Gifts of Time
- Time for a weekly date with no agenda. If you can find 15 minutes once a week you can build memories that will last a lifetime. This is time with no agenda, when your child decides what to do and directs the play. You are there as a participant, not as an organizer. You don’t have to get dressed up or drive anywhere. Remind your child during the week that his special time is coming. Show up with no preconceived ideas about how this time will be spent. Park your cell phone in another room and leave it there. This is a gift of your undivided attention. Notice after a few consistent weeks of doing this what has changed between you and your child.
- Time to be together as a family. Families are busy—school, work, childcare, dance, music lessons, sports, it’s tiring just creating the list. These are all important, but it’s also important to sometimes stop the running and just be with your family. Elementary age children want and need the time to connect with parents and the entire family. It gives them a sense of place. “This is where I belong.” It can be a weekly game night or a movie seen from the comfort of your own home. You might consider selecting a book your children have not been exposed to and reading it aloud to them. Share a book you loved as a child. Children’s librarians can offer some great options if you can’t think of one. This time together builds the ties that keep them connected to you as they grow up and develop relationships outside the family.
- Time to include their friends. As your children grow it becomes more challenging to know all of their friends, so it helps to invite them in. Enlarge your game or movie night to include your children’s friends. Each week one of your children invites a friend over for the family event. Everyone eventually gets a chance, you meet the friends, and it’s still something your children want to participate in. If your family has a special event (an annual snowman building day or cookie baking, for instance) that can become an opportunity to invite a friend. Your child learns that it’s OK to spend time with the family because the family is willing to spend time with his friends.
- It’s all about time—on their schedule. Teens want and need your time and attention. The problem is that they are ready to talk when you are ready to collapse! It’s 11:00 PM, you are half asleep, and your teen is standing in front of you ready to have a heart-to-heart. As much as you are able, be present for your child. These moments are few and far between. Your child is developing a sense of himself separate from you, so when he’s ready to talk you have to be available to listen. The good news is you don’t have to solve anything for your child. He wants a sounding board, not Dear Abby. Don’t tell him what to do. Listen and ask questions. End it with “I love you.” You may be tired the next day, but you’ll be smiling the whole time. You will have given the greatest present to your child—your presence.
Give the priceless gift of your undivided time and attention. It’s the true meaning of the holiday season.