A Communication Tip for the Holidays and Beyond: “Me Time”

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Have you ever been in a conversation where you were so busy formulating a response that you missed what the other person said altogether? Sometimes I think life happens this way; life as a conversation where we are only half-way committed, half-way listening. Many times we are so fixated on predicting what happens next that we miss out on the actual moment as it happens. We miss what was said. We miss the moment. We miss the whole point.

I had an opportunity to attend a communication skills workshop sponsored by my son’s school called, “Communicating with Family Members During the Holidays” and how to have less stress and more cooperation. I can use all the help I can get, so I went. And I was pleasantly surprised.

First, the facilitator had us play a game. A volunteer told a story about a happy event in her life. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the volunteer, half of the room was told to ignore her. All I had to do was whip out my smartphone and become consumed. I didn’t listen to a word she said. I got wrapped up in my Internet world and tuned her out. It was really easy to do.

Her point? We, as adults, ignore our kids sometimes. How does it feel when someone is talking to you and, while you very well may be listening, are staring at your smartphone? Sure, you don’t mean to do it. But there it is! That smartphone is attached to your hand and you can’t seem to get rid of it. It’s like a leech, sucking the juices out of your brain. I know, because I do it.

Then, the facilitator introduced “Me Time.” The idea is very simple. You give your child your undivided attention for a scheduled time of 10 to 15 minutes. That’s not a lot of time, right? Anyone can do that.

“Me Time” is based on principles of play therapy, which may be more widely practiced with younger children. This session of “Me Time” could even be called “Mommy and Johnny Time,” for example, or whatever makes sense for your child. My 12-year-old son has called it, “The Dreaded Time with Mom.” So, whatever works. Really, it can work for anyone at any age, including your resistant teenager.

There are few parameters for a successful session of “Me Time.” They are as follows:

  1. Schedule the 10-15 minute period of “Me Time.” I know it’s only 10-15 minutes, but if it’s scheduled it may feel more special and purposeful.
  2. Your child chooses the activity. Got that one? Your child chooses! And you must do it no matter what! If your child wants you to hop around on one foot and blow bubbles, then that’s what you must do. If your child wants to watch TV, that’s what you do. If your kid wants to play on his smartphone and ignore you, that’s your activity.
  3. Considering #2, you may suggest that the chosen activity not break any family rules (like no balls in the house).
  4. There’s no need to spend money. The activity is for such a short period, there’s really no need. Still, if you to make certain the focus is away from money, you may want to state this up front.
  5. As the parent, you cannot correct or direct the activity. Also important, you cannot ask, “Why?” Your child may view this as judging.
  6. You can’t play unless you’re asked. Don’t assume your child necessarily wants you to be involved. This idea coincides with the idea of play therapy where the child may need time to work something out. This is best done without any interference. You are merely an observer if this happens.

Discuss these parameters openly before you engage in “Me Time.” There’s no need for secrets. Truly, I think this idea could work for any relationship, even spouses or significant others. Why not? I have yet to try that, but I did try this idea with my kids.

This is what happened with my 9-year-old. First we cuddled in his blanket cave and made funny faces at each other. Then, he did a series of musical numbers where he got up to sing and dance. I clapped and cheered. He was hilarious and clearly wanted to show off his dance moves. I had no idea. This is not something he does that often and, clearly, he wanted an audience.

When it came to my 12-year-old, he said, “I thought you were kidding. Really?” First, he wanted me to wait outside his room. His little joke. Come to find out, he needed help with his homework, so that’s what we did. To make up for that, we watched a few “Dear Diary” cat videos. Those are always a good laugh!

But the biggest eye-opener? It was so relaxing to surrender my time voluntarily to someone else. To not be in charge or direct. To just listen. To be completely present. It felt so refreshing and helped me refocus my energy on my kids when it goes astray as, of course, it happens even with the best intentions. I highly recommend you give it a shot, especially during the busy holiday season when you feel short of time and stressed. I bet the more often you share this experience with your kids, the more insightful it will become and maybe, just maybe, communication will improve all around.

Time, that thing we’re always chasing or running out of. Why not carve out a little space for the important people in your life and share the gift of time spent together?

photo credit: Merry Christmas! via photopin (license)

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32 thoughts on “A Communication Tip for the Holidays and Beyond: “Me Time”

      1. Absolutely – I think kids can really suffer from a lack of human interaction and time spent with them where they receive our undivided attention, like you said here. I know I’m often guilty of this, and it makes me feel bad… plus I think about the example I’m setting as a parent for my kids. That’s wonderful that a workshop like that is available – need more resources like that for parents it seems, with the never-ending rise in technology. 🙂

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      2. I think it happens to all of us. We get sucked in and distracted by everything “out there.” My child has said to me, “Good communication means having eye contact, Mom.” Whoops! Yes, technology is the bane of our existence for all the good it does. Finding the balance is the key. I think that’s the why the scheduling is good. You’re committed! Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Kelly. I appreciate it.

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  1. I’m so glad you wrote about this. Few things make me sadder than seeing a child longing for his or her parent’s attention while the parent is oblivious on the phone. The parent interjects here or there but isn’t fully listening. I can’t help but think, “Someday your child will be grown and gone. You’ll never get these moments again. Why waste them?” So carving out me-time and child-centered time is well worth our best effort. Great post, Amy.

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    1. Oh, and they grow so fast! Here my teenager is reluctant to do this! Hopefully, the more we do it, the better it will get. I really want to keep it up. My kids kind of laugh at me, but I don’t care. It is about setting an example and maybe this will be a good one for them to use later in their lives. Thanks so much, Carrie. Thanks for the tweet! 🙂

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  2. Such amazing advice! This can definitely apply to all relationships. I don’t have children but I struggle with the lack of focused attention with pretty much all my friends and family, specially my younger siblings. Taking the time to connect with no phones, no judgement, no direction can have such a deep effect on relationships and I will definitely try this. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Wonderful, Karina! I think this can definitely be applied to any relationship. I think we can learn so much when we start listening, instead of always directing people or making plans. I hope you get a chance to try it out! Thanks for your thoughtful comments and for the visit!

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  3. That is a great tip. However, my 28 year old child lives 600+ miles away! LOL! But I will say that I do make time to talk to her on the phone if she calls me. We have a good relationship and we can talk about almost anything.
    I think scheduled “time” is very important and I can do that with my hubby. Thanks for the share Amy!! 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Courtney. It may be hard to do long distance with your daughter, but sure why not with hubby? I think it helps when it’s scheduled as it’s more likely to happen. I need to do this with my husband, too. I hope you get a chance to do it. You’re welcome!

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  4. My kids and I do this. Yay! I’m doing something right! With my daughter I usually end up drinking “coffee” and eating “food” as a customer in her “restaurant.” Though sometimes we draw or read books. With my son, it’s usually either legos or puzzles. It’s such a precious time.

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  5. Funny because I feel like I’m always trying to be present listening to them and asking and being as they talk at me or sit on me. And you mean to tell me I only have to do it for 10 – 15 minutes time? What a sucker I’ve been. Ha.
    Yes Fiona said “put your phone down Mommy” but that was after the whole day with her. Sheesh.
    Love Ya’ Much,
    Shalagh

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    1. The difference with the “Me Time” is it’s kid directed (or by the person other than you). Many interact, etc, but may not have that as its center. I’m sure you do lots of listening, Shalagh! I don’t doubt that for a second. I remember those days. They’re precious, but also very challenging! Thanks for reading. Love ya, Amy

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      1. I was being funny and sarcastic. I guess that didn’t come across. I was being facetious because my kids are spoiled with Me Time because I had none growing up and I know the only way you develop a sense of self importance in a kid is by their mirror of the Mama. I swore I’d give them what I didn’t get. Sorry I didn’t make it clear I was being flippant.

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    1. It seems totally doable, right? I was surprised how it still took some planning with my older son.:) I hope you get lots of time your daughter! Oh, I’m so excited for you. It will come up quick, Audra. Enjoy!

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