This article talks about quality time, its meaning, and what it entails.
There is a difference between merely spending time with your child versus spending quality time with them. So let's first start by asking: which of the following do you think is quality time?
Taking a bus home after fetching your child from school
Taking a bus with your child to the beach for a picnic
The answer: both can be quality time or none can be quality time. It depends on what goes on during the journey. Quality time should include conversations that facilitate the sharing of thoughts and feelings. For example, if both bus journeys consists of meaningful conversations, both can be classified as Quality Time. However, if both bus journeys only entail boarding and alighting from one location to another and there is minimal interaction between the parent and child, then it is simply a transportation trip with no Quality Time.
So what are some types of conversations that are considered “meaningful”? This can be done through (A) Story-telling, or (B) Self-disclosure.
Children enjoy listening to stories. Stories can be fictional such as those from story books, or non-fictional such as the sharing of day-to-day or real life encounters. During the story telling, you may pause occasionally to help your child identify their emotions and guide them to reflect on their own behaviors. This is counted as quality time as there is meaningful interaction between you and your child.
The other type of conversation you can have with your child is self-disclosure. It can be as simple as you sharing about your younger days, and your reflection about these memories. You may also ask them about how they feel about your sharing, or what would they have done similarly or differently, and why so.
Such conversations are meaningful, and can help shape your child’s emotional maturity. By helping your child learn to identify emotions, it will path the way for better emotional self-regulation and mental wellness. When you self-disclose, you are actually putting yourself in a vulnerable position, subjecting yourself to the other party's judgement. This coveys to your child that you trust them enough to share your secrets, and this will help your child understand your values and beliefs.
So What Does Quality Time Mean?
In short, even having a meal together can be quality time if the meal entails meaningful conversations and interactions. On the contrary, a planned vacation trip to a holiday destination may not contain any quality time if everyone is very disengaged. It is also important to note that any form of unhappiness or negative emotions automatically eliminates any sort of quality time. This is because interactions are now no longer meaningful, and the child is unable to feel the love from their parents.
Hence, the process is more important than the event. Even without planned activities, you may actually be spending quality time with your child - if there are meaningful conversations or interactions between the both of you!