Life is busy, and many parents have a difficult time carving out one-on-one time with their children between work, school, extracurricular activities, and other obligations. Here are five reasons you should try to make the time—today!
1. It lets your child know he or she is important. Yes, you make a point to tell your kids that you love them on a daily basis, and you make sure that everyone gets a chance to share about their day around the dinner table, but making a little extra time for your child lets him or her know that he or she has your full and undivided attention, and this reinforces that he or she is important to you—just as your other children are—and even moreso than all of the 101 other things we parents need to accomplish in a day. If you don’t take the time to clear your calendar for your child, just wait and see who (that kid on the playground who is just a tad too sassy for your liking) or what (can you say electronics?) he or she fills that void with when you’re not around. Take a few extra moments to develop a strong relationship early on before someone not quite as well-intentioned becomes his or her go-to person. Take advantage of this precious time together to have fun together, but also to focus on the important things and stay engaged in your lives together. While you don’t need to give your child a trophy for participating in life, reinforcing his or her place in your family will help to build confidence and self-esteem that your child will carry through the good and the bad times to come.
2. It allows your child to open up. It’s typical for kids, especially those with siblings, to vie for a parent’s attention. Some children are more comfortable speaking in front of family or friends than others are. Taking the time to sit with your child alone and away from the noise—letting him or her know that you’re there to listen—is one of the greatest gifts that you can give to your child. This is the time when your child may open up about worries or fears—trouble he or she is having at school or with a friend. He or she may also share things that make him or her happy, what he or she is excited about, that he or she is hoping for your support. It doesn’t have to be doom and gloom, after all. Talking about the good things is just as important as making time for the serious stuff. But either way, if you don’t take the time to stop and listen, you’re missing out on an opportunity to really get to know your child on a deeper level, and developing that trust early may help to keep that door open as the teen years set in, when most kids tend to shut parents out. If your child doesn’t see you as an outlet early on, he or she may decide to hold in the important information you’ll wish you knew earlier.
3. It allows you to share what you know. Children seem to see and hear everything we as parents do, no matter how sneaky we try to be (well, except when they see us shaking our finger their way as we ask them for the third time in a row to clean up their rooms). Although we think we have a lifetime, life is short, and there is no time better than today to share what you know with your child. Share your family history. Talk about the ups and downs of your own life experience and why and how you got to be where you are today. Sometimes kids idolize their parents, which is kinda great, but at the same time, a healthy and age-appropriate dose of reality may be a great motivator to help your child get through a rough patch or make a tough decision some day. Teach him or her basic baking skills and how to mow the lawn. Show him or her how to mop a hardwood floor and how to safely change a lightbulb. Oh, how I wish I’d paid more attention to my grandparents when they were still around making meals I’ve since tried and failed to recreate. Whatever your talents are—from cooking to building furniture to car repairs to ice skating—your child is going to benefit from learning these skills from you today. Not to mention, you’ll benefit from having an extra helper in the house. Sadly, parents too often hold off on sharing grandma’s best trick to get a stain out, or grandpa’s secret to grilling the best dogs until it’s too late—skills and traditions are forgotten, and your child will find resorting to YouTube years later when in a pinch or searching for a good dinner recipe. If it’s difficult to fit this in during regular business hours, consider taking advantage of holiday get-togethers or birthdays when you’re more likely to have family all in one place to talk about and share some important family traditions.
4. It gives you educational involvement. Spending more one-on-one time with your children helps you to stay on top of their educational progress. With the hustle and bustle that comes with an average school day these days, it’s more important than ever to stay involved in your child’s education. While you shouldn’t actively participate in your child’s homework assignments each night, asking about his or her day, teacher, and friends keeps the conversation going. Being there to support your child when he or she does need help is a plus. While you were the focus of your child’s world early on, eventually his or her peers at school, where he or she spends the vast majority of his or her time, will become a bigger influence than you can imagine. Make sure to be available if needed to be the sounding board and the voice of reason as your child navigates his or her way through the academic and social lessons he or she will encounter along the way. Every child is different, and each will let you know what he or she needs—no need for helicopter parenting, but being available and letting him or her know you’re involved and invested in his or her education speaks volumes both in and out of the classroom. If you’re not there to listen, trust that one of the many kids in your child’s class will sweep in to take your place—and do the math.
5. It makes memories. We all say it—time passes by way too quickly. One day your child is starting kindergarten and the next he or she is receiving a high school diploma. It may seem an obvious reason to spend one-on-one time with your child, but making memories oftentimes takes a backseat to so many other more important to-dos in our lives. Still, memories are where our family stories are at—stories your child will possibly someday share with his or her own family. Memories are what help us to get through the tough times—that light at the end of the tunnel reminding us of where we came from and where we had dreamed of heading. The little moments mean so much and by not taking the time to build this foundation for your child, you are denying him or her the opportunity to look back on his or her life and to know that he or she was more than just a parental obligation, but someone that you found important enough to sneak out of work in order to take to opening day of baseball season or for a quiet walk in the woods just after the first snowfall. None of us became parents with the intention of focusing on bills to pay and dishes to do—so stop and smell the roses, explore your city, take that vacation, sign up for that class, throw that ball, finish that puzzle.