The Together-Time Dilemma
One of the greatest challenges of urban Indian parenting is the inability to spend quality time with children. Parents, inundated with professional commitments and home chores, are left with very less free time with their kids. And by the time they decide to do an activity or spend some time with their kids, their energies are already sapped. On the other hand, children are loaded with academic demands and extracurricular activities, with gadgets taking over any free time. This creates a huge dearth of ‘together time’ for parents with children, often leading to a lot of parental guilt. But, hey, let us be honest, is it just the lack of finding time? Not really!
Even if parents and children can finally find this time, ironically, very often there is no common ground for conversation, or even action other than the usual enquiries and advice about school, work, food, and the likes.
Do we need to worry about this?
Now, for a moment, let us just keep this back-of-the mind guilt away and think. Is it even necessary to find this quality ‘together time’ in today’s fast-paced ‘I’m-on-my-own’ world? Two studies shout out a big ‘Yes’. One, conducted by the Ohio University, and the other by a group of eminent sociologists, reiterate that the quality of time spent by parents with their children is directly corelated with the academic success, non-academic abilities, and emotional well-being of their children. Parents are the most important role models instrumental in instilling core values in a growing child. The best and only way to pass on their experience to children is to spend quality time with their children. Furthermore, it will encourage free and open communication which brings out specific apprehensions and improvement areas for the child.
The Fuel to Fire it up
Parents and children need a good reason to find this quality time together. Books and games can become that wonderful reason. Books outside school’s curriculum and games outside devices can stimulate the child’s brain. Parents, with their education and experience, can appreciate a children’s book and will enjoy the occasional and refreshing game.
Broadly speaking, the key opportunities provided by books and games for parents and children, in addition to their obvious educational and learning benefits, are present in:
Books can be a remarkably interesting conversation starters for parents as well as children of any age group. The storyline, main characters, illustrations, or even something as basic as the title of the book can initiate a conversation. Games are mostly interactive by design and the chat could start by discussing the rules of the game or probably who gets to play first. The discussion will, in most cases, be navigated automatically into specifics of the story or even to other stories or real-life incidents, people or ideas.
Generating curiosity and new ideas :
Questions are an important aspect of learning, and they need to come from both the parent as well as the child. Children are curious and ask questions related to or completely unrelated to the book, game, or discussion at hand. It is important for the parent to listen to them patiently, to try and answer them or to get the child to answer by having an apt response. Questions from parents can keep the session interesting and interactive and tickle the curiosity bone of the child, helping her to think in new directions.
Appreciating the child’s abilities :
Building confidence is the single most important gift that a parent can give to their growing child. Reading or discussing books and playing games together brings in several moments for the parent to appreciate the child’s abilities in reading, comprehension, observation skills, logical analysis, creative thinking, and problem solving. Parents should use such opportunities to applaud the child’s ability as well as the effort taken by the child to put his/her ability to use. If the child shows signs of improvements, then the parent should recognise and acknowledge it.
Showcase soft skills :
Parents can use these opportunities to demonstrate communication and behavioural skills, such as expertise in a language, ability to negotiate in a win-win situation, skills to make the child make a point during a debate or discussion in a logical manner, etiquette, and manners, and even the right body language. Seeing the parent do this early on in life, lays the foundation for the child to develop and sharpen such skills, which are key in the knowledge-based and EQ-driven future.
Inculcate values :
When parents play games with their children, there will be many opportunities for them to instil the values of being fair to all, the importance of following rules and laws, being resilient during times of adversity, being persistent to achieve objectives, etc. Being with the child even during single-player games can facilitate group-thinking and thus lead to lessons in cooperation and respect for each other.
So, now that we know the big role books and games can play in helping parents spend quality time with children, here are a few things that you can keep in mind to get the best out of this incredibly special time:
- Have a planned schedule. Decide and dedicate specific days of the week and time for this. This helps the parents as well as the children to schedule other activities, accordingly.
- Avoid distractions, such as TV, mobile phones, etc. completely during this time. If you must attend an unavoidable call or emergency, tell your child about it, and let them know when you will be back.
- Answer as well as ask questions to show genuine interest in the interaction. A parent will be in for a lot of pleasant surprises and smiles!
This ensures that the time spent together is enjoyable and serves as a motivation to repeat and continue such experiences.
So, go ahead, and spend quality time with children, with a whole lot of enriching books and enjoyable games!
Jayagovind C. V (10th March 2021)
Find those special ‘Together Time’ moments with the help of Window Seat.
1. Time parents spend with children key to academic success, https://news.osu.edu/time-parents-spend-with-children-key-to-academic-success/
Get more tips on how to spend quality time with children:
Tips to encourage kids to play board games: