Five minutes might be all the attention your child needs

Are you finding it hard to devote enough time to your children during lockdown? Sarah Thompson, our copywriter, shares her experience of a positive parenting course where she learnt some helpful techniques.

Being a self-employed writer who works from home, going full lockdown hasn’t been too much of a leap for me. But having both of my children at home again, has reminded me of that familiar challenge of trying to work, while also being a parent. Mine are older now, (the oldest is 13, in year 8 at senior school, the youngest is in year 6 and now unlikely to ever return to primary school) and although they are way more self-sufficient these days, they are still more similar to toddlers than they would like to admit: erratic moods, unreasonable demands, a difficult relationship with vegetables. Having them around again has taken me back to those years before they started school, and had me searching the cupboards of my memory, for anything that might help me deal with this situation over the next few months. How on earth did I cope?

Because it is a very real physical and emotional tug, the strain of which should not be understated, defined for the most part by an overwhelming sense of guilt. The need to work and earn a living, up against not only the needs of your child, but your needs as a parent, to feel that you are doing the best you can for them. When they were small, the constant flitting from one sense of failure to the other and back around, was a kind of white noise that kept me up at night.

Sarah and her children

The thing that saved me was doing a Positive Parenting course at my local children’s centre. It was free, and there was a creche, and tea and biscuits and other mums to talk to and cry with. I am forever grateful for that course. They gave me loads of great advice (and you can find lots of stuff about positive parenting online) but the one thing that has stayed with me ever since, and I have found myself returning to over the past couple of weeks, is the five minute rule.

It’s a simple concept: when your children are demanding your attention and you would actually quite like to give them some but also need to work, you commit to spending a manageable amount of time really engaged with them (you guessed it: five minutes) and then you go back to your work and get on with what you need to do. It doesn’t mean you can’t spend longer with them at any time you want to, it just means that when you are feeling pulled in every direction and don’t have the time to build an elaborate marble run or craft a family of wooden spoons, you can cut yourself some slack and ‘engage’ the five-minute rule.

What can you do in five minutes? It might be as simple as a quick story, a game of Snap, a race to the bottom of the garden or watching their favourite cartoon with them. The point of the five minute rule isn’t so much about what you do, as the quality of your time (no being on your phone, ahem) and the fact that everyone knows it’s short and sweet.

Some other ideas include:

  • simple jigsaws
  • blowing up balloons
  • short imaginative games like a quick visit to the ‘shop’ or a cup of tea in the ‘cafe’
  • posting letters (real or imaginary)
  • drawing games like hangman or fortune tellers
  • building the highest tower in the shortest time
  • paper aeroplanes
  • watering plants
  • card games like Snap and other matching games

Why not have a go and let us know your five-minute ideas!