How to Overcome the 5 Most Common Obstacles to Consistent Special Time

Now that we know the magic of spending quality daily one-on-one time (Special Time) with our kids, we need to put it into action. Unfortunately, knowing something is important doesn’t always translate into making it a priority. I know it’s important to get enough sleep, to make an effort to connect with my husband, and to floss everyday, but do I always do these things? No!

So, what’s getting in the way of making Special Time a priority?

When I asked myself and the moms I work with, the most common responses were:

  • I’m overscheduled/don’t have time
  • I’m too tired
  • I have too much to do
  • I don’t know how to “play” with my child
  • I don’t enjoy “playing” with my child (ie. I’d rather fold laundry/do dishes/poke my eye out than play Paw Patrol. If you’ve had this thought, don’t feel bad--you’re in good company!)

Here are my tips on how to overcome these roadblocks to make Special Time an integral part of your and your child’s daily lives. (To revisit the benefits of Special Time, click here).

I Don’t Have Time. If you’re thinking, Are you insane? Between carpool, the baby, nap schedules, school pick-up, sports, meal prep, laundry, dishes, I hardly have time to catch my breath let alone do this “Special Time” every day! Sheesh! You’re not alone. I felt this way in the beginning.

How did I get started anyway? I started small. I looked at my schedule for the next day and I found a time frame when I could schedule 10 minutes of Special Time. I wrote it into my planner and committed to it. I took it one day at a time. The next night, I looked at my schedule again and found a 10-minute time slot. I wrote it down and committed to it.

After awhile, it became habit and 10 minutes turned into 15 and sometimes longer. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but I learned that “I don’t have time” usually means “I don’t want to make the time.”

Bottom line: Be intentional, plan ahead and put it in your schedule!

I’m Too Tired. Immersing ourselves in our child’s world takes energy. The demands of parenthood take a toll and sometimes we just can’t muster up the energy to play monsters/hide-and-go-seek/tea party. The antidote? Self-care. This is a hot topic for moms. It’s talked about so much that, for a lot of us, hearing the words “self-care” elicits an internal eye roll. Like, I know, I know, I need better self-care yada yada yada. I’m with you.

But, take a moment to think about this- If we aren’t taking care of ourselves, if we’re constantly running on empty, how can we possibly show up for our kids in an engaged and present way? It’s impossible! If parenthood has you hanging on by a thread, it’s time to dial up your self-care. Click here for self-care tips and a free self-care plan pdf.

I Have Too Much To Do. This is closely linked with “I don’t have time,” but it’s specific to household and personal to-dos. Often when we finally have some “down time” at home, we’re busy trying to conquer our endless internal to-do list- laundry, dishes, meal prep, making beds, picking up toys… the list goes on and on. Not to mention the texts, emails and voicemails we’ve yet to respond to. Interrupting our household and personal to-do lists to stop and do Special Time is no easy task (especially if you’re more anxiety-prone and/or type A).

This is especially hard for me. When I’m home and the house is a mess, I feel like I can’t do anything else until everything is back in its place. It takes major effort for me to leave the mess as is and engage with my kids. This is where intention and planning come in. Scheduling Special Time mitigates the internal struggle I have between wanting to finish my to-do list and knowing I should engage with my kids. When it’s already on my calendar for a specific time, it cancels out my internal negotiation. I know I’ll get to the to-do list after Special Time. The upside is that once my son has had my uninterrupted attention, he’s usually fine playing by himself while I tackle my to-dos.

I Don’t Know How to “Play” With my Child. This is a common sentiment amongst many of the moms I work with and is often said with embarrassment and guilt. Listen, it takes a special person to be “good” at playing with kids, especially young kids. Most of us are out of practice when it comes to imaginative play. So, don’t feel bad or embarrassed if you’ve had this thought. I’ve been working with kids since I was in junior high school and I’ve had this thought!

Creativity is not my strong point...I joke that while I aspire to be a “Pinterest Mom,” I’m actually the opposite. If you’re with me, I have good news: Playing with your child is easier than you think! If you struggle with channeling your inner imaginative child, all you need to do is narrate your child’s play. That’s it. Simple.

Son: Launching a monster truck off a mini ramp he’s constructed out of a skateboard and some Hot Wheel tracks.

You: “Wow, look how high that one launched!”

Son: “Mommy, now it’s your turn!

You: Send the monster truck down the ramp. “Whoa! Mine went really far!”

Son: Launches yet another monster truck.

You: “Oh no, that one crashed!”

See? You don’t have to come up with any creative ideas, all you have to do is engage with your child and narrate what’s happening.

Here’s another example:

Son: “Mommy, let’s play Star Wars. You be Darth Vader and I’ll be Luke.”

You: Showing an Academy Award-worthy reaction of excitement as your son hands you the Darth Vader figure, “Ok!”

Son: Makes Luke jump down from the table and land in front of your Darth Vader figure. “Darth Vader, you are evil and I will not let you destroy any more planets!”

You: “Luke, that was a good jump, what are you going to do next?” (You literally do not have to come up with witty banter or creative play, just narrate what your son or “Luke” is doing and ask questions. Your child will take it from there).

Take the pressure off yourself. You don’t have to be Ronald McDonald, Bill Nye the Science Guy or the amazing preschool teacher everyone is obsessed with in order to play with your child. You just have to be present, attuned, curious, and, most of all, delighted to be in your child’s world.

I Don’t Enjoy Playing with My Child. After acknowledging that they don’t know how to play with their kids, many moms admit that the truth is they don’t actually enjoy playing with their kids. This admission is always mired in shame. If you’re cringing right now, thinking, Oh my gosh, that’s exactly how I feel but I’m too ashamed to ever admit it to anyone, take a deep breath and let go of your shame. It’s TOTALLY NORMAL to feel this way!

I want you to say this with me, It’s ok that I don’t enjoy playing with my child.

Seriously, say it out loud. A few times. Ahhhh. Ok, now really let go of the shame.

If you’re reading this thinking, What? How could someone not enjoy playing with their kids? That’s crazy! Then you are a super rock star mom and we envy your childlike spirit. Also, you’re not the norm. Most of us struggle with this, so no judging!

Now that we’ve put this out there, breathed a sigh of relief that we’re not alone and let go of our shame, let’s break it down. The reason you don’t enjoy playing with your kids is most likely because you’re spent. You’re overwhelmed, overtired and overstressed. You literally don’t have it in you to give your one hundred percent, undivided attention to your kids. Having to engage for 15 minutes of launching monster trucks off a ramp is your version of hell on earth. Absolute torture.

I think you know where I’m heading….Self-Care.

I’m going to say it again.

We cannot take care of our kids if we don’t take care of ourselves.

Period. End of discussion.

Not enjoying playing with your kids is not because you’re a bad mom or you’re selfish or there’s something wrong with you. It’s because your needs need to be taken care of first before you can take care of your kids’ needs.

I promise you, when your needs are met and your tank is full, you will enjoy playing with your kids. I know this for a fact because I’ve lived it.

When my self-care was nonexistent, I couldn’t sit and play with my boys for even a few minutes without feeling distracted, antsy, and irritated. Now that I’m intentional about my self-care, I actually look forward to Special Time. I’m present, engaged, curious and truly delighted to play with my boys, even when it means playing Hot Wheels for the hundredth time (Ok, maybe I do have to channel my inner Meryl Streep once in awhile!).

If not enjoying playing with your kids is your main roadblock to Special Time, it’s time to prioritize your self-care. Here is a self-care plan worksheet to get you started.

Our kids need us. They need our undivided attention. They need to know we delight in being with them. Special Time is the best way we can communicate our love and meet these needs. Let me know what you think and what your biggest roadblock is. I’d love to hear from you!


Who has the time to read dozens of books on SPD?

Download my FREE 25 page PDF guide to Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder.

Hi! I'm Cameron, mom of two incredible, "differently-wired" boys who have sensory processing challenges, wife of a nerdy surfer, mindfulness practitioner and Parenting Coach with master's degrees in education and psychology.