Modern life keeps us busy. Between meal planning, cleaning, playdates and school, how do you make time for quality time with your children?
Special Time is one way to ensure those moments happen, however fleeting.
Special Time is the moment you carve into your schedule to spend time with your child. During that time, parents set a timer and declare “no distractions.” Next up they ask their child: “What would you like to do?”
Here are some fun things that kids might chose to do for Special Time:
- Splash play and water gun fights.
- Color chalking mom's hair.
- Spraying cookie crumbs across the lawn.
- Wrestling with dad.
- Playing Minecraft with you.
Not every session has to be wildly creative. Lots of kids spend time building blocks, racing cars up and down tracks, colouring, braiding or playing superheroes. But they do so with the company of a parent or caregiver – and that, not the activity, is what puts the “special” into Special Time.
Think about how often your child has an opportunity to direct his life, and in the loving gaze of his most favorite people. Not many. Whether you are cajoling them into brushing teeth, eating breakfast and getting out to school, or pleading with them to try peas, put toys away or get into bed, toddlers to teens, are shepherded for lots of their lives. Sometimes we parents need a break from this order, and so we tell them, “go play.” At school they are told to do this and that. This is not to say that parents don't put a lot of effort into spending time with their kids. Trips to the pool or park, play dates, even a splash together and a sing in the bath foster a sense of fun and connection, but not to the same scale as Special Time.
Why is Special Time Such Quality Time?
Special Time stands out as special for two main reasons. First, Special Time puts kids in charge. Parents simply follow whatever request is made. This is a fine way to build trust and confidence. Second is that during Special Time parents agree to allocate time solely to the child with no interruptions. Normally, when the phone pings we answer. If the laundry finishes spinning, we unload. If the doorbell calls we answer. But in Special Time, these calls to attention go unanswered.
“You could think of the majority of time that you spend with your child as the nourishing milk of parenting. Special Time is like the cream,” says Patty Wipler, author of Listen: Five Simple Tools to Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges. In case you were wondering, one of those five tools is Special Time.
“This tool enriches your relationship. You'll get to know your child inside and out. He'll show you what he likes, what he loves, what he hates, and what frightens him during Special Time,” says Patty. “And he'll make sure you get to sample kinds of play you've never thought of.”
Aside from a wonderful play opportunity, lavishing this time on your child brings emotional safety, builds connection, and let's you tune in to your child's changing moods. The act of being heard that Special Time provides can also have wonderful transforming effects on how your child approaches challenging situations.
Use Special Time To Ease These Challenging Situations
The Morning Routine: Spending 5-10 minutes of Special Time in the morning before you make requests builds warm connections. That often makes a child more willing to move on through his morning routine.
Before Challenging Times: Anxious about haircuts, spending time with new playmates, being quiet at church, or just battling eating dinner or going to bed? Try a few minutes of Special Time to build closeness and comfort. It works wonders to build bridges through separation anxiety too.
Reconnecting: Daycare and school take your child away from his biggest form of comfort – you! If you get tears or a sullen look when you ask how his day was, try Special Time. You don't have to talk about the day at all, but many times children find their voices and let out there fears during or after Special Time.
Before Homework: Let your child knows you have his back with a session of Special Time before you bring up homework.
When she is off-track: Whining, complaining, wild behavior like grabbing or taunting shows you she needs attention. Special Time allows you a moment to shower her in your time, and is a calmer alternative to yelling or shouting because she is stepping out of line.
Overcoming Fears: If you know a situation is causing anxiety try Special Time. Get to a new class early and spend time and offer Special Time, replacing those fear feelings with warmth and connection.
For Things He Loves But You Don't So Much: He wants to practice his Kung Fu moves, you'd rather not. She's all about some cartoon character that you can't stand. He has a fascination with water, you'd prefer no spills. Let them play out these passions with you for the most amount of time you can bare. Kudos to you if you make it to double digits in minutes. The upside? These irksome fascinations often subside once your child has had full opportunity to explore them.
Relieving Stress: Every family has times of stress. Special Time keeps the family connection strong and provides a safe space for your child through tough times.
When the Time is Right
Some parents spend 10 minutes on Special Time a day with each of their children, some devotees spend longer, and some time-pushed parents with large families allocate weekends or a day a week in which to run Special Time. When you do it is up to you, but even with a small amount we promise you'll see positive change.
This post was inspired by the book Listen: Five Simple Tools To Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges, by Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore.
From the Hand in Hand Toolbox
- Learn how to set up Special Time with this free download and checklist
- See how Special Time works with teens
- Read how Special Time transformed the Monday morning blues
- Find out more about Hand in Hand's Five Tools here