Focus on Parenting: Special Time During the Holidays

Special Time is a key positive discipline strategy that we teach in our Strong Families parenting classes.  It is based on a couple of key principles.  The first is that your undivided attention as a parent or caregiver can have powerful positive consequences.  Children need attention.  If they are not being provided with your attention on a regular basis, they will seek it out from you.  This sometimes takes the form of acting out or negative behaviors.  Regularly investing in undivided attention with each of your children can play an important role in preventing difficult or challenging behaviors.

A second principle is that a strong, healthy relationship with a parent or caregiver plays a critical role in enhancing a wide variety of positive child outcomes.   Relationships are living things that have to be nurtured, they require investment, time and energy to thrive, the Special Time strategy enables parents to do just that.

It may seem like during the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders that you have been doing nothing but Special Time for the past ten months.  However, Special Time requires one on one attention, not just time together as a family.  This individual focus sends a clear message to our children that they are important amongst our other priorities and likeable for themselves, which can promote inner confidence and build their self-esteem.

Below are some ideas on how to you can apply Special Time during the holidays.  So unplug, turn off the TV, put away the phone, and set aside 15 minutes of uninterrupted time to spend with each of your children (this is a big commitment for large families but all the more important to help each child connect with you). 

  • Share a holiday story that involves your child.  Help them connect to your family’s past and understand their role in your family’s history.
  • Ask them to share a favorite family holiday memory.  Be a curious and active listener.  Ask them why this memory sticks out for them. 
  • Write a card to your child.  Tell them about their gifts, talents, and skills as you see them.  Share how these skills and gifts impact your family, their school, and the community.  During Special Time ask them to share what they think about what you wrote.
  • Ask your child if they have any questions about COVID-19 and what is going on in the world.  Special Time can create a safe place for them to talk about worries or anxieties, and give you an opportunity to provide answers and reassurance about the future.
  • Wrap a 15 Minute “Your Way” coupon and give it as a gift.  For 15 minute they get to choose what game or activity to do with just the two of you during those 15 minutes.
  • Get outside and do something active together.  COVID-19 has us spending too much time indoors.  Talk about the importance of nature and being out of doors.  Ask them to talk about their favorite animal or place to visit.
  • Pick a recipe and work on it together, side-by-side.  Put on some fun music and enjoy the process of being and working together to accomplish a task.

What you do is less important than simply making the time to give your children some extra Special Time during the holidays. 

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