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Finding Your “Flow”

Positive Parenting by Dr. Karen Reivich


Have you ever been so engaged in an activity that when you looked at your watch, you realized that two hours had passed even though it felt like 15 minutes? Maybe you were playing tennis, cooking a challenging recipe, or writing a creative essay for your blog. Psychologists call this experience flow. Flow occurs when you are fully immersed in an activity. When you are in flow mode, you feel energized, positive, and totally “in the moment.”


Flow most often occurs when the challenge of the situation requires you to use your skills or talents to their fullest. If the challenge is too difficult and you don’t have the skills to meet the challenge, you’ll likely feel anxiety and stress—imagine you’re a tennis beginner playing a match against a tennis pro. If the challenge is too easy and your skills are high, you’ll likely feel bored—imagine you’re a tennis pro playing a match against a tennis beginner. Flow happens when a difficult challenge is matched by a high level of skill or talent.


One of the best ways we can help our children experience flow is to NOT interrupt them when they are totally engaged in an activity! I know I am guilty of this all too often. My son, Aaron, often plays the guitar, clearly deeply concentrating, and I frequently interrupt him with unimportant questions, like to ask if he wants to have hamburgers or pasta for dinner. Ugh.


Think about the questions below to help identify when you or you child feel flow:

  • When does time seem to pass most quickly?
  • What activities challenge you? When do you feel most energized in what you are doing?
  • When do you feel completely involved and concentrated on what you are doing?
  • What activities do you engage in because you find joy in the activity itself?


With a little creativity (and an online search), we can create a fun list of Flow Activities with our children. Any activity that gets progressively harder and has clear rules can become a Flow Activity. 


Activity: Finding Your "Flow"



Karen Reivich, Ph.D.