“What are some of the ways in which you explain to kids that mom and
dad need time alone, without feeling guilty about it?”
A journalist, writing an article on having time alone and couple time
when you have kids, asked me this question.
Parents will feel guilty only when they believe that they are doing
something wrong by spending time alone and couple time without their
This is a false belief.
The truth is that children grow up far healthier emotionally when their
parents are happy and fulfilled, even if it means that their parents spend
less time with them. When parents understand that they are being good
parents by talking loving care of themselves and their relationship, their
children will understand this.
One way of helping children understand this is to introduce the concept
of “time alone” very early in a child’s life. By the time a child is three, he
or she can easily understand the concept of time alone. If, each time you
spend time alone with your child, you say, “This is our time alone,” your
child will begin to understand the concept. When you have time to
yourself, you can say, “This is my time alone with myself.” When you
spend time with your partner, you can say, “This is Mom and Dad’s time
alone together.” Parents can tell their children, as soon as they are
capable of understanding the words, “We need time alone with you, with
each other, and with ourselves. All of us need to respect this about each
Our three children fully understood the concept of “time alone” because
we spent time alone with each them. They came to understand and
respect at a very young age the need for time alone.
If you put yourself aside and don’t spend time with yourself and with
your partner, you are giving your children unhealthy role modeling. You
are teaching them that others are always responsible for meeting their
needs. You are teaching them to feel entitled to your time and attention
rather than helping them learn to respect others’ time. You are teaching
them that it is okay to demand that others put themselves aside for them,
which may create narcissistic behavior.
Healthy parenting means finding a balance between being with your
children, being with your partner, and being with yourself. For your
children to grow up taking responsibility for their own needs and
feelings, they need to see you taking responsibility for your needs and
feelings. Constantly sacrificing yourself for your children does not role
model personal responsibility.
Children need to experience you and your spouse enjoying your time
with each other, as well as with yourselves. They need to see you
pursuing your work, hobbies, creativity and passions in order to
understand that they also need to find their passions. If you are always
there to meet your children’s needs, how can they discover who they are
and what brings them joy? Always being there to meet your children’s
needs for entertainment creates a dependency on others rather than
finding these resources within themselves.
Many people grow up not knowing how to be alone with themselves.
Because they were either always in front of a TV or being entertained by
their parents, they never discovered how to “play by themselves.”
Of course it is very important to have enough time alone with your
children. But it is equally important to have enough time alone with your
spouse and with yourself. When you understand this, you will stop
feeling guilty about taking your time alone. When you no longer feel
guilty, your children will learn to stop guilting you and respect your
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