Time to read: Approx. 3 minutes
Whilst flicking through the newspaper this week I was reminded of the importance of giving our children quality time. Researchers from University College of London And Essex University have concluded that spending just 30 minutes on activities a day together can really boost your child’s cognitive and social skills. I have read plenty of articles similar to this over recent years and they always spark something in me.
Several years ago I began volunteering for a children’s charity as a befriender. Whilst I only spent 1 hour a week with the child I was quite shocked to discover more about their day to day life than I knew about my own children. This was not because they were particularly chatty and had a lot they wanted to get off their chest. Rather it was down to the fact that I focused on the time we had together without any of the usual distractions pervading in – e.g. housework, phone, other people etc. This provided an environment where we could both really enjoy what we were doing, conversation flowed naturally and we were able to develop a better understanding of each other.
At home I noticed that I wasn’t really setting time aside to “be” with my own children and give them my time exclusively. Yes, I was there but always “busy” doing something else whilst we grabbed moments in between the hustle and bustle that is family life. I knew then that I wanted to spend more meaningful time being present with my kids. I started to have a look at what might help and came across a variety of ideas that may aid you too.
Firstly, recognise the difference in yourself between giving divided and undivided time. Our children will recognise when our attention is elsewhere. The change is about giving yourself over to their world for a period of time. At this point you may be crying out “I don’t have time, there’s too much to do!”.
Admittedly, it is a tricky balancing act when the washing is piling up, the dog needs walking, you have to make a call for work and your little one wants to play tig (Again !) The stress can build as the feeling of unmet needs bubbles away inside. There are some days when it feels like there is so much to do that I feel unable to offer this undivided attention. I try to recognise this is NOT every day and with an awareness and a willingness to practice I can build it in on more days than not.
For me it’s about saying no to some things that really don’t matter as much. For each of us those things will be different. As Christmas approaches I am going to do a little less shopping for presents than usual and in its place I am going to give a little more of my presence.
A few other practical tips might also help us increase quality time:-
• Play their games. Get involved. Yes, even if you’re not a big fan of hide and seek, pokemon go or whatever is their current favourite. Whilst I may initially grumble, once I get going I even start to enjoy myself !
• Eating together as a family. Put away any screens and make this time special so all can have their say.
• Fix things or do chores together. This will, of course, take longer than getting it done on your own but it is an investment. Not only do they get a chance to learn some useful skills but it provides another opening for chat. As my children are moving into the teenage zone this is getting much more tricky but I’m still trying !
• Schedule in a date with each of your children. It doesn’t need to be long or expensive but find something you BOTH want to do.
• Instead of driving our children could we walk or bike together – it may take a little longer but this time can be a precious opportunity to talk and importantly, LISTEN without distractions.
• The festive period is a great time to dig out more traditional and sometimes “slower” games that can be just as much fun as the latest XBox releases. This weekend in our house we had 3 generations tackling a lovely old puzzle. For a brief period we all connected in a common aim. It felt surprisingly good and got us into the Christmas spirit.
Juggling the taxiing to activities, chores, work, fitness and school routines is a challenge. I need to frequently be reminded that it is QUALITY and not QUANTITY of time that I should be giving to my kids. So, I’m glad to hear that just 30 minutes a day of time together can be beneficial to both my children’s and my own mental health.
In this fast paced, technology driven world it is nice to sometimes slow down and make space and time for those important to us.
If you have any other tips that you wish to share that will help us to make the most of our time with our children then I would love to hear them.