How to use our time – Quality time
Being a working parent of two children myself - I have often caught myself saying, If I didnt have to work so hard, then I could spend more time with my children. Truth be told, how many of us working parents take the time we are not working and spend all that time with our children. There are still chores and shopping and cooking and .... and .... and ... that we find we need to do.
Here is the thing though - our children do need time with us BUT, this does not always have to be playing in the garden or taking them to a trampoline park, it can also be just including them in the things that we do everyday. I am not in any way saying that childnre do not need 'special time' and that it is very important that we make time to get involved in their interests, but this is not the only way to spend time and have very valuable time with your child.
Quality time can be spent everyday with your child - and more than that, as a parent, you can spend that time helping develop and nuture all their areas of development highlighted in the previous lesson, doing the tihing you need to get done anyway.
Lets look at a few examples:
You come home from work and what does the time look like:
Rush in at 5pm, time to start supper, finish homework with the children, bath them, eat and then off to bed - where are you meant to build Quality time into that schedule?
1. Making supper - get them involved:
Let them collect items for you that you may need e.g. onion, a spoon etc - count them, name them, talk about their colours, the smells
Let them sit at a little table or stand on a child-safe surface or in a high-chair and use a spoon to stir cut carrots and peas (or any veggies that you are preparing for supper) in a cold pot or in a bowl. It really doesnt matter if this is not what you need them to do, it allows them connect with you and watch and learn.
Talk to them all the time - commenting on what you are doing, giving them constant input on what you are doing - they may not always understand - but if they are not exposed to the expereicne they are not offered the opportunity to learn.
Bath time - this is such an incredible learning space for all areas of development. As most parents sit with their children (or have an older sibling or care-giver sit with their children) whilst bating for safety sake, it offers an incredible time to talk, sing, play games, read books etc.
I find many parents tell me that their children love the bath, and that this is their time to quietly catch up on sms's or emails or social media- if this is the case, then it is important to realise, you have made a choice and that it is not that you do not have the time to spend with your children, you have just chosen to not spend it with your children. These 'personal activities' are important, but they can be done at a time when your little one is in bed, or when some-one else is actively engaging with your child e.g. the other parent, or a grand parent
Suppertime - time as a family? well, sometimes - and really awesome if you can all sit down together and talk about your days and 'chat'. However, many children are fed earlier than adults. Often this is infront of TV or Ipad. Again, this is a time when you can actively engage iwht your child and also in terms of good eating habits and reading your body's cues, it is really a time that should be focussed on food and eating.
Now, as I say, I am a mother - so I would be a liar if I said that I did this everyday when my children where in pre-school. However, I always strived to give them 70% of the right input and then forgaave myself for the 30% of the time that I couldn't give them the best. No one is ever going to be the perfect parent - but we need to strive to give our children the best we can.
This brings me onto the next topic: TOYS
As a therapist for small children, so many parents have entered my practice asking if I could give them a list of the best possible toys for their children - which puzzles, games, figurines etc do we buy?
Truth is - toys are all good and well, and a great source of profit for all those in the children market - but even if you buy the most techiniclly advanced teddy bear that can repeat your words, sing songs, clap hands etc, the toy will be short lived and not worth the money If you, the parent, dont get involved in playing with the toy with your child.
This means that a toy car constructed our of a toilet roll and milk lids is just as effective a play object as the one that costs R200. It is how we play with our children that will determine the value of the article. Our children need us to develop their imagination and thought, their problem solving and language. These are all essentiial for the development of play - and conversly, play is essential for the development of all the areas learnt in the first lession.
If we but our children the best of the best toys, and give it to them to plaate our own 'gui;t' - as we often do as working parents, and then we just give it to them hoping it will teach them something and entertain them and make them happy, we have probably 30% success rate - they are happy... but for a short time. If we give them the toy and then spend time playing with them, we are then 50% of the way to the true value of the item. If we give them a toy, play with it in different situations, for days and weeks, showing them new ways to engage with this new object, then we have capitalised on the value of the item. A child needs us to show them the way - therefore as a working parent, try not to fall into the trap of buying new things each and every weekend or holiday, rather go through the toys that your children already have and come up with ways to use them differently.
WAITING: Well here is a strategy that flies right in the face and 'zone of discomfort' for every working parent. We are always needing our children to go-go-go, because there is school, and work etc.
However, this need to make our children's lives fast -tracked, often leads to us either doing everything for our child, or employing someone to do everything for our child. Unfortnately, there is very little value in this for our children. They learn to be passive in their independance and in most aspects of their development.
Lets take for example a child that has his clothes laid out for him at night (best to be prepared), their parents/ nanny help dress them in the morning (its just quicker), lunch is made(well, they cant do it themselves), bag is carried to the car (its just easier), they are strapped into the car seat (of course, they will struggle with this), their bags are carried into school (its quicker and easier) and then you can get to work - my question is... where in this process was the child give room to problem-solve, communicate, use their bodies in differnt ways, be independant?
We need to give them room and WAIT - let them pick out their clothes the night before (ok, may not be what you would like, but they are developing their own ideas), let them get dressed before school (it may take 15min longer the first time, but they will get better at it and more efficient - it really does not matter if shorts are the wrong way round the first few times), Let them try clip their car seats in (yes, help guide, but they then have an inderstanding of the problem solving skills), let them carry their bags (build up the muscle tone essential for play).
It is hard to see our children "struggle" but if we change our mind set from "struggle" to "learn", then it is better for everyone.
Waiting also is important for communication.
How many times is your child telling you something and goes a bit quiet so you fill in the end of the sennce for them - why? maybe this is not what they wanted to say, maybe they had a novel idea they were trying tto express... raather show them you are interested by asking something pertainenet to them or just give a verbal "uh ha" to cue them to continue. Eye-contact is also very important at this juncture - stop, look intersted!
Anytime you can interact with your child is the 'right' time - but as long as you are able to keep the interaction age-apprpriate and overall positive.
What do I mean by this - children learn to deal with everyday experiences from their parents, caregivers or other adult/ peers. Therefore it is ok if everyday is not a 'super-duper day' and you are not happy and smiley around your child ALWAYS...
Children need you to be real. BUT - what is important is that you always talk to your child about why you are behaving in a certain way in language they understand e.g. Someone really upset mommy today but it's ok, I will be ok, I just feel a little upset right at this moment and need some time to sort it out in my head
Wow it made me feel so special when granny made us that cake today
Use words for emotions that are not just 'happy' and 'sad' - but more specific 'excited', 'dissapointed', 'relaxed', 'relieved' - and then explain why.
COMMENT: Talking and commenting on your everyday tasks and routines is invaluable. It allows children to form language links to tasks and build their cognitive knowledge. We cannot TEACH our children all the vocabulary they need to know and all the grammar they need to use - they have to learn it incidentally. They then need to carry-over the information that they hear in one situation, into other situations e.g. Listening to dad count the steps leading up to the room...then mom counting the carrots for the supper...then granny counting the crayons in the box - this helps the child learn numbers, their meaning and how to use them in everyday events.
As an adult we tend to talk, talk, talk and fill in for our children, therefore not creating a need for them to communicate
We also tend to give, take, sort and control physical tasks, therefore not creating a need for our children to problem solve and use their bodies in ways to help them overcome what may be a little more challenging
We often want to make things 'easy' for our child, and 'quick' for ourselves, but ironically this is not in the best interests of our children.
We need to give them space and time to try do things on their own.
GET CHILDREN INVOLVED
Yes, I know full well as a parent what it is like to come home after a full days work, have to put in a load of washing, cook supper for the family, make sure the kids are bathed and the bags for the next day are ready - and the utter need for quiet time to process my own thoughts. BUT if this is the only time in the day that you see your children, then you need to place it in your schedule as 'TIME WITH CHILDREN' and find a time after they have gone to bed, orearly in the morning to find alone time.
however, you can use your everyday chores to spend time with your children. So you come home from work, sit your child with you in the kitchen - in their high-chair, at the table, standing on a little kitchen ladder next to you and get them involved in doing something with you. Something as simple as putting tupperwares in and out of the cuboard, putting water into a pot or reading you a recipe allow them to feel like an essential part of the family and heard by their parents
I once read an
It has often been shown that we talk to children when they respond to us with a smile or a vomment, but we often stop talking to them if they do not respond to us (often in the case of children with hearing, language or speech difficulties).
How do you foster COGNITIVE SKILLS
exposure to different environements - get kids off ipads and dealing with everyday situations. To you they may seem mundane and 'not for kids' but for them it is an essential learning expereince - if they never see their parents deal with chosing tiles in a shop, or grapple with sorting out clothes in the closet - how will children learn these skills.
GET THEM INVOLVED - Every expereince is a potential to learn
Exposre to new vocabulary etc
What is QUALITY time – if we do not have QUANTITY
How to use our time effectively with our children