Amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life, parents have a lot going on, with their work, family, chores, bills and the list goes on. This makes it difficult for us parents to connect with our children, even if we spend the whole day at home. Special Time is an antidote to this. The concept of Special Time has been made popular by Patty Wipfler, a renowned parent educator. It is a simple yet powerful way of building and strengthening close relationships with our children even for the busiest parent. It is the time a parent spends with each child individually. Parents with more than one child can use this tool to make each child feel special and nurtured.
The focus of Special Time is for us parent to give complete attention to our child. To begin with we schedule a time which is convenient to both us and our child. We can come up with a unique name for this time with our child, for example, “just us two”, “you and me time” etc. It could be as short as 5 minutes and as long we want it to be. 10 minutes maybe a good place to start. This time could be part of the morning routine, before school and to reconnect after school or work, before challenging times like going to the doctor and any time we want to connect with our child. It could also be used to do the activities that the child loves, but you don't enjoy.
Daily routines may not always give children a say in what they want to do .During Special time, the child is in-charge and decides what he/she wants to do. This encourages the child to take on a more powerful role. Parents do not direct the play unless there is an issue of safety.
It is important that we steer clear of distractions and interruptions during the scheduled Special Time. We could inform the rest of the family about the Special Time with one child, so that no one disturbs us.
No phones, no answering doorbells and no multitasking.
No talking to other adults or even our other children.
No personal time-offs in the middle - no bathroom breaks, no sipping coffee or even water.
Though this sounds like a lot of NOs, yet the benefits of giving this complete attention to our child are far reaching. It is a great space to enjoy time with our child, by giving him/her our undivided attention, offering extra warmth, eye contact, kisses, showing extra enthusiasm, that extra spring in your step when we play!
This Special Time is a sacred time between the parent and the child. When a child receives the parent’s undivided attention, they feel secure, they lower their guard, and they feel safe to share their insecurities with the parent. It helps address the child's fears and challenges. Sometimes the child might start to explore new activities within the safety of their parent’s presence. Patty Wipfler, founder of Hand in Hand parenting says “Giving your child Special Time is an active form of listening, in which your child's play becomes her vehicles for telling you about her life and perceptions.” This sharing should not be used against them at a later time.
It is important to end the Special Time with affection. Sometimes children could have big feelings at the end of time together. This is yet another opportunity to connect with our children.
Special Time could be used with children of all ages. Think about it, won’t we as adults love to have some Special Time ourselves, where we are truly cherished? Now imagine its impact on the child. The child will soak up our love and this undivided attention. Special Time is a life enriching tool for both the parent and the child as it forms the foundation of trust between them.
Author: Prasanna Vasanadu is a certified parent educator with Parenting Matters, an organization which empowers parents to build deeper connection in families.