19 Minutes



Kids’ Corner | By Patrick Biron –

What if you were told each day you would only receive 19 minutes of quality time with your child? In those 19 minutes, you still need to raise a happy, healthy and good person.

Your first reaction would probably be horror. How on earth could anyone raise a child with less than 20 minutes per day? Is it even possible to be a parent in less time than an episode of Dora the Explorer?

A study by the Office for National Statistics revealed that the average full-time, working parent only spends 19 minutes of quality, one-on-one time with their child each day. While my own initial reaction was horror, when I really stopped to think about it, I realized that there is a big difference between being in the same room with my children and spending quality time with them. As working parents, we are faced with two main questions. First, what can we do to increase the time we dedicate to parenting our kids? Second, what can we do to maximize the effectiveness of the short time we can create?

I’ve started by making a new rule in my house, which is that for at least half an hour a day I play with and talk to my kids without a phone, computer or television in the same room. I unplug. It sounds simple enough, but I realized with a sizable amount of shame that I spent more time checking emails each day than I did purposely parenting my kids. In reality, the emails can wait, and despite what our social norms have taught us, if I don’t respond to someone’s text for half an hour, they will actually survive and not spontaneously combust. For that single half-hour, my kids become my only focus. I don’t try to multi-task, bring them on errands or worry about work or my next deadline. It is not easy, but I still try every day and am getting better.

Most kids’ television shows last about 23 minutes once commercials are factored in. But, within those 23 minutes, the shows are not only able to engage, entertain and speak to kids on their level, but they usually have a lesson they try to teach. It might be the importance of sharing or including those who are normally outsiders. Perhaps it is forgiving those who hurt us or apologizing for our own mistakes. But somehow, magically, Dora is able to throw glowing acorns into the magic stump, cross the golden bridge, play the rainbow flute and stop Swiper from swiping all within 23 minutes, while still getting across a message about friendship. Touché Dora.

So yesterday, I brought my son to the park for half an hour. I didn’t check any emails. We threw some pebbles into the lake, and we used that time to talk about why we don’t throw trash there instead. We crossed a wooden bridge, since the only golden bridge I know of is in San Francisco. Then, we played some pretty sweet air flutes. And while we didn’t meet any masked foxes, we spent 30 minutes bonding and learning, without having to fast forward through a single commercial.

I bet my son won’t remember what happened on an episode of Dora a few years from now, but maybe he will remember our day at the park when we threw pebbles, crossed a bridge and played our air flutes.