As my children get older, they are obviously learning to become more self-sufficient. For the most part, I am no longer needed for the basic every day mundane things such as bathing, grooming, brushing teeth, getting dressed, etc.
Although these things sound so trivial, to me, this is an enormous accomplishment. Not only does it mean that my children are learning and have continued to learn to do these things for themselves, but their ability to be more self-sufficient has freed up time for me. This new-found free time lets me choose how I spend my time.
Wow, free time. What does one do with these tidbits of free time anyway?
Having just come back from holidays with my family, I recently learned something very interesting about parenting – the importance of having one-on-one time with each of my children.
To be honest, despite its importance and our level of enjoyment, this time alone does not happen too often. Life still gets in the way. Three children, three different sets of friends, social commitments, school commitments, extra curricular activities. Not to mention the fact that I work, run the home, and plan just about everything.
Until now, having some time alone with each of my children is something that has been difficult to achieve.
Children most certainly behave very differently one-on-one than in a group setting. This is especially true within a family unit, where one child might be more extroverted than another…causing the quieter child to somehow fade into the background…. It’s amazing how a personality emerges when there is no one else around.
Benefits of One-on-One Time:
Time alone builds CONFIDENCE. Within a family unit, it is often difficult to devote individual time to the needs and interests of one specific child. Children thrive when they feel that they matter, when they feel heard, and when they feel special and important. By spending time alone, we can embrace their interests, learn what makes them ‘tick’, and get to now them on a more intimate level.
Time alone builds SPECIAL MEMORIES. Memories that are shared between two people. Memories that only two people can laugh about. It is a wonderful way to bond.
Time alone builds CONNECTION. Children learn to feel connected when they realize that they are getting 100% of a parent’s attention. Children are more likely to open up and share their thoughts, feeling and fears with their parents when they are alone with them. What better way is there for a parent to engage with a child than when there are no other distractions?
Time alone DECREASES ATTENTION-SEEKING BEHAVIOUR. Children ‘act out’ when they feel they are not being heard, or being given sufficient attention. Although I am not condoning rewarding this type of behaviour, having time alone with our children will help alleviate the need to seek out validation by acting out or through other means.
Let’s face it, life is busy. And schedules and commitments get in the way. Despite our good intentions, for most parents, spending a whole day alone with one child is not always feasible or realistic. However, parents can learn to maximize their opportunities and take advantage, as much as possible, of the time they do have. Even if this means asking one child to join us on our errands, or having them help us cook dinner.
As the Reverend Jesse Jackson has said most eloquently, “Your children need your presence more than your presents.”.
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