By Cecile Baltasar for Yahoo Southeast Asia | Yahoo SHE – Mon, 6 January 2014
Here’s a question many working parents ask: how do you form a strong bond with your child when your to-do list is packed with meetings, errands, and desk work from 7 AM to 8 PM every weekday?
The solution is simple: “Spend uninterrupted time with your children for at least 30 minutes every day,” says Maribel Dionisio, MA, a parenting and relationship consultant at AMD Love Consultants for Families and Couples.
Here are a few tips to help you do just that:
Have daily one-on-one sessions with each child. “When you get home, rest for 20 minutes, then spend the next 30 minutes with one child,” suggests Dionisio. “Take a break for a few minutes, then move on to the next child.” It may take some adjusting at first, but once you’ve established a routine, it will become easier.
“Many parents complain to me, ‘How can I give 30 minutes every day when I have so many other things I need to do?’” says Dionisio. “I tell them, ‘If you can’t give 30 minutes a day, then there goes your influence on your child. How will you get to know your child if you don’t spend time with him or her?’”
To be able to do this effectively, consistently, and without regret, you will have to line up your priorities. And you’ll have to say no to things that are of less concern to you so you can focus on your children.
Go on weekly solo dates with each child, as well. Dionisio says apart from spending exclusive time with your kids daily, it’s also important for each parent to take each of the kids out on one-on-one dates every week (or every two weeks).
But there’s one rule: “You have to do it on a budget of P50,” says Dionisio. That will force you and your child to be creative, and it will teach your child financial responsibility at the same time. Will you have ice cream at an outdoor playground? Kick around a ball in the UP sunken garden? Part of the fun would be figuring out with your child what you can do together.
“This weekly date will be so special to your child because he will have you all to himself,” says Dionisio. “Make sure there’s no interruption from anyone. Turn off all your gadgets. And then just talk with your child: ‘Who’s your best friend? What’s your teacher like?’”
Set a schedule and let everyone know about it. This one-on-one project is a family effort, so everyone has to be in on it wholeheartedly. Both parents have to figure out a schedule for the weekly dates—who takes whom out, how long they’ll be out, etc. Divide your time wisely, especially if you have many kids. Write down this schedule and put it up where everyone in your family can see. This will create a routine, help parents figure out their priorities, and show kids when their turn is with you.
“If you do this consistently and with love, you’ll see the results immediately,” says Dionisio.
With teenagers, you’ll have to be creative. “Your weekly dates won’t be good enough anymore when your kids become teenagers,” says Dionisio. When that time comes, you’ll have to be more creative because you’ll be the one chasing them to spend time with you. Is your teen going to her friend’s house? Offer to drive her over. Does your son need some supplies from the bookstore? Offer to go shopping with him. Does your daughter have rehearsals at school? Pick her up and take her out for ice cream after.
Or, Dionisio suggests, “Just say, ‘I heard there’s this new restaurant. You want to try it with me?’ Let them know it’s your special time with them. But don’t label it a date or your kids will say, ‘Yuck, you’re corny, Mom.’”
Don’t use a cookie-cutter routine for all your kids. Because each child is different, you’ll have to treat them differently, as well.
“Your eldest and your second child probably think in opposite ways,” says Dionisio. “If you put both kids together and force them to do the same things with you, normally, they’ll just end up fighting. Or you might inadvertently give more attention to the louder child. Your alone time has to be custom-fit for each child. Some kids need more alone time with their parents than other kids.”
If your child likes to doodle, tape sheets of manila paper on one wall of your house and paint a mural with her. If your other child likes to read books, take him to the National library on your weekend date, and scour the shelves for interesting children’s books.
Take advantage while they’re still young. Spending time with your children is important, more so while they’re still young.
“It takes three to five years to change behavior,” says Dionisio. “The sooner parents understand this principle, the better. Their positive relationship with their kids will give parents leverage if they have relationship problems with their kids later on. They won’t have to do repair work [on their kids’ attitude] if they work on it now.”
And by ‘working on it,’ that means spending quality (and quantity) time with your kids. If you connect with them this way for their first 10 years, you’ll be able to connect with them for the rest of their lives.