Today, I did some Special Time with my children. Special Time is when you give your undivided attention to your child and allow her to choose whatever she wants to do within a pre-defined amount of time suggested by you. I decided I wanted to do 15 minutes, so I told Izabel: “Daddy will go out for a run now and when I come back, I will shower and have breakfast. After that, I have 15 minutes to do Special Time with you. You can choose whatever you want to do, here at home and I will do it with you.”
I asked Regiane to take care of Javier during this 15 minutes, because Special Time must be done between one adult and one child, so we don’t divide our attention with other children, with other adults, or with the mobile, computer, or phone. Javier cried and said he wanted to play as well. I told him I would do Special Time with him right after Izabel’s time.
Izabel invited me to play cards in a way she invented. She got some cards as a gift and they have numbers in the front and drawings in the back. She told me we had to draw lines around the images. She took a gray pencil and I asked her what I needed to do. She asked me to get a pencil just like hers. I took one and showed to her.
She said: “No, this is thicker than mine. You have to get one just like mine.” During Special Time it’s important to check what the child really wants and follow her rules. We drew for a couple of minutes. She got tired of drawing and said she wanted to swing on the sling hanging from the ceiling.
When she got closer to the sling, she said in a happy tone: “I want to play baby in the sling!” This is a game where I help her climb and lay inside the sling just like a baby. Once she was inside, I asked her what she wanted me to do. She said, “Start rocking me slowly, then normally, then fast, and then super-fast!” I started rocking her really slow and waited for her instructions: “Now, normally”, “Fast”, “Super-fast!”. She was having fun, giggling, laughing, and said: “It looks like I am on a flying bed!!!” I kept rocking her until she asked me to stop.
She said: “Let’s build a big tower?” I said enthusiastically: “Yes!” During Special Time it is very important for the adult to pour in all the love and enthusiasm possible. We started building the tower with old wooden blocks that I loved to play with when I was a child. I allowed her to take the lead and I followed her instructions.
Suddenly, she asked: “Do you think that the Cabra Cabres is able get inside our castle?”
Two weeks ago we went for a storytelling session and one of the stories was about a big and ugly monster that invades peoples houses when they leave. In the story, the mother went out to do some shopping and asked the son to stay home protecting the house, but he decides to go play in the forest and once he is back, the Cabra Cabres is already inside and has locked him out. The boy tries to ask him to unlock the door but he replies in a scary voice: “I am the Cabra Cabres. I’ll jump over you and cut you in three pieces!”
I didn’t like the story and don’t think it is appropriate for a 4-year-old, but the fact is that she listened to it and decided to bring it up during our Special Time. According to Patty Wipfler from Hand in Hand Parenting, children often use Special Time to bring up issues that are bothering them. Bingo. Izabel kept talking about the Cabra Cabres for the next several minutes: “I don’t think he will be able to enter here. If he wants, we can allow him just a little peak. If he tries to go in, we can tell him the castle is not entirely built yet and he will leave.”
My undivided attention created a safe space for her to bring up a difficult issue. She was afraid and this low-level anxiety could prevent her from using her full energy to grow and develop.
Due to our hectic lives, even when we are physically with our children we are not entirely with them. Our thoughts are somewhere else and this divided attention is perceived by the child through the way we move, our body language, our look. If she could put it in words, she might say: “I am not going to open up my heart and talk about difficult things to someone who is not paying attention.” As an exercise, try to imagine a moment when you were feeling anguished about something but the person that you most trust is busy watching a TV show. Without moving her eyes from the TV set she says: “Go ahead, talk to me, I am listening…” It is just impossible to open up for someone in this situation.
All I needed to do was to dedicate 15 minutes to my daughter. Besides helping her expressing some of her fears, this also improved her trust in me. This is a virtuous cycle. The more she trusts me and opens up, the more I feel like offering her these Special Times.
It is important to mention that she didn’t fully release her fears just by talking about them. But now, I am aware of them and I can try to help her offload her feelings through some good laughter during Playlistenting. Maybe I can pretend I am Cabra Cabres and allow her to knock me down or expel me from the house. Who knows? To be continued….
This post was written by Marcelo Michelsohn in Portuguese and English. Marcelo is a Parenting by Connection Instructor in Brazil. If you prefer to read in Portuguese click here. If you would like to suggest his blog to Portuguese speaking friends, go to filhasefilhos.com
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