If you have children, getting yourself and them through the morning, afternoon and evening routine can be crazy hard! No doubt you go full throttle from the moment you wake until your head plops on the pillow, hardly having time to stop and smell the espresso. You’re doing the best you can, yet every once in a while do you ask yourself . . . am I giving them enough?
We know that it is imperative for a child’s healthy development to experience emotional connection and presence from you, their parents. Times when you talk and interact in a way that allows them to direct the play contributes to a healthy self-esteem and closeness with you. This creates an internal sense of safety and security for them because they experience you as accessible and available to them.
Will they ever have enough?
From their perspective, no. Your children will almost always want more time then you could ever give them. They will almost always be disappointed when play time with you is over. This is good news! It means you’re doing a good job somewhere because, they want you! Yet, when they seem disappointed what can you do?
Shoot for the magic number
There has been enough research into what creates a healthy internal sense of self for us to know the bottom line. The magic number is twenty. Twenty minutes per day of non-directed play. If you can deposit twenty minutes of your attention – that is twenty minutes of non-goal-oriented time every day, they will have a strong chance of developing that important internal sense of secure attachment.
Here are four easy steps to make this happen:
- Remember it is the process of play, not the product that is key. Adults commonly want an objective, a goal, to win or encourage the child to win. Forget about all that and focus on the process of the play. It’s about time together, not a goal or project.
- Make a big deal out of turning off your phone, laptop, tablet and the TV.
- Set an alarm for twenty minutes you both know it really is twenty minutes.
- When the time is over, transition into something else they will enjoy. Dinner time, movie time, story time. Do this and the transition will be easier for everyone.
By Csilla Vegvari, MA LMHCA