Habitot Children's Museum                                                                                                                      February 2018
February 2018
Parenting Topic of the Month

Transform "special times"
with your child


Busy parents know they need to spend some "special time" with their children every day.
If that seems overwhelming, perhaps rethinking your role can help!

1. Don't Plan Remember it’s your CHILD'S special time, which means parents can take a step back and allow their child to say what they would most like to do. Not directing your time together can be really freeing for you and truly empowering for your child! 

2. Lay some ground rules. Special time should allow for true engagement -- eye to eye contact, talking with each other, physical contact - which means putting cell phones in another room and making Ipads, video games and TV watching, even if enjoyed together, off limits.

3. Encourage autonomy. If you've been in the habit of leading your time together, it can be an adjustment for your child to understand that now they get to choose. "Choosing" is a life skill that parents are well advised to develop in their children early. It helps them know themselves and their interests, take responsibility and appreciate the consequences of their choices. It also builds capacity to say no to to things now, in a safe and playful environment, so that they can say no to unsafe behaviors in the future.

4. Make leading suggestions, but be OK if they are rejected.  Asking what you would like to do? or would you like to build a fort? are ok openers, but be responsive if their ideas take you in another direction.Go along with enthusiasm!  If you have a fun idea to add, make sure to ask, how would it be if we...? or Is it all right if I ...?  It will underscore that your child is really in charge.

5. Less is more.
Obviously, you have lots of cool ideas and things you think your kid would like, but if you are always setting the stage, you'll create a kid that one day says, I'm bored and they will depend on you to fix it. Self-direction is a skill to be cultivated.

6. Embrace parallel play. Parallel play is what young children do all the time: playing with friends side by side, doing the same or similar things but separately, using similar toys, or different ones. The beauty is simply in being together, each happily engaged in something that interests them. This is guaranteed quality time that means so much to young children to have their parents' presence and availability.

7. Wacky ideas are fun. Does your child want to walk around a dark house with a flashlight? Make a limbo game out of a broomstick while playing the Beetlejuice soundtrack? Build a Rube Goldberg contraption with toilet paper tubes and balls? Read books backwards?

8. Don't be surprised if you hear more about what's going on in your child's life. In these relaxed moments, when there is no agenda, no schedule, no expectation you are going to slip away to check email or text messages, your child might open up. Be a good listener. Don't react, just say, "tell me more." You will never be sorry you established this kind of communication early.

In these ways, you'll truly create some special times with your child, and some very happy memories.

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