24/7: A Resource For Working Parents


How To Create Quality Time With Your Kids When There Is So Little Time

By: Dr. Robin Alter

Working parents live busy lives, so it can be hard for parents to create quality time with their children. The key word is quality. Family time as a group is important, but every child craves one-on-one time with their parents. Did you know? Research shows that sibling rivalry will diminish when kids have individual time with parents. So how do we find that time? Here are three ideas.

Have projects on the go

Pick a project—a jigsaw puzzle, a model, an outdoor “fort” or a piece of artwork. It doesn’t matter what it is, but it needs to be something your child will enjoy and it’s best if it’s something that will take a while. Start working on it and leave the unfinished project in a spot where your child will repeatedly see it, as a visual reminder of your connection to each other. 

Even when you don’t have time to work on the project, there will be times when you can discuss it either in person or on the phone (if you’re a weekend parent or travelling for work). You can talk about the next steps or how you feel about the project.

Children under the age of 12 understand the world in concrete terms — if they can’t see it or touch it, it’s not very real to them. The project serves as a concrete, constant reminder of the enduring nature of your relationship. If you have more than one child, then have more than one project.

Make a date and put it on the calendar

Many parents feel they don’t have time to play with their kids because they think it will take up up lots of time. But it doesn’t have to. Think about when you might have ten minutes. Maybe it’s right when you come home from work, or maybe it’s after dinner or before you do the dishes. Just pick a time and make a commitment to play catch or a new game on the computer.

When your child knows they are going to have time with you, they also experience the excitement and joy of anticipation. If you only play catch every once in a while, he will never anticipate it. But if he knows that every day, when Mom or Dad comes home, a game of catch will be played, your child will think about that activity and look forward to it. It doesn’t have to happen on a daily basis. It could be weekly. But put it on the calendar so your child knows it will happen.

Finding—and taking—a bit of time day to do something your child enjoys communicates your love loud and clear!


Also Recommended:   Parenting For Life Booklet "Let's Play", page 17 playing with your kid


Think about what you can DO, less about what you say

Young children pay more attention to what we do than what we say. That’s partly because we say too much and partly because we use language that is too complex and abstract for them to understand.

For most children, a relationship is more about what we do together than what we talk about. Think about activities, even small ones, like playing cards, a tumble on the carpet or thumb wrestling.

Creating special one-on-one time can be magical and rewarding for both you and your child. Inevitably our busy schedules can get in the way, but remember quality over quantity and make time for those magical moments.

Dr. Robin Alter is a trustee with The Psychology Foundation of Canada and chair of their Kids Have Stress Too Program. Dr. Alter co-led the development of this ground-breaking program targeted to parents, raising awareness that children do experience stress and providing parents and caregivers with the tools to help their children identify and manage stress. Dr. Alter is a registered clinical psychologist in practice since 1979. Her current practice includes both the assessment and treatment of children, adolescents and adults. She consults to Blue Hills Child and Family Centre since 1980.  She has authored two books: Anxiety and the Gift of Imagination and The Anxiety Workbook for Kids.
Thank you to Workplace Strategies for Mental Health for their support of 24/7: A resource for working parents.