There we were, school was just around the corner, and we had begun the preparations. New backpacks and lunch boxes were chosen. Shoes were on order. Uniforms had been checked for fit. Upcoming school events had been added to the calendar. I’d done what I could to get my girls what they needed for the start of this new school year. But all of these preparations, this providing what was needed, had left me pondering… What do my children really need from me this year?
You see, this is the first year that both of my children will be in school 5 days a week, and I had been struck by the reality that I will be spending more time apart from my children than I will with them. Time together had suddenly become precious. As a professional child counselor, I know that quality time spent between parent and child has a multitude of benefits: increased positive feelings, decreased conflict, increased cooperation, increased willingness to share problems, increased trust, decreased anxiety, and much more.
I also know that quality time is different than just time together. I spend a lot of time with my kids making sure they are clean, fed, taken from one activity to the next, but that is not quality time. Quality time is something special. It is undivided attention. It’s where you take a few moments to focus on your child and nothing else, no ulterior motive, no need to accomplish anything except to be with and enjoy. Quality time is playing, wrestling, talking, listening, cuddling, etc. I also believe that it is both the most important thing I can give my children, and the hardest thing to manage.
In our busy lives, time is in short supply. Now that school has started, it will be even harder to come by. So I decided to make quality time a priority. I will give 10 minutes every day of my undivided attention and time to each of my children. That’s a total of 20 minutes each day to stay connected to the lives of my children. They are going to need it, and quite frankly, so will I. Whether your child has started Pre-K or high school, I invite you to join me in this challenge. And 20 years from now, it will be what they remember most about this school year, well after the cool backpacks we just bought them have been forgotten.