Christmas, birthdays, a trip to the shops for a ‘treat’. Surely these are all synonymous with happy children, right?
As every parent knows, the reality of how ‘happy’ these events make our children is somewhat different. Tantrums and meltdowns over toys, sugar-highs and lows, continual threats to confiscate devices and the ominous grown-up ‘look’ attempting to control our little people with our minds.
Let’s take a moment right now, to stop, breath and consider what our children really need? The answer is straightforward and doesn’t cost a cent. Our children need us. Not a distracted version of us, not a shared version of us, a simple moment in time with us.
Now, I said the answer was straightforward but I didn’t say it was easy. Let’s have a look at some common obstacles impacting our time with our children:
When multiple children are involved, it’s easy to cater to the masses, not the individual. Here I like to draw on my teaching experience. Quality presence from you, does not mean hours of one on one time with that child. It means looking that child in the eye, listening to them and engaging with them. This can be as easy as discussing the colours they’re choosing in a drawing. Children thrive on knowing that you are watching and listening to them.
So much to do!
When I catch myself using this one, I give myself a firm reality check and ask, ‘What can wait?’ You will never have this moment in time with your child again, but the dirty washing will still be there. I am also an advocate for less sleep. By this I mean, I will stay up an hour later or get up an hour earlier to get the day to day tasks done, so I’m not always rushing my child or neglecting time with my child. And again, I am not talking hours of time here, your child/children will be enthralled to have you joining in a game with them, reading a story or playing dress ups together for 7 minutes, (I say 7 as 5 is not enough and parents freak out at the 10 minute mark, ‘I don’t have 10 minutes’, but everyone has 7)
Technology companies and app developers spend billions of dollars on creating addictive devices and apps and it is working. Along with many of you, I can put my hand up to being distracted by my phone or spending time on technology ahead of time with my child. In these situations, I like to kick my own butt and say, ‘What’s my priority here? Checking in on Facebook or checking in on my child?” This makes putting the phone down quicksmart, a lot easier.
How do I engage with my child?
Unsure of what to do with your child/children that will be quality time together? So many of us are conditioned to the screen time go-to, that along with the kids we see screens as an activity. Don’t get me wrong, you can definitely engage with your child over a TV show, movie or computer game. In fact, this is recommended by many experts to stay in tune with what your kids are doing with technology. But in this instance, we’re talking about other activities to do together. I could list hundreds of ideas here, but for now remember this; your child wants you and your time. The activity is not so important, the time together is. So when they get upset at the TV or iPad switching off, start up a game of chasey. Tell them you’re going to catch them and start running. If they are expert level sulkers, sit next to them and start doing something they won't be able to resist joining in: drawing, building lego, painting your nails. Once your kids are used to less technology time, these steps become easier and a lot more natural. Remember again - the tech companies have deliberately created addictive devices, your child is not the bad guy here.
TOP TIPS FOR 'FREE' HAPPINESS
When you’re at the park or outside with the kids, show them you are watching. Shout out to them, comment on their skills, clap your hands.
Set yourself a block of time for social media and make this time when the kids are in bed.
Slow down - allow yourself more time to do simple tasks so you can be more relaxed about getting it done and even