In today’s hectic lifestyle, time is a precious and increasingly endangered resource. This is particularly true when it comes to the time we have for our children. Because the hours are so limited, we want to make sure that every minute is used to good advantage. That tends to mean placing “essentials” first—helping them with homework, getting them to sports practice, registering them for tutoring, and the like. The opportunity to just “veg out” together seems an impossible luxury. It’s not!
One of the best things you can do for your child, yourself and your relationship is to make a date. Not a one time date—but a regularly scheduled date that is entered on the calendar and represents a real commitment for you both. It might be once a week for an hour; it might be once a month for a whole day, or it might be some other arrangement that fits your life style.
Some key principles are:
1. Bring your child into the planning: once you have decided what’s feasible, sit down with your child and say what you are planning. Get your child’s input on what times would be good and together work out a schedule.
2. Set the agenda: This is time for you and your child to have a totally fun experience and to see a side of each other that is often not available in modern day parenting. You are not there to teach and you are not there to discipline. You are there to show your child how much you enjoy being with him or her and to have a relaxed, enjoyable time. It’s good to plan each encounter in advance—making sure the activities that are set out are ones that can be done in the time allotted. Consider everything and anything: taking a walk in the woods, making a cake, helping at a community center, going to a movie. The list should be open to any and all reasonable possibilities.
3. One child at a time: If you have more than one child, do not be tempted to make this a family affair. Each child needs time with you alone. So if all your schedule allows is a one-hour weekly spot, set things up so that there are two periods a month for one child and two periods a month for the other.
4. Give it time: sometimes, if this is a new experience, children can be a bit uncomfortable. They may be wondering about your motives and what you “really” are hoping to achieve. Also since there is no set routine, at first, the conversation can be a bit stilted. It’s not much different than what you experienced going on a “first date.” But, if you are really committed and consistent, these issues will pass within a few weeks. Then you and your child can move on to develop the intimacy that can make the parent-child relationship so special.