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Family Health

How to create quality time with your kids when there is so little time

Mar 9, 2018

We live busy lives and it is hard for parents to create quality time with their children when there is so little time. The key word being quality. Every kid craves time with their parents. Intimacy happens one on one, not in a group. What’s more, research shows that sibling rivalry will diminish when kids have individual time with their parents. So how do we find that time? Here are some ideas.


1. Have projects on the go

Pick a project. It could be a model, a jigsaw puzzle, something complex that needs to be assembled or a mural. It doesn’t matter what it is, but it’s best if it’s something that will take a while. Start working on it and leave it unfinished in a spot that is visible to you and your child. You don’t need to finish this in one sitting. In fact, it’s better if you don’t. This project then serves as a visual reminder of your connection to each other. 

Children under the age of 12 understand the world in concrete terms — if they can’t see it or touch it, then it doesn’t exist.

Even if you don’t have time to sit down and do the actual project, there will be many times during the day, or on the phone (if you’re a weekend parent or even if you’re a full-time parent), that you will find it useful to discuss the project. You can discuss the next steps, how you feel about the project and anything at all that communicates to your child that you haven’t forgotten about it. This will communicate to your child that you haven’t forgotten them.

Children under the age of 12 understand the world in concrete terms — if they can’t see it or touch it, then it doesn’t exist. The project then serves as a concrete reminder of the existence and strength of your relationship. Remember that words disappear as soon as they are spoken, but concrete things endure; they exist in time and space and are thus a constant reminder of the enduring nature of the relationship. If you have more than one child, then have more than one project.


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2. Make a date and put it on the calendar

Many people feel they don’t have time to play with their kids because they think about playing as taking up lots of time. But it doesn’t have to. Think about when you might have ten minutes. Maybe it’s right when you come home from work, or maybe it’s after dinner or before you do the dishes. Just pick a time and make a commitment to play catch or a new game on the computer.

Remember, it’s not enough to tell kids we love them. We have to show them, and by finding — and taking — ten minutes a day to do something that you both enjoy communicates that loud and clear!

There are many advantages to this. When you know something is going to happen, you get all the benefit of anticipation. If every once in a while you play catch with your child, then he will never anticipate or expect it. But if your child knows that every day, when their dad comes home, a game of catch will be played, then many times during the day or week your child will be thinking about that activity, realizing that he can count on and look forward to it. Remember, it’s not enough to tell kids we love them. We have to show them, and by finding — and taking — ten minutes a day to do something that you both enjoy communicates that loud and clear! And it doesn’t have to happen on a daily basis. It could be weekly. But put it on the calendar so your child knows it will happen.

Think about what happens when you purchase a vacation — the benefits of the vacation start the minute you give your credit card number. At that point you begin to fantasize about the vacation and anticipate all the enjoyment that it will bring. If you are not leaving for another three months, then you have three months of anticipation to enjoy. If you make a commitment to your child in some small way, they will be able to experience the joy of anticipation in the same way.


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3. Think about what you can DO, less about what you say

Young children pay more attention to what we do than what we say. They often pay little attention to all that we say, partly because we say too much and partly because we use language that is too complex and abstract for them to understand.

For most children, a relationship is about what we do together, not about our conversations with each other.

For most children, a relationship is about what we do together, not about our conversations with each other. Think about activities, even small ones, like playing cards, a tumble on the carpet and thumb wrestling. When you can’t be actively doing the activity, because you are busy doing other things, you can talk about the activity and plan for when you might do it again.

Kids deserve individual attention from their parents. As a parent, creating special one-on-one time can be magical and rewarding for both you and your child. Inevitably our busy schedules can get in the way, but remember quality over quantity and make time for those magical moments.

Article Author Dr. Robin Alter
Dr. Robin Alter

Dr. Robin Alter is co-chair of the Kids Have Stress Too!® committee at The Psychology Foundation of Canada. Dr. Alter co-led the development of this groundbreaking program targeted to parents raising awareness that children do experience stress, and providing parents and caregivers with the tools to help their children identify and manage stress. Dr. Alter is a registered clinical psychologist in practice since 1979. Her current practice includes both the assessment and treatment of children, adolescents and adults. She has been senior consultant to the Hincks-Dellcrest Children's Centre and Blue Hills Child and Family Centre since 1980. In her consulting capacity, she also consults to the native community regarding fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and conducts FAS assessments. She has authored two books: Anxiety and the Gift of Imagination and The Anxiety Workbook for Kids. Follow The Psychology Foundation on Twitter and Instagram.

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