Special Time is the fastest way to increase connection with your child. It is also provides parents a window into their world, because children process everything they’re dealing with through play. As Maria Montessori said, Play is the work of the child. If you missed part one read, What is So Special About Special Time?!
Let’s talk What If’s
What If you are cringing at the idea of playing? This is a common reaction. Lots of us have forgotten how to play. Maybe you never really had the chance when you were young. Or, maybe it is simply uncomfortable to get down on the floor. Psst - It is okay to sit on a cushion or chair.
Think of yourself as a detective looking for clues to see what you can learn about your child. What are they going through? What If they only want you to watch them build legos or play with their train? You can narrate their play as you observe them - the Say What You See technique. This will help keep you present as you fill their cup.
What If your child is telling you, you are doing everything wrong - no matter what you are doing? Your child might want to play make believe - and then feed you every line to say. Or have you paint what they are painting - but not as well. It helps to remember that they’re working out their feelings of being told what to do and not having control – and you are giving them a chance to feel strong and empowered! What If your mind begins to wander? You now have proof you are human. Keep breathing and gently return your attention to your child. What might you learn next?
What If you realize you are getting triggered? Triggered - an emotional response to a specific action that comes from an unprocessed experience in your past, often your own childhood. More proof you're human. Notice where and what sensations you feel in your body. Acknowledge it is happening and know you are safe. Then, take a big deep breath of love into the sensations and breathe out compassion. Need more? Shake out your hands. If being in Special Time brings up trauma from your past, excuse yourself from continuing and be sure to work on healing this wound when you are alone. You can breathe into the sensations, spend time talking to a friend, in a listening partnership or work with a therapist or counselor. Make sure you treat yourself with love and get the help you need. If you need to interrupt Special Time, you will also want to reconnect with your child and talk about how you are learning to manage your feelings and an age appropriate explanation of why it is hard for you to play. Make sure you increase all of the other ways to connect with your child, while you are focusing on healing. A gift from our children, is that they generously show us where we need to heal!
What If they want to do something dangerous? Well, maybe this is the perfect time to say yes – with you there. So, let them jump off of the dresser onto the bed – or take the cushions off the sofa and jump away, or be the hero and catch the bad guy – you. Be aware that what one sees as a dangerous activity will vary parent by parent, much the same as our triggers vary. Find what works for you to keep the fun going. In the words of Roald Dahl ...the more risks you allow your child to make, the better they learn to look after themselves.
Special Time is a time that out of the ordinary things can happen.
What If you have two kids – or more? It depends on their ages. If you have a baby and a preschooler, you might make it work during naptime, switching Special Time for each child. If you are a two-parent, two-child family with basic 9-5 hours, Special Time can happen after both parents are home. Each parent takes one child for 10-20 minutes and then you swap. In 20-40 minutes, everyone has had Special Time.
What If you cannot make it work every day? Do it on the week ends and when it fits during the week. Larger families and families where one parent travels or gets home late have more challenges - true, but not impossible. Get creative. If you have three or more kids, you can enlist the oldest to play with the younger ones, while you spend time with one. You can rotate Special Time with a different child every day. Hint - Audio books are terrific occupiers.
What If you are a single parent? You might feel you spend all of your time together already. But, think about how much of that time is spent pushing through the schedule. Setting time apart, where you are focusing on your child and following their lead in play is key. Yes, this can be even harder as a single parent with more than one child, especially when they are both young. You might enlist a friend. A friend of mine has twins and my son loves to play with both of them. We used to go over for a play date and he would play with one for a while, so the mama could have Special Time with the other and then there would be a switch. After the Special Times, everyone played together and the mamas had a little Special Time too!
What If your kids are already pre-teens or teenagers? As kids get older, Special Time evolves into daily playfulness and conversation time. It might include a weekly breakfast date. Driving with a teen is a great opportunity to be playful. Try listening to music, being silly and singing together - maintaining safety, of course. Driving and taking walks, both elicit conversation. Being up when a teen comes home from a dance, date or game and making a cup of tea to invite a chat is a wonderful time to get the real scoop on the evening and what is going on with their friends. There is something special about late night conversations that makes teens more open and likely to download, before sleep has a chance to help them process the night on their own.
What If the buzzer blows and your child does not want the time to end? Remember setting the timer? (if you don’t, just follow the link for a reminder) It gets to be the fall guy. What child wants the fun to end? It is important to honor the end, even if you have time to continue playing. It sets Special Time apart from the rest of the time you spend together. Once the timer goes, phones start beeping and our total attention is no longer guaranteed. Setting the Empathic Limit that Special Time is over might be what your child needs to push against, to let those big feelings out.
Especially in the beginning, do make time for Welcoming Emotions. Our connection increases during this time together and that means emotions that have been stuffed down into the emotional backpack during the day start bubbling up. After you hold the space and they have had their release, you are doubly connected and ready to have a cozy, cooperative evening.
Kids crave Special Time and will start asking you when the next Special Time is going to be. Let your children know that they amuse you and that you enjoy and cherish the time you spend with them. This will have a hugely positive and life long impact.
Once you start having Special Time, you are likely to see its benefits very quickly. Chances are, you will see the value of this connective tool and want to Make time for Special Time! Remember – Connection Creates Cooperation!
Follow me on Instagram and join my Choose Love Parenting Facebook page to stay connected and create a community with me. If you have a What If that I did not answer here, or would like to discuss one more in depth - contact me for a private session. I look forwarding to supporting you and your family. Choose Love xoxoxo