Most days, we are so busy tending to our children’s needs round-the-clock that we barely have time for a tea break! There are meals to cook, dishes to wash, clothes to launder, toys and books to keep, naughty behavior to discipline, and potty training to enforce – among other things.
With all this flurry going on in the home all day long, it seems ludicrous to even think about taking your child out on a date one-on-one! “Who’s going to see to the household chores?” You might ask. “And what good does it do for my kid? He already sees me all day long as it is!” Plus, of course, “Are you crazy? We might end up killing each other!”
While it’s true bringing your child out on your own can be a daunting task. There is much to gain from intentionally carving out regular pockets of time to spend with your child, where the relationship be developed significantly and experiences shared meaningfully.
#1 Make memories together
“Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” – Theophrastus
Every other parenting article talks about it, but it’s a point worth be-labouring.
Instead of expensive gifts or elaborate meals, one of the best ways of showing your love to your child is to spend time with them exclusively, one-to-one. It’s a tangible expression of how much worth they have in your eyes, how important they are to you, that you would give up other activities or chores to just BE with them.
Deep down, your children don’t care how exciting a date you plan for them – they just want you.
#2 Demonstrate your love
For all those times when you need to discipline or show “tough love”, remember that you need to spend even more time putting love “deposits” into your child’s emotional bank account.
Gary Chapman, author of “The Five Love Languages” describes how every person – child and adult – gives and receives love in their own unique way. Each one has a “love bank”, which can be filled or depleted by you and others whom they frequently interact with. Each time you speak your child’s love language to him or her, you are making a “deposit” and giving them emotional strength and security they need. Similarly, if you reprimand them or remove privileges – which are all part and parcel of any normal childhood – you are making “withdrawals” from their account.
The five ways that children (and adults) receive love are physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts and acts of service, and almost all of these can be experienced in the context of a date with your child. To find out more about the five love languages, read Chapman’s book!
#3 Create the right atmosphere
Even very young preschoolers have 101 questions floating around in their head any given day. After all, we’re hit from all sides by a barrage of sensations, information and media from the moment we wake up! However, many of their questions may go unanswered, or we gloss over them because they seem unimportant or embarrassing.
Like “Mummy why does that bag look like a banana?” (Condom advert on the train) or “How come that lady is so fat?” Besides offering us precious moments to educate our child and teach them the facts of life or the importance of a balanced diet, spending personal time with your child opens the door for question after question, and you may be amazed what sort of rabbit trail the questions lead to.
For example, I remember one time I was talking to my son about the people who were walking outside our restaurant, and he was asking questions about them and where they were going. A group of teenagers in school uniform were laughing about some joke they shared, and he watched, entranced. Then he asked me “Mummy, why are they happy?”
I gave him some generic reply about exams being over, to which he followed up with “Are they going to school?” And I said that, yes, they were students, as we could see from the uniform they were wearing. “I am going to school soon, too, right, mummy?” And I found myself amazed that he really understood what that meant, and thankful for the opportunity to point out to him that school is not just study, but friends and laughter too.
Later on in life, the questions might be tougher to answer. Issues of sexual orientation, career options, and life and death may come your way as your child matures. However, in all these situations, remember that it’s not so much how much or how little you know on the subject, but that you are open and willing to share and discuss your ideas with him or her.
#4 Set a strong foundation for the tween and teenage years
A solid bond between parent and child is a vital prerequisite for a healthy relationship as your child reaches adolescence. Trust is a priceless commodity that is not easily earned and very easily broken. Commitment to the relationship conveys a sense of worth and security to the child. And sacrifices made to allow for personal time with your child will not go unnoticed.
By Dorothea Chow
This article was first published in The New Age Parents e-magazine