Published On: 27 June 2018

You may have seen the journalist and broadcaster Martin Daubney talking about special time on the Wright Showlast week as a result of his taking part in a Strengthening Families, Strengthening Communities programme in South London.  Special Time is a crucial part of the SFSC approach and an important tool for parents, it is important to understand the way this strategy fits into our programme.

A key factor enhancing child outcomes is a good healthy relationship with their parent.  Relationships are living things that have to be nurtured, they require investment, time and energy to thrive, the SFSC Strategy that is Special Time enables parents to do just that.

Special Time in SFSC is very different to the familiar concepts of quality or even family time, both of which have a place in raising children.  Special Time however requires one on one attention.  This individual focus sends a clear message to our children that they are important amongst our other priorities and likeable for themselves, which can promote inner confidence and build their self-esteem.

However for many parents, we can be so preoccupied looking after a child’s general needs, important necessary things like cooking, cleaning, transporting, and other ongoing chores, that we fail to get to know the child to whom we are invested.

Children change their focus fast. Their likes and dislikes can change with their development but also at a whim.  ‘No one listens to me’ ‘No one cares what I think’ ‘that I am scared, or am angry’ are important inner thoughts children may experience. Special Time provides an important vehicle to hear and appreciate your child’s thoughts and feelings.  This can prevent difficult situations from escalating when children are given a safe place to work through everyday issues.

The strategy reconnects parent and child amidst the struggle of everyday life, it provides a haven for now and the future.  Every time the parent shows up with their undivided attention, this supports their love for the child, builds a foundation of trust and an atmosphere where co-operation ensues.  Not least, spending Special Time can deepen empathy for our child so we can be more in tune and compassionate to their needs and view point.  This understanding helps us to better use strategies and choices which support and develop our child, that is to say, work with rather than inadvertently working against the child now we know what makes them tick.

Younger children benefit from short bursts of Special Time of up to 15 minutes per day, graduating to an hour twice a week for older children.  This window of time should be ring-fenced and protected for the purpose of nurturing the relationship. The SFSC approach to Special Time emphasises that parents must engage with their child on a different level. This means only asking questions to help the child think, resisting direction or criticism, and whilst there may be plenty of that going on outside Special Time, it is important to listen to your child, avoid distractions, be present in the moment, and share information about yourself so they can get to know you too.  The only agenda here is the relationship.

The challenge, for some parents, will be embedding this approach when the relationship is already fractured or broken, but there are a number of ways SFSC can support reconnecting the parent child relationship.

All children deserve Special Time, not as a treat to be increased or decreased dependent on behaviour or motivation, but as important to overall wellbeing.  Special Time further facilitates good relationships across the whole family when all children’s needs are met in this way all relationships thrive.

As preventative maintenance, the Special Time approach in SFSC is the gift that keeps on giving, an investment that can pay immediate dividends, and create future stability as it promotes a violence free healthy parent and child relationship leading to better outcomes for children.

Sadly, Martin Daubney did not have enough air time to speak in detail about either the Special Time strategy or other elements of the SFSC programme, we are sure that if the opportunity had arisen, we would have heard more from him about how this programme can help families.

If you would like to find out about programmes in your area please fill in the form here or give us a call on 0207 428 1880.