The summer holidays are a time of year when that quality time with your child should be one of the greatest pleasures. So why is it sometimes a chore – and how can we build it better?
Remember that kids are just as happy doing simple things like having a chat or helping to make supper with you - it doesn’t have to mean a trip to a theme park.
For most parents, quality time means enjoying an activity together, when family members really get to know each other. It’s time spent focusing attention on each other, sharing thoughts and feelings. But, according to experts, there’s even more to it than that.
Many play therapists stress the importance of being physically with children and giving them your undivided attention. If your mobile goes off, it means saying: ‘I won’t take that call because you are more important to me.’ Even a few minutes of 100 per cent attention are powerful for relationship-building.’
Experts also point to the need to ‘bond’ with your child. In other words, it’s not just about being in the same room, it’s also about doing things together. It’s a time when parents can share fun activities with children and even teach them values.
Parents often worry about what constitutes quality time, but any time you can be around your children is never wasted. The word ‘quality’ can add pressure, creating an expectation that things must be special. Remember that kids are just as happy doing simple things like having a chat or helping to make supper with you - it doesn’t have to mean a trip to a theme park. It’s being together and enjoying your undivided attention that makes it special.
FEELING THE LOVE
It’s easy to lose sight of priorities when jobs demand so much of our time. Quality time reinforces children’s belief that they’re loved as individuals and that you enjoy being with them. Quality time helps:
parents feel closer to their children.
create good memories for everyone.
both parents and children to feel valued.
parents to feel secure knowing their children are safe.
teach children moral values.
parents discover more about their children’s lives.
Children who spend more time with their families are less prone to low self-esteem, and anti-social behaviours.
MAKING IT WORK
Spending quality time sounds simple, but it can be challenging. Long working hours restrict most families’ ability to spend time together. Some families are affected by weekend working, too. Then there are problems associated with entertaining children of different ages and genders, financial constraints, and sheer exhaustion!
Here’s how to take the stress out of quality time:
Let children suggest ideas – introduce a weekly meeting to make plans.
Don’t force children to do activities they're not interested in as it can foster resentment.
Approach activities as a team to get positive results.
Let older children lead play – such as face painting with younger children.
Don’t feel you have to spend loads of money. Fun is free; picnics, nature trails, museum trips and board games won’t hit your pocket.
Splitting up the day to cater for different ages and interests. Negotiation and compromise is the key to keeping everyone happy.
If one plan doesn't work out, try another.
...trust your children to lead the play. Most adults interfere (with the best of intentions!), hoping to improve it.
For some parents, ‘quality time’ feels daunting. What if you don’t
enjoy playing or prefer to spend free time with adults? The simple
answer is that there is no rulebook that says parents have to enjoy
playing with their kids. But don’t give up. Explore toys, games and
rough and tumble together, and chances are you’ll find something that
you enjoy too. It’s being together that counts. And if you choose
something that the kids enjoy, it tends to make you feel happy too,
simply because most parents enjoy seeing their children having fun.
Don’t worry about your child having a ball: happiness doesn’t mean
endless laughter and smiles, but a sense of calm, contentment and some
fun thrown in. And finally, trust your children to lead the play.
Most adults interfere (with the best of intentions!), hoping to improve
it. Instead, allow them to lead as you add words of encouragement.
Needing some inspiration? There are lots of activities that are easy to organise and don’t cost the earth. Here are some ideas:
1. Teach the dog some new tricks.
2. Enjoy a family picnic.
3. Get baking! Try decorating gingerbread men.
4. Go on a sponsored walk.
5. Hold a weekly games night, with charades and board games.
6. Follow a nature trail in your local woodland.
7. Visit the library - most offer story times for little ones.
8. Take off on a to trip to the beach.
9. Make a collage from old magazines on a rainy afternoon.
10. Read together – pick a book that everyone will enjoy.
THE ROLE OF DADS
Dads play a vital role in quality time, and most would like to do more with their children, but they are often thwarted by long working hours. An ideal activity for dads and children is to grow a garden together, whether it’s a flowerpot or a patch outside. You can watch vegetables grow and share the rewards of cooking and eating your own produce.
The great outdoors offers limitless opportunities for quality time with all ages and stages at once. Riding bikes, going to the playground running in the woods – it doesn’t matter if it’s raining, just kit them out and they love splashing in the puddles.
If time’s short, bite-sized, dad-friendly activities include: teaching your child to ride a bike or trike; building castles with Lego or bricks; playing hide and seek; or doing basic chores together, like sorting the recycling. But do watch out for trapping people in roles – such as it’s always dad that takes boys to football and mum who shops with the girls.
. . . . AND OF GRANDPARENTS
Those grandparents who are free from work commitments have a special opportunity to spend time with their grandchildren.. They come into their own before and after school when formal childcare isn’t available. Problems can arise when parents feel that grandparents have overstepped the boundaries of their role: it’s important to keep the lines of communication open to avoid misunderstandings.