dinner or running through your “to-do” list, you won’t entirely “be there.” Give whatever the two of you are doing — whether it is watching a squirrel scamper up a tree, building a tower of blocks or looking out the window — your full attention.
Adopt a child’s perspective. You can’t just be the adult watching a child’s wonder. To feel the experience yourself, you’ve got to get on the child’s wavelength. Let them take your there. Imagine you are 3 feet tall and looking up. It’s a great experience of empathy, which validates the child but also enriches you.
Feel the feelings. You can see everything a child is feeling on her face: possessiveness, jealousy, rejection, anger and unconditional love. Most of us are (usually) far more guarded about revealing our hearts.
But time spent with a child permits you to unlock your vault of suppressed emotions. You can interact with a pureness and innocence rare in adult transactions. And that opens up your emotional responses to everything around you.
Play. “Adults give themselves permission to wonder by taking a vacation,” notes Fretta Reitzes, scheduling time to take in beauty or “play” in the snow or sun. If you spend time with a child you can play for free. Let your child show you how. Go down the slide, dig a hole in the sand, splash some water in your face.