What if we told you that dedicating just 15 minutes a day playing with your child, can significantly improve your relationship with them? We caught up with Clinical Psychotherapist Joanna Fortune to chat about her new book 15-Minute Parenting: The Quick and Easy Way to Connect with Your Child.
A lot can happen in 15 minutes.
You can paint your nails, do the laundry, watch the first half of Coronation Street or even have a quick power nap.
But what if we told you that by spending just 15 minutes a day playing with your child would significantly enhance your relationship with them?
Joanna has created this go-to handbook that maps out how to rediscover play as an adult, to better communicate and engage with your child – all in just 15 quick minutes!
How did 15-Minute Parenting come about?
I always felt I had this book in me and wanted it to be a way of bringing together my twenty years of experience working with children and families in a way that would empower and equip parents to use therapeutic techniques with their children at home.
15 Minute Parenting was inspired by busy parents. A lot of parents I spoke to felt that they only had about 15 minutes left to spend with their children, after they finish work, collect them from the childminder’s, make the dinner and prepare the children for bed.
So, I developed my “15 minutes a day system” which focuses on what you can do and how small consistent changes make impactful differences in the parent-child relationship.
Could you describe what is involved with this technique and the benefits?
My system is that if you spend 15 minutes a day engaging your child in mindful play, you will see significant positive changes in your relationship with your child.
Children thrive on calm, clear, consistent parenting and just being able to predict with certainty that you will be joining them in this playful moment of meeting each day will mean they are less likely to act out to get your attention.
Play is the language of children.We must communicate with our children in their language, so this means embracing the silly and getting down on the floor to play with them.
What’s the best way parents can help their child to become an emotionally resilient adult?
Play with them, daily! Laugh, have fun, enjoy them and teach them that they are enjoyable.
Then give them opportunities to practice developmentally appropriate chores (in my book I talk about how you can start this from 2 years old), to take healthy and positive risks and let them fail so that they can learn from it.
Love them, believe in them and model all of the above in your own behaviour for them to take their lead from you.This is what builds resilience.
Does every child need to be parented differently?
Yes, because every child is different.
What works for one child in your family may not work with another, which can be frustrating and even overwhelming as you may find yourself having to juggle multiple parenting styles all at once
Are children having the same issues today, as they were over the last 30 years?
Yes and no. Modern family life is fundamentally different now to 30 years ago.
- Many families have two parents working outside of the home
- Third party childcare has become the norm for many children
- Screen-based technology dominates our households.
But children still need what they have always needed - calm, clear, consistent and predictable parenting responses.They need the presence of their parents and to feel loved and enjoyed by their parents.
What advice would you give to parents who may be self-conscious about the thoughts of ‘play’?
Take a deep breath and embrace the silly!
In adult living, we hardly ever get the chance to be truly silly and to get out of our heads, down into our emotional selves. We were all children once, and we all knew how to draw pleasure from play.
We may be rusty in which case defer to your children, they are experts in play and will show you how.
Could you give some examples of some simple ways to incorporate 15 minutes of play with your child into your day?
For some families - playing in the morning is best and for others, it is the evening time. For some, it will be 15 whole minutes, and for others, it will start in 3 x 5-minute bursts.
Don't overthink it, just start doing it in the way that works for your family.
My book details activities for one-to-one time/activities for 3 or more people/activities in the car/from your armchair/around bath time and bedtime/more active and robust mixed with softer and more-gentle approaches - there is a way to play for everyone!
You will need one cotton ball:
- Invite your child to close their eyes or avert their gaze away from you and touch parts of their body with the cotton ball (using enough pressure so that they feel it) they must guess without peeking if it was their elbow/shoulder/knee/hand/nose/chin etc.
- Place the cotton ball in your cupped palms and sitting opposite your child blow the cotton ball from your hands into theirs and then they blow it back to you. Sit closer or further apart depending on how able your child us for this game.
- Take the cotton ball and invite your child to lie down and close their eyes and just take deep relaxing breaths. You are going to give them a cotton ball face massage using enough pressure to ensure it is neither sore nor tickly. You trace around their face, around their cheeks, down their nose, under their chin etc. This one is silent and is a great one at bedtime