The early years of childhood, before schooling begins, are crucial times for developing positive self-image and healthy emotional quotient in children. One of the most significant factors affecting a child’s self-esteem might be the amount of quality time spent with parents.
Meaning of quality time
Being in the same room with your preschooler cannot be equated with spending quality time with him. If he is playing by himself while you are busy texting on WhatsApp, your physical presence means nothing to him. The same way, if both of you are sitting side-by-side, absorbed in watching a programme on TV, that is not quality time either. So, what exactly is quality time? According to oxforddictionaries.com, quality time is, “Time in which one's child, partner, or other loved person receives one's undivided attention, in such a way as to strengthen the relationship.”
The key element therefore is your undivided attention, with focus on strengthening the relationship.
Benefits of spending quality time with your child
Even if it seems like a chore at times, if you make it a habit of putting away your phone, switching off the television and engaging with your child, focussing your entire attention on her, you can reap the benefits of an emotionally healthy, positively disciplined child. Here is how spending quality time with your child benefits her:
- Builds self-esteem: When you spend time with your child, he learns that he is important, and that his feelings matter to you. This, in turn, leads him to feel valued and worthy, thereby giving a boost to his self-esteem.
- Improves behaviour: Children often throw tantrums or misbehave when they feel they are unheard or misunderstood. When you constantly offer positive attention, your child learns to communicate her needs better. In addition, spending quality time together also helps you understand her better so as to anticipate mood changes or behavioural disturbances and take necessary measures to circumvent a meltdown.
- Builds trust: When you make the effort to focus on your child, he begins connecting with you. Such a connection will help him approach you whenever he has any difficulty. Even when he is older, he will, more likely, be open and honest with you if you continue to provide a safe space for him to communicate.
- Develops emotional intelligence: Children with positive self-esteem often have a higher emotional quotient. Moreover, when you spend a substantial amount of quality time with your child, she will also learn to articulate her feelings and express herself well, both of which are cornerstones of emotional intelligence.
20 Ways to spend quality time
Here are 20 simple ways in which you can spend quality time with your child, by weaving these tips into your daily routine:
- Create a rhyme to recite as your child brushes her teeth every morning. This will not only turn a boring ritual into a fun activity, but also help you bond with your little one.
- Potty times can be stressful for many parents. However, if you shed your own anxiety around this exercise, and get creative with some potty-time stories or jingles, you can enjoy some quality time with him in the toilet as well!
- Infuse a dose of fun and frolic to your child’s bath times instead of rushing through a hurried shower. Plan to wake up slightly ahead of schedule so you have adequate time to give her a leisurely bath. Use rubber toys or bubbles to enhance the experience.
- Mealtimes are a great opportunity to be with your preschooler and cultivate the habit of mindful eating in him.
- When you are driving to any place with your child in tow, it is a good idea to take along her favourite rhymes CD to play on the car stereo and sing along with her.
- At the grocery store or supermarket, if you can plan ahead to have those few extra minutes built in, you can play a game of show-and-tell with your little one. This also doubles up as an opportunity to teach him about various fruits, vegetables, pulses and grains.
- At home, you can turn boring chores like cooking, cleaning or laundry into great opportunities for bonding with your preschooler by involving her in these tasks.
- Your preschooler’s day would not be complete without a trip to the neighbourhood park. The walk back and forth can be a time for engaging him in a conversation about all the things that you see around you.
- At the park, giving her your undivided attention as she climbs the jungle gym or gets on the slide is sure to make her day.
- If your preschooler has the habit of taking a mid-day nap, read him a story as you snuggle in bed with him.
- Preschoolers are very creative and love to engage in pretend-play. Join the fun by pretending along, and see the sparkle light up her eyes.
- Add a touch of magic to your life and his, by pretending that his favourite ‘blankey’ is a magic carpet.
- Get silly every now and then, and imitate different animal movements and sounds along with her.
- Get arty with some old sheets of newspaper by inviting him to a game of newspaper origami.
- Play games like hide-and-seek with her.
- Show him old family albums and introduce him to his extended family through the photographs.
- Take her to the zoo. Explore the world of animals together to make some long-lasting memories that she would perhaps share with her own preschooler someday.
- Pray together. Prayer need not be religious or ritualistic. It can simply be an acknowledgment of everything you are grateful for. Be sure to thank the universe for the gift of your child. He needs to hear how grateful you are to have him in your life.
- Have a winding-down routine at the end of the day which can include a relaxing massage, a soothing story or a song.
- Make bedtimes special. Snuggle close, or have a pillow fight and add lots of cuddles as you tuck her in.
Being focussed on your child as you take him through his daily routine will not only make him feel special, but will also help you feel loved and cherished, because your preschooler is sure to reciprocate your attention with unconditional love.
Mina Dilip, Child Psychologist, Trainee Practitioner in Therapeutic Play Skills (PTUK)
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