Special time- The key to minimising the impact of these uncertain times

Child-led play can heal many hurts

We are living in a new time – one that we will one day look back on as history but right now is our lived reality. Today I want you to consider how some intentional, one-to-one playtime with your little one might help them feel more settled as we navigate these unchartered waters. 

Due to restrictions around work, school and leisure options, we are facing much more time together under one roof. We are all managing the best we can, just getting through it. Perhaps this time together might also give us an opportunity to relish our little ones. 

Play is the natural language of children. They don’t say, “Hey Mum, I’m really struggling with all the change and bad news at the moment”, they say “Play with me!” It is through their play they find safety, connection and a space to be heard. There is so much unpredictability in the world, but if we can offer some predictability, some regular time to tune into them and fill their cup, our whole family can be enriched. Special time will also be good for our soul as we will need to tune out of the external chatter and tune into our little person’s world. It also gives your child control – how often does that happen, especially now? 

The rules are:

  1. Let them know what’s happening so they can think about what they’d like to do. For example, “After lunch, we’re going to have 15 minutes of special playtime.” You might even call it “Mummy Jesse time” or something similar. When it’s time, set a stopwatch and see what happens. 
  2. Your child is in charge – anything is an option. Whether they want to create a pillow fort, or line up their entire toy car collection, it’s all permitted. (Within safety boundaries of course.)
  3. They direct the play and you follow. It’s not an opportunity to “extend their play”, quiz them on what they know or teach them something new. It’s about responding enthusiastically, being curious and checking how you should proceed rather than assuming you know what they mean.
  4. No multi-tasking: no screens, no cups of tea, no writing the grocery list or chasing siblings away. Your pure focus is on your child, so they can revel in this connection and you can be amazed by them in a new, refreshing way.
  5. Delight in what happens: your child might show you some new ideas or things you might not have ever thought of.

Consider the best time of day. If you have more than one child at home, you might need to get creative about how to have this uninterrupted time. The best-case scenario is a partner to keep siblings at bay, but it might need to be putting on a favourite TV show, waiting for nap time, or grabbing a moment when your child first wakes up. If possible, it’s great to do this every day. It will take practice, so don’t worry if it feels challenging at first – after some regular practice it will feel easier. You will learn more about the way your child works and they will feel more connected and settled knowing that special time with you is never far away. 

This concept of Special Time is not radical nor new – Patty Wipfler at Hand in Hand Parenting has been talking about it for decades. But what is new is the opportunity we have to use it to navigate our new lived reality.

Nurture & Bloom Psychology, Manly on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, offers support for perinatal mental health, including postnatal depression and anxiety, prenatal anxiety and depression, infant mental health, and general parenting support for all ages.

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