Why Special Time With Your Child Is Worth It's Weight In Gold

I live on the third floor of a block of flats. Most days I carry guitars, fiddles, drums and all sorts- up and down the stairs. My car is also full of musical instruments- it jingles when I drive. I play these instruments in choirs, workshops and performances. If you saw me carrying them- my face would show a look of grim determination. Like something from boot camp. I don't like to be interrupted mid-carry- it breaks my focus- and I forget things.

On Tuesday I arrived in Ringwood for my Rainbow Arts and Rainbow Strum Home Education groups. I was warmly greeted by Kat, the Mother who helps me run the group, and her young daughter Bella. I had my stuff to carry- and I'm pretty sure my face was wearing a look of grim determination. Mid carry- Bella called out: "Will you play with me?". "I'll play whatever you want, but only for 2 minutes- then I need to get the room ready, for the group." I replied.

I joined Bella. Like her I sat on the table with my legs dangling over the edge. Like her I held a big foam dice in my hands. She threw her dice- and hopped the number of steps the dice showed. I did the same. Bella looked at me delighted. We had a moments eye contact where she said, "You see me. You really see me."

Then the 2 minutes were up and I went back to preparing the room. I had arrived feeling tired- and apprehensive- you never know quite what to expect with a room full of children. But this brief game with Bella energised me. When I played with Bella- I put aside my 'grim determination', entered into a spirit of creativity, fun and energy. Also, that moment of connection with Bella restored my faith in my work. I was reminded- connection is the most important thing.

As parents it's easy to forget the vital importance of connection for growing children. Your children need to feel connected with you- that connection is more important than food and shelter. But when we're juggling busyness- it's easy to forget. Not only does your child need connection- you do. Connection gives you energy, refreshes you, and helps you see possibilities where previously there had been none.

An excellent way to nurture connection is to build 'Golden Time' into your daily life. Golden time is where you agree to play whatever your child wants for an agreed upon time. Anywhere from a few minutes, up to an hour. During this period you give full energy to your child- turn off your phone, put down the laundry, finish the dishes- you will only play with your child.

As you enter into the playful spirit of their world, they will relax. "Phew", they sigh. "Mummy is back. Daddy is back. I missed them." And when they feel this connection everything improves- bedtime, mealtimes, sharing, co-operating. Children don't need tantrums when they feel connected. Much of the behavior that adults find exhausting dissolves when children feel connected.

During 'Golden Time' resist the urge to teach, moralize and 'parent'. Simply play. This can be hard. On Wednesday I agreed to 'be a shark' for a 4 year old. I crouched down low, made a fin with my hands and was scary. My back ached- I had other things I needed to do. But this brief moment of play built connection- well worth the effort. Afterwards I was able to have my 'important conversation' with the child's parent. Because the child was happy- she felt connected.


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