By Nur Choudhury
The understanding we should have of our children is that they are a trust we have been given to fulfill. They are not our possessions but rather, they have been gifted to us to raise as believers, to be vessels of faith and positive change in the world. This understanding is crucial to treating them justly and with respect. They are individuals, and it is worth reflecting on the fact that, from the beginning of creation until the end, there will never be a child that is like your child. He or she is a unique creation of God, with all their quirks and character traits, outward and inward.
Whether you have multiple children or just one, children’s needs vary greatly between infancy and the teenage years. When they are young, the care they need is very much the physical and hands-on. Whether they need changing, dressing, feeding, or general closeness and contact, the opportunities for connection are many in the formative months and even years. As a baby grows into a toddler, they usually love to follow their parents around, and involving them in your day to day duties or responsibilities is a great way of not only teaching them new words and skills but also simply for sharing intimate moments.
The challenge grows as children grow older. This is particularly true in the current era when technology is widely available. Social media, instant messaging, virtual gaming, are all claiming the precious time of children every day. In this light, it is easier to neglect children, without even meaning to. You believe they are ‘engaged’ and so they are content and happy, but sometimes this could probably not be further away from the truth.
In the 5 languages of love, Gary Chapman talks about the way each child or adult needs to be spoken to in their love language. A few examples are physical touch in the form of hugs, or caresses; words of affirmation in the form of praise; or quality time in the form of one to one activities at home or outside. It is important to understand what love language is more crucial to your child’s character and focus on that more, however, the reality is that children need all three of these to develop in a healthy and well-rounded manner.
In addition, in many families, fathers tend to be the primary earners, which may take them out of the home for large portions of the day. Due to this, it is a father’s presence that many children miss as they grow. The responsibilities of nurturing and raising the children are completely left to the women of the household, and this may be true also for situations where both parents are working outside the home. The reality, however, is that children need care, attention, and devotion from both parents in order to thrive.
Quality one to one time is vitally important between parents or caregivers and their children. The following are some benefits as reported by a plethora of research at top institutions around the world.
Benefits of quality time with fathers
1. Smarter children
According to research, children whose fathers spent more time with them had a higher IQ and were more socially mobile in comparison to those who had received little attention from them growing up.
2. Happier fathers
A study published by The Academy of Management Perspectives in 2015 suggested that working fathers who spend more time with their children have greater levels of job satisfaction than those who do not. They became less focused on their work, but this was not in any way detrimental to their careers. This has a circular effect on children since happier parents make for a happier childhood.
3. Improved self-esteem in children
The more time a child spends with the fathers, both alone and as part of a group, the greater confidence they grow up with. A study by academics at Pennsylvania State University in 2012 followed approximately 200 families. They found that children with involved fathers developed a higher sense of self-worth.
4. You represent healthy relationships
The reality is, the way you treat your children will create the benchmark for their future relationships. This is especially true of daughters who will model their expectations of a future husband on how their father treated them and their mother. Sons are also shaped by their father’s treatment of their mother and themselves and it can go on to influence how they engage with their future wife or children.
How to spend 1-2-1 time with your child
There are several things you, as a parent, can bear in mind when spending time with your child. Here are four key points to follow.
It is important to listen to your child without interrupting with your opinions. Listen with interest, and without being distracted.
2. Don’t judge
It is not a time for judgment. If you express negativity or disapproval, chances are, your child will not open up again. Be willing to listen without judgment.
It is important to be present and to enjoy your child’s company. Show interest in what they have to say, encourage them, and more importantly, enjoy them for who they are and all the unique qualities they possess. Unconditional love and acceptance from a parent are vitally important to a child’s emotional and psychological well-being.
4. Create memories
The memory bank is something important to build on as your children grow since they will remember more and more. It is these memories that will last your children throughout their lives. Happy and meaningful moments take a relationship through rocky times, and also soothe and comfort long after death has brought about separation in this world.
There are many benefits of spending one to one time with a child. Families usually collectively sit together, eat together, or travel together. However, for introverted children or parents, these life activities in a group rarely present time to be able to open up and get to know themselves as well as their children.
Spending one to one time can look different depending on the age and interests of your child. This can be going to play a sport together or having a coffee, or it can be staying in and playing a board game or reading together. It can be a trip to the local shopping center or a hike in the local woodlands. Be creative and select activities that you will both enjoy so that you look forward to spending time with each other.
Arguably though, there is no need to make things overly elaborate or complicated, and one to one time should not be limited to excursions outside the home. As parents, we often try to rush through the day like clockwork, making sure the schedule is met and everything is on time. Due to this, fathers and mothers can do their families a huge disservice by simply being disengaged from all their daily activities. Whether that is changing the nappy of a young baby, or help an older child into their pyjamas, day to day activities offer us ample unique opportunities to connect one to one with children that will help develop into unique, creative, and well-adjusted adults who are confident about their identity and by extension faith.
Remember that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “each one of you is a shepherd and every shepherd is answerable regarding his flock.” (Muslim) This applies to both mothers and fathers who will be asked about their responsibilities towards each other and their children. A shepherd cannot look after his flock without being attentive, caring, or spending time with his flock since his negligence can put it in harm’s way. Similarly, our children are a trust and we must endeavor to spend time raising them, teaching them, and being attentive to them as we are required to do. Ultimately, our children have the potential to be one of the greatest legacies we leave behind on this earth, as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “When a person dies, his deeds come to an end except for three: a continuous charity, or knowledge from which benefit is gained, or a righteous child who prays for him”. (Muslim)