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Time Well Spent

What’s the opposite of wasting time? We often talk about time in the same terms as money, referring to moments like finishing emails as well spent. Those feelings of completion are important. With a new school year on the horizon, we get glimpses of how fast children are growing, insights that escape our everyday awareness of time.

Tuning into the passage of time can spur us to think about how to use even small amounts of time with children more consciously. Rather than feeling like we have to do more, fully immersing ourselves predictable times with them is the opposite of wasting time: it’s an investment. Another term for those intentional experiences is quality time.

Last year one of our first grade teachers wanted to help a student who was having a hard time self-regulating in class. The teacher set up five minutes twice a day every day to give the child her undivided attention. Knowing she would have that one-on-one focus with the teacher calmed the child, and over time she didn’t need it anymore.

Again and again, we see that predictable time alone with a caring adult changes children’s internal experience and their behavior. One of the ways we speak about a friend who cares is by saying, “She makes time for me.” The teacher didn’t have that extra time in her day. She created it. Here are some ways to make sure we give special time:

Make drop-off transitions sunny. Every morning touching scenes between parents and children take place on our campus. Parents know the happy mood of that send-off sustains children throughout the day.

Turn pick-up time into a comforting reunion. Pick-ups can be trickier. Children often decompress by having meltdowns at the end of the day. This is the time for patience and nurturance. Seeing the parents is the signal they can let down, but being met with tears at the end of the day can be disappointing. Offering understanding and loving downtime together bolsters the child’s resilience.

Enjoy meals. The Spanish word sobremesa means “around the table” but refers to the enjoyable time spent chatting after a meal. Mealtimes can focus on enjoyment of each other rather than just eating.

Create quality time alone with each child. Take turns taking the child on a walk, going to sporting event, going to the store, working in the garden. Set up special time and call it by your child’s name – “This is Laura time.”

Here is an article on making alone time possible for mothers, but it is equally true for dads.


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