Do you understand what quality time with your children really means?
Do you feel like you’re not connecting deeply with your children?
Like you’re always making sacrifices to spend more time with them – but you still don’t seem to forge that loving closeness you would like?
That you’re trying your best, but feel guilty that it’s not enough?
We tend to spend way too much quantity time with our kids.
We’re so busy doing things: making home cooked meals, getting them bathed and dressed, signing them up for activities. Not to mention the shopping and driving them to play dates and birthday parties. We end up just doing more and more. We get so lost in the busyness and we don’t realise that quality time is just a few minutes of our undivided attention.
Quality time is not about doing something, it’s about being. If you’re the type of parent who constantly feels like they’re not doing enough; racing from the nanny to horse-riding lessons and football practice on your only day “off”, while your phone rings constantly and pings insistently with each incoming email, then you’ll be relieved to know that committing to quality time isn’t as big a commitment as you think. Small amounts of quality time are better than lots of quantity time.
Stop, pause and focus
Spend just a little bit of unstructured time with your child. Give them your full attention and do whatever it is THEY want to do. It doesn’t need to be long, a few minutes is absolutely fine. Ideally, it should be consistent, it should be daily and you need to focus your 100% uninterrupted attention. It’s also okay to commit to a longer period of quality time every second day, or once a week. It all depends on what you can manage and what works best for you.
So stop for a few minutes. Close your laptop, silence your phone and hide it away. Research shows that the wrong message is sent by even an upside-down phone on silent. Your children know the difference between 100% attention from an involved parent or one who is distracted.
Quality time is 1-on-1
Structure separate, undisturbed time to spend with each child, one-on-one. Spending family time with all your kids together is also special but can’t replace that 1-on-1 focus. Give each child a special day of the week, take each child in turn – whatever works for you is okay.
Look your child in the eye, ask them how they’re doing and give your full, focused attention. Say: “This is our special quality time, what would you like to do with it?” You can tell them exactly how much time they have with you, even use a timer. Then do whatever THEY want to do, focusing wholly on them. This creates a deep and loving bond with your child, one that will hold you and sustain you through the many difficult times.