Mama Care II: How to Teach Kids Quiet Time & Healthy Personal Space
Do you ever get time to sit quietly and just listen to the voice inside you? These days, we call checking our social media accounts during our break time at work or at home as “quiet time.” I’m guilty of this too, mama- there are times when I want to steal a 15 minute nap but indulge myself to just watch JUST one you tube video and before I know it, I’ve seen 10!
On most days, though, I commit to it. Why?
Quiet time in my household is part of self-care. Aside for my kids’ nap time, they get quiet times where they can enjoy their space alone and be interrupted only at their will during an allowable time frame (say, 20-30 minutes). I’ll show you in more detail how I taught this to my children but more importantly is why I do it.
I notice that women especially moms have a harder time leaving their space and when they do it’s not without guilt. In the Filipino culture, the proximity (personal space) you have with others is closer. in any particular space, there are more people that occupy this same space. If you’ve travelled back to the Philippines, you get this immediate sense once you’re in NAIA airport. Filipinos line up tighter, closer to each other. And have you observed how a small Volkswagen car can fit a basketball team-both teams? No kidding, they make commercials about this in the States like a fictional funny stint, but this stuff is for real in the islands and we’re not even trying to be funny!
Sharing is Caring, A Filipino Love Language
Filipinos and their love for sharing their space and being together with family is admirable. It’s this tender trait, one of them that makes foreigners whose first learned languages were, “ I got that first,” and “ I don’t like that,” stand in amazement by our unique love language.
In the Philippines, children as young as 2 (if they play the role of an ate/kuya) is bestowed with this value system to share. When the baby brother cries, the 2 year old ate is taught to read his cry, “ look at Junior, he is so sad (empathy), “ “ give the toy to him.” And when Ate does, she is usually applauded with a pat, a nod, a tender look, a verbal praise by an adult and soon learns that the most acceptable behavior is to share her space.
This is a beautiful thing.
Any love language in any culture can be used to its people’s detriment. This happens when people use the value of togetherness (or any cultural trait shared by a group of people), for example, to emotionally hold someone hostage because of the fear of being alone ( and other fears).
This is understandable, in a way, when a daughter who has now become a mother had not been taught the value of her personal space. How can she possibly teach it to her own child?. Why she seemed haggard and constantly complaining about the lack of time for herself; the time she refused to take even when carved out just for her is a brain teaser game.
Teaching children, especially girls, the value of their space through quiet time helps them love the value of togetherness even more.
These two values don’t belong to two opposing poles; they belong in a continuum.
This is the way we can raise Filipino (bi-racial, multi-racial, all the rainbow-racial included) girls to grow up joyful givers rather than self-sacrificial. This doesn’t mean we don’t make sacrifices at all because we mamas always do.
But, we do it with intention and as a gift so that when things go awry, we never have to look for the gift receipt for a return purchase.
How to Teach Quiet Time for Younger Children
If you have younger kids as young as 15 months, you can start this process with ease. The first thing I do to teach my child his personal space is during snack time. Instead of putting the baby in his high chair, I introduce the concept of boundary by using a blanket.
In this photo, Feliphe is 11 months old and he just woke up from his nap (check out the Afro), I place his snack on the blanket where I have him positioned to eat. Babies this age will keep attempting to venture out of the blanket, this is normal.
One of the ways to keep your child on the blanket is to keep a few interesting things on it, like a book or a favorite toy. Don’t put too much toy out as you want to communicate that it’s snack time and not playing time.
If your baby keeps crawling out of the blanket, gently take his food from his hand, place it back on the blanket. Teach your baby that when he’s ready to eat, he can do so by sitting on the blanket. Now, this takes stamina in the beginning as you would probably have to do this a few times each time. I promise you though that your child as early as 15 months can sit on your blanket at least long enough to get enough snack.
I want to caution you against power struggles. Please honor your child but not forcing them to sit on the blanket by physically restraining them or yanking them forcefully as they crawl out of it. Encourage your children by pointing or patting the blanket to communicate that you want them to sit there. You may also carry them back to the blanket gently.
Use stuff toys as pretend friends and place them all on the blanket to model this practice.
When your child is able to sit on a chair (not restrained seat like a high chair) move their snack time area to this place.
At this age until about 2 years old, this is their sacred, quiet place. They must understand personal space first before you can implement a quiet time zone.
Quiet time zone is simply the time of the day I schedule our quiet time. On most days, it between 10:30-11am.
Quiet Time for Children 18 months to 3 years old
At this age, a crib is an excellent place to implement your quiet time zone. I had my girls stay in their crib ‘til they were 3 years old. If your child is 21/2 and is already sleeping in his bed. Use this bed or continue to use a crib or an old playpen. The key is to be able to leave them in a safe place, unsupervised for a short period of time.
You want to implement this on most days so that your child can get used to it.Here’s what you would need:
I have a visual timer, hard-bound books and some type of music source to play soothing music (I use my cellphone).
First, explain to your child –
We are having quiet time. quiet time is your special time to play alone so you can have fun by yourself and will have lots of energy later to play with others.
Explain to your child using the visual timer,
You have 20 minutes to read by yourself, relax, stretch if you like. I need you to stay in your crib (or bed, playpen). When the sand in this timer all goes at the bottom, this means quiet time is over. I’ll be back in a few minutes to check on you. Have fun!
For the books, or if you’re using specific toys (they need to be toys or books your child does not have access to except for this special time). Keep the books/toys at a minimum. I give 2-3 books at a time and return half-way through the designated end time. For example for 30 minutes I return in 15 minutes to switch books and assure my kids that I will return in another 15 minutes. If you’re using toys, give another set of toys half way through. During this time, I speak and move in a slow pace and I ensure my tone is quieter than my usual tone.
When you practice this and your children get used to it. It’s quite magical. They learn to appreciate not being over-stimulated, they find ways to self-soothe and mama gets to drink coffee, the drip kind ‘coz you’ve carved out extra time for it. Why not!
Quiet Time for Children 4-11 years Old
The younger you start teaching your kids quiet time, the easier it gets to implement it as they get older. But if you haven’t yet, no worries, it’s not too late to start but it does take a little bit more effort and time in the beginning. This time to teach is so minuscule to the exchange of time that you will get back in return, so it will be worth your while.
One way to establish quiet time and make it fun is by putting together quiet time boxes.
If you consistently plan to have 3 days of quiet time in your household, prepare 3 boxes.
If you don’t have time for this, you can always purchase coloring books, manipulates at the dollar store, and any other toy that can be played with solo flight.
This is the age that you can really teach the value of quiet space that translates to girls growing up to be women who know how to joyfully give because they have been taught the value of their personal space.
In my household, I keep each child in a different room and leave them with their quiet time boxes. Similar to how I would’ve explained it to a toddler, I recant our guidelines for quiet time, something like this-
Finally you get to play and just relax on your own. Here’s your quiet box (i explain what’s inside briefly). Have fun. You will stay in your room for 30 minutes but I’ll be back in 15 minutes (at this age, I point to the clock for their reference) to check on you to see if you need anything. If you’re finished with your box, no problem, put the stuff away and you can relax, think about stories in your head or just wait for mommy.
About half-way through, I intentionally knock on a kid’s door, and asks, “May I come in?” They love this part and sometimes will hold their, hmmmmm (as if thinking) , a little longer before giving me a response. I can tell they love that I honor their space and that I respect their personal boundaries by not even twisting the door knob unless given permission to do so, after a few sec, they continue… “ok, mommy, you may come in.”
I at least do this 2x during this process. This is an intentional move for me as a therapist mom because I want to teach my girls healthy boundary setting. Often, we find ourselves as women consciously or unconsciously allowing others to violate our space in the name of love, and in the name of not being “ left alone.”
By teaching our children, their personal space, the value of alone time, and the sacredness of quiet spaces, bartering their worth for love loses its power. What becomes familiar to them is this sacred space where people get together for connection, for genuine togetherness and not just to fill an empty space.
Quiet Time for For Older Kids
Our older kids are inundated with sensory stimulation from all kinds of electronic devices & social media influence that leaves them oblivious of their own little voice inside them. It’s important to bring our children closer to listening to their senses so they can again rely on their gut.
This language, “trust your gut,” is complex these days for our older kids because when the voice of the world drowns their voices, trusting their inner voice becomes tricky. The question-Which one? Comes to play.
Most kids this age prefer to be alone in their room or to hang out with friends. Many parents complain, “ I don’t see him unless I call him out for dinner.” Assess what your teen needs at this time. If he is getting too much alone time, spend a little bit more time connecting ( play game boards, card games or just have a conversation), and vice versa.
Children don’t just listen through the words we utter, they listen so much more with how we make them feel.
Do you remember when you were told how beautiful you were, talented or helpful once upon a time in your childhood? You might not remember the facts around it, but the cozy feeling it gave you motivated you to create more avenues to reap the same effect.
Give warm feelings to your children like baon (to-go wrapped food) in their hearts so that they hopefully will only entertain genuine ones from others.
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For older kids with activities
You can do it. Imagine.
Roanne has been a Psychotherapist for more than 12 years. She has frequented at least 400 Filipino homes and counting. She is the author of the Ebook: 5 Pinoy Love Languages and the creator of the presentation entitled: Filipino Core Values & Considerations in Culturally Responsive Care.
Roanne has been a Psychotherapist for more than 15 years. She has frequented at least 500 Filipino homes and counting. She is the author of the Ebook: 5 Pinoy Love Languages and the creator of the presentation entitled: Filipino Core Values & Considerations in Culturally Responsive Care. To access self-paced courses and other resources, enter the Kalamansi Juice Academy.
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