How to find time from our busy schedule to spend with our children?
Tahir Ahmed Soofi, Zion, IL
In Chapter Al-Asr of the Holy Qur’an, Allah reminds us that time is short and it surely flies by us. At the same time, this chapter gives us the advice, “Except those who believe and do good works, and exhort one another to accept truth, and exhort one another to be steadfast. [103:4]
It was once said “children spell love as T-I-M-E.” Our children were definitely onto something. Unfortunately, if you are like most parents, time is a precious commodity that often eludes us. Whether we have a new job, a new baby, or Jamā’at work, we just need to make the coffee or clean the storage, make the beds, we always seem to be wishing for more time. We always need and want more time to spend with our children. But we feel we just do not have enough of it.
Spending quality time with our children is extremely important for their development and happiness and believe it or not it is good for us too. We must find ways to slow down and slip-in some memorable time which will let our children know that we love and care for them.
Many children will let you know in their own subtle ways if they feel that you are not giving them the attention that they need. Some will withdraw while others will “act out.” You might see them back to those odd behaviors that once got your attention, like increased crying, throwing tantrums, or even bed-wetting. This is a way to capture your attention, albeit often negative, so that they can enjoy “focused” time with you. Essentially the thought process is, “if I can’t get their attention by doing something good, I’ll get their attention by doing something bad.” Nobody wants that!
What can you do to manage your time in order to maximize your experiences with children? Here are some tips:
1. One-on-one Time:
Time with your child is best spent when you are doing something you both enjoy. With one family it may be the time when dad takes the child so mom can spend time alone. This could mean going to a movie, going to the playground, watching trains go by, watching a live sports event, or just sitting at the park on a bench and talking or kicking the ball around. The frequency of one-on-one time is up to you, but I did this once a week every Saturday for a few hours, but I think twice a week is good.
Suggestion: Marking your dates down on a calendar is a great idea and shows your children you make this time a priority. For those with smartphones, lock it in the calendar as an appointment.
2. Integrate Together Time into your Daily/Weekly Schedule:
Children love to help. Do you have a mailing to do? Have them put the stamps on the envelopes. Need to go shopping? Make grocery shopping “fun time” with your children. Need to make dinner? Let them help you by contributing to the preparation process. While it might be messier and it may take more time in the beginning, you will see that the children will become your greatest helpers and they will look back and remember that “before dinner” was always special time with you. Even incorporating clean-up time is great idea. Trust me, I know how difficult clean-up time can be.
Suggestion: Create a list of responsibilities and distribute the tasks, empowering the children so they are all included in activities.
3. Phantom Time:
Don’t have a moment to spare until about 3 a.m.? You can still let your children know that you care. Write notes and drop them into their lunch boxes. This was one of the things that my children appreciated the most; it made them feel loved and cared for, by their parent. Other ideas would be to record a short video for them using a camera and leaving it for them at the breakfast table. Be creative here!
4. Break time:
Everyone is busy. Some parents are busier than others. Slide in a “break time” so that you and your children can spend 15 minutes or a half hour together. Set a timer if you need to so that everyone knows when “break time” starts and ends. Give warnings to your children when 2 minutes are left so that it does not come as a surprise. You might not think that 15 minutes is any significant time at all, but to a child, it is 15 extra minutes with you. Don’t we do this at work? Let’s start this with our children.
5. Serving humanity together:
We should teach our children to respect and serve mankind from the very beginning. I will often take my children to a soup kitchen every other month to serve others. This involves our time; we should give preference to others before ourselves. At the same time, we should bring some gifts, paper notes, flowers, cards or chocolate for the mothers and other siblings.
Spending time with your children provides them with opportunities to learn and to be heard. Most of all, it provides you and your children an opportunity to connect. It is these connections that make your children feel loved. So leave the beds unstripped for another few minutes and put the coffee on an automatic timer. Take those extra moments to spend with your children. When you look back, you will be thankful for the memories. I know I am and I would not trade it for anything at all!