How to use Special Time to build a stronger relationship with your child in just 10 minutes a day blog feature image with a mother and daughter reading in a den.

How to use Special Time to build a stronger relationship with your child in just 10 minutes a day

In today’s fast-paced world, parents often find themselves caught up in the hustle and bustle of life and everyday responsibilities. Many of the parents I work with tell me they want to spend more time with their children, but they simply can’t find it in their busy schedules.

And if you’re feeling the same way, I hear you. With demands ever increasing, it can feel like your to-do list will never be done. And finding more time in your day to nurture a strong emotional connection with your child can feel almost impossible. But when life is feeling hectic, it’s also more important than ever to make time for connection.

Enter “Special Time.”

Special Time is a simple but highly effective concept that allows you to connect with your children on a deeper level, promoting healthy development and fostering a loving, connected relationship – even if you’re feeling super stretched and short on time.

So what is Special Time? And how do you fit it into your busy life?

What Is Special Time?

Special Time is a dedicated, uninterrupted period of one-on-one interaction between you and your child. During this time, your child gets your undivided attention, without distractions or external interruptions. Special Time is not about expensive activities or grand gestures; it is about the quality of the interaction, not the quantity of time spent.

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The Benefits of Special Time

Special Time offers a huge number of benefits to both parents and children. It is a valuable practice for all families, but will be especially important if your child is struggling with emotional regulation or if you are finding yourself dealing with some challenging behaviours right now.

  • Improved parent-child bond: Special Time can strengthen the emotional connection you share with your child. The undivided attention and shared joy you experience during this time creates a sense of closeness and trust.
  • Better behaviour: Children who feel disconnected from their parents may struggle with their behaviour. Special Time helps reduce negative behaviour by providing them with the attention and affirmation they need, making them more willing to follow your lead.
  • Increased confidence: When a child feels valued during Special Time, their self-esteem and confidence receive a significant boost. When we choose to spend dedicated time with our children, they receive the message that they are important and loved.
  • Better communication skills: Quality time with parents allows children to express themselves, and builds essential communication skills. Special Time becomes a safe, sacred space for children. And once it’s a regular fixture in your home, you may even find that your child waits until Special Time to tell you important things about their day, or to share some of their big feelings with you.
  • Emotional regulation: Through Special Time, children learn to express and manage their emotions better. They feel safe and supported, and this allows them to develop emotional resilience.
  • Fosters creativity: Engaging in imaginative play or creative activities during Special Time encourages children to develop their creativity and problem-solving abilities.
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How does Special Time improve relationships? It’s only 10 minutes!

Yes, it is only 10 minutes, but those 10 minutes can pack a serious punch when it comes to helping your children feel loved, heard and understood. Here’s how:

  • It builds trust: Special Time creates a sense of reliability and predictability. When children know they can count on this dedicated time with their parents, they feel secure and safe. You are teaching them that you will always show up and that they can rely on you.
  • It opens the lines of communication: Special Time gives children the chance to share their thoughts and feelings with you. And this is often exactly what children use it for!
  • It builds parental understanding: During Special Time, you can gain valuable insights into your child’s interests, concerns, and development. This is a chance to really get to know and understand your child. And this understanding can lead to more effective, attuned parenting.

So how do you actually DO Special Time?

Getting started with Special Time may require some explanation, especially if it’s a new concept for your child. Begin by having a quick chat with them. For younger children, simple language and enthusiasm work best, while older kids might appreciate a more detailed explanation. I usually say something like this:

“Hey, I have something special I want to start doing with you. It’s called Special Time, and it means we’ll have 10 minutes each day to do something fun together, just you and me – with no distractions or interruptions! What we do is entirely up to you – we can play games, read, paint, or do anything you like. It’s our way of making sure we have lots of special moments together.”

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Getting started with Special Time

Once your child is on board, it’s time to initiate your first 10-minute Special Time. Here are some tips to ensure a successful start:

1) Set a specific time: Choose a consistent time each day for Special Time. This predictability helps your child look forward to it. I usually write it on the calendar so my children can see it coming up. You could even use a timer to signal the start and end.

2) Prepare your environment: Remove distractions like phones, TV, or other potential interruptions. Ensure the setting is conducive to the activity your child has chosen.

    3) Let your child lead: Allow your child to decide what they want to do during Special Time. Resist the urge to take over or even make suggestions if you can. Their choice empowers them and ensures they’re engaged and excited.

    4) Active participation: Show genuine interest and enthusiasm during Special Time. Get down on the floor, play alongside them, and ask open-ended questions to encourage conversation.

    5) Positive Feedback: Offer your child plenty of positive words and show your excitement and joy at spending time with them – both during and after Special Time. Shared joy builds super-connected relationships!

    6) Reflect and discuss: After Special Time, take a moment to reflect on what you both enjoyed about it. This provides an opportunity to express gratitude and plan for future sessions.

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    How to incorporate Special Time into your busy day

    The beauty of Special Time is that it doesn’t require a huge time commitment. Even with a busy schedule, you can probably find 10 minutes each day to connect with your child. Here are some practical ideas for incorporating Special Time into your routine:

    1) Morning Rituals: Wake up 10 minutes earlier than your child and dedicate this time to their Special Time. A brief morning chat or a quick game can set a positive tone for the day.

    2) Bedtime Special Time: Instead of rushing through bedtime routines, extend this special moment by dedicating 10 minutes to your child before they sleep. Share stories, talk about the day, or simply cuddle.

    3) After School Special Time: When your child returns from school, take a break from your own work or chores and spend 10 minutes discussing their day. This helps them decompress and feel valued.

    4) Dinner Time: While preparing dinner, involve your child by allowing them to assist or chat with you. This shared activity fosters a sense of togetherness and importance.

    5) Weekend Adventures: On weekends, make a list of fun activities and choose one each day to enjoy together. Whether it’s a nature walk, a craft project, or a visit to a museum, it’s quality time that counts.

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    Ideas for Special Time activities

    Now, I do recommend allowing your child to choose the activity you do together during Special Time. But sometimes, they need a little bit of help coming up with ideas – especially when the concept of Special Time is still new to them. So here are some specific activities you might like to try:

    1) Arts and Crafts: Engage in a creative activity, such as drawing, painting, or making simple crafts.

    2) Puzzles: Solve puzzles or play board games together. This not only promotes bonding but also enhances cognitive skills.

    3) Outdoor adventures: Spend your Special Time outdoors, playing catch, riding bikes, wrestling and rough housing, or simply exploring nature. Fresh air and physical activity do wonders for the mind and body.

    4) Storytelling: Share stories or create imaginative tales together.

    5) Cooking: Involve your child in the kitchen by cooking a simple meal or baking. It’s a fun and educational activity that can lead to delicious results.

    6) Music: Sing songs or dance to your favorite music. It’s a great way to bond and introduce your child to different types of music.

    7) Reading: Read a book together, taking turns reading or discussing the story. Reading builds vocabulary, comprehension, and imagination.

    8) Scavenger hunt: Go on a scavenger hunt in your backyard or local park. Create a list of items to find, and explore together.

    9) Photo albums: Browse through old photo albums or digital photos, reminiscing about family memories. This is a great opportunity to share stories and family history, and your kiddos will love it!

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    Special Time, even if just for 10 minutes a day, can be a game-changer for your child’s development and your relationship with each other. By making a small but consistent effort to connect, you’re nurturing trust, communication, and a strong emotional bond. The benefits are huge, and the memories you create will last a lifetime. So, carve out those precious 10 minutes, and watch the magic of Special Time unfold in your family’s life. Your child will thank you, not only for the moments you share but also for the love and understanding that blossoms as a result.

    Sarah Conway is a child and adolescent psychologist, mother of 4, and founder of Mindful Little Minds. She has over 15 years of experience working in mental health with children, teenagers, and families. Sarah’s mission is to help parents move away from punitive parenting strategies and towards mindful, intentional parenting that builds emotional intelligence in children and parents alike. As a busy mum herself, she knows firsthand how difficult mindful parenting can be, particularly when it was never modelled by our own parents. That’s why she provides parents and children with simple, practical strategies and tools that help them learn to manage emotions – together. She believes that changing the way we parent will change the world.

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