More than toys, more than extracurricular activities, more than their favourite programs on television, our children need our TIME.
This thought, alone, is enough to trigger stress hormones through some of you right now because you do have this deep knowing in your heart that this is true but do not have a clue as to how to begin.
‘How could it ever be possible to spend more time with my children when I’m so busy?’ is the question that presents itself in your mind. In the first place, the word ‘spend’, by itself, is an instantly subconsciously stressful word to most of our brains as it carries some negative connotations. So, how do I make time for my children?
Let’s imagine, for one moment, that it were possible to make as much time for your children as you would like. Wouldn’t that be beautiful?
You probably picture yourself playing with them indoors, playing with them outdoors and even being able to take them out to special places as often as you would like, WHENEVER you would like! You don’t think you can do that because simply that requires more time (some of us even go further to think it will require more money but that’s a conversation for another day).
I want to suggest to you that it is far easier than you think. You don’t need to rearrange your schedule or dramatically change your lifestyle for your children to begin to experience more time from you.
For the rest of this conversation, let us use the word ‘giving’ time to your children. Ahh, a word that connotes generosity, charity and kindnesss–feels better, doesn’t? Here’s what you need to know about giving time to your children AND just how to do it!
I love the creativity that language allows for, so let us use the word ‘time’ in the form of an acrostic to help us remember these important keys in giving time to our children.
T is for treasuring
You’ve often heard it said that you need to treasure the moments you have with your children. In an ever busy world, this has never been truer!
A good definition of ‘treasuring’ a moment is to acknowledge each moment as though it is the most important thing to happen in your day that day. Treasure EVERY moment. A fact worth mentioning here, though an obvious one it is, is that time itself is constantly moving! The simple fact is, there will never ever have another moment exactly like that one in history.
Whatever the moment is, whatever it looks like and wherever it’s occurring, treasure it. Even if the moment is muddy and messy or pen or paint all over the place, since that child is looking up at you with joy in their face for the messy memory he is making, treasure it.
You may not be able to put a stop to your ever-growing tasks and to-dos just to acknowledge a moment but you can treasure it right then and there while you do what you’re doing. The key to this is to show you are present and available, which leads us nicely on to our next one.
I is for Intentional Involvement
Children need to know you notice them and take joy in them. They need to feel important to you. Every parent knows that ‘Daddy, Mummy, look at me!’ is a phrase often shouted happily from a child’s mouth as they seek to display their expert gymnastic skills on the sofa or show you some other new super skill.
Even as I write this paragraph, is it a coincident that my two year old has said “look, mummy” more than ten times? I tell the truth. I’ve not failed to give my attention to her each time. She’s turned her little chair upside down, experimenting with all the different ways she can use it. “I can slide down by myself” she’s telling me, proudly. “I’m a spider,” she’s saying “…I’m so wobbly, look at me!”. It helps her to know I am present.
This is another example. My ten year old comes to me as I am busy writing. She is excited to show me the miniature toys she has just created. So I use words AND body language (remember this includes facial expressions) to show my interest instantly! One of these is a tiny notebook for her doll but as she is holding it up and explaining what it is, it falls apart. So, with a little discouragement in her voice, she makes the comment “…it’s not great because they [the papers] keep coming out”. So, in response, I say “I can help you!” because my adult brain knows a simple solution. So I gladly get up and take six steps to my stationary cupboard, grab a stapler and show her my revolutionary idea. Her face fills with joy and she suddenly says “It’s perfect”. That’s what kind of power a parent has.
Showing you are involved in their world needs to be intentional; this simply means to engage with them with your words, your body language and your actions. It can be as simple as putting a big smile on your face, giving eye contact or physical contact like a intimate stroke on the cheek or rub on the shoulder or head and responding to them as though what they’re doing is of uttermost importance to you. Why do they need to feel important? Good question.
M is for Midmost
Your child needs to feel important as though they are the midmost important thing is your life. This is because they will for the rest of their lives thrive on knowing that they were, are and always will be loved. Truly, fathers and mothers around the world will tell you that their children are the most important people in their life. Truth be told, most don’t live like it however.
You’re on phone calls, the Internet, doing tasks in the home and outside of the home, running errands and more while television becomes your faithful babysitter.
We need to think of how we can communicate to our children that ‘YOU are important to me’. A great way to begin practicing making them feel this way is by simply affirming them with compliments and good words of encouragement spontaneously, all day. ALL DAY. Smile and tell them they’re really good at that! Say to them they make you laugh (and act like it of course). Let them know you think they’re really cool!
There are endless ways to verbally affirm your child. A good old ‘I love you!’ is always great.
E is for Extension
Giving time to your children won’t always look like the way you think it should look. This is where extension comes in. Extension is all to do with meeting your child right where they are and extending their experiences by expanding on them and enlarging them.
The more you add to your child’s experience, the more you are giving them your time. A nice example; you are on the kitchen preparing dinner and your child is there banging on the cupboards, instead of making him stop, you can add on to that with suggestions, comments and ideas.
Ask what song he is making, tell him it’s great music, suggest he uses some utensil and see what different sounds he can make, suggest he tries the door or the table or whichever thing! This is extension. This is you becoming an expert in giving time to your child. If you really do need him to stop (because you don’t want the noise or for whatever other reason), communicate gently and turn his attention to an alternative activity.
These important keys are completely interlinked. Practising any one of them is, in essence, putting all four of them in action. The great thing is that you can start straight away. I encourage you to begin right now because they are applicable to any age, at any place. You will begin to notice that you ARE giving time to your children AND that it’s making a huge difference in you and in them!
Scriptures to love
Ephesians 6:4 is a direct instruction regarding how we should always treat our children
Psalm 91:14-15 is a powerful reminder of God’s amazing attitude towards us, His beloved children, and therefore how we also should behave towards our children
Matthew 3:17 is an incredibly beautiful picture of God affirming His own Son in love and pleasure and therefore a great lesson that each one of us must do the same for each one of our children