“What to do with the Children?”

by Yura and Tanya Sokolovski

We remember the period of our life when we attended the Family Ministry School in Norway. At that time our two sons were 3 and 7 years old. We arrived in Norway with high expectations and our heads plunged into our studies. A few days after the beginning of the school, we ran into a problem: it was impossible to make our children go to sleep at night, and this continued every evening. Then when we needed to prepare our homework late at night, our children would make loud noises for several hours, knocking, screaming, and forcing us to to repeatedly go to their room to calm and discipline them, so they wouldn’t disturb us and our neighbors. Reasoning or disciplining worked for a very short time; we simply got tired of it. In search of a solution we talked to Maria Jacobs, one of our school leaders. To our question, “what to do with the children?”, she asked: how much time do you spend with them? We looked into how much time we were spending with them, and it appeared that during a work-week we were only spending time with them during dinner. Maria then suggested to set aside 15 minutes every evening before putting them to sleep and spend time in their room playing with them and talking. That same evening we decided to do it: we came to their room and sat down with them on the floor, picked up some of their toys and talked about what had happened that day. After talking, we prayed and I asked them to put down their toys and go to bed. This was the first evening that we didn’t have to calm them down.

Spending just 15 minutes with them every day made their behavior completely different. What did this time mean to them? Or for us? We began to understand the importance of spending time together as a family. We understood that investing time into each other gets rid of feelings of abandonment, replacing them with a feeling of being needed and wanted. It helps us to be on the same wavelength, to understand each other’s feelings. This is something incredibly important in relationships. Married couples and children especially need committed time dedicated to them. In accordance with research by John Gottman, successful married couples spend 86% of their time together, unsuccessful marriages – only 33%. We get to know each other by spending more time together. Without knowing each other we can’t trust each other and build close relationships. It is important that this time is meaningful for both of us.

We learned to spend more time together, creating a tradition of family evenings when we spent time together. Once per weekend, we each took turns on how to spend this time. We played games, learned new things, performed skits, dreamed about the future. We tried to preserve this time as a priority, and our children were the ones to remind us not to plan anything else instead. I think this time helped us to keep involved with our children when they became teens. Spending time one on one, sometimes one spouse and one child, this became part of our normal lifestyle. A walk to a cafe, fishing, bicycle rides, crafts, these are some ways we can spend quality time together. The best thing we can invest into a relationship is quality time spent together. Gifts and objects will not replace that.

Time connects people, builds self-confidence, teaches us how to grow in our relationships, helps in difficult moments in life, allows us to share our joy, and allows us to nurture traditions and values that are carried through the generations.

Yura and Tanya Sokolovski work with YWAM Family Ministries in Ukraine (Eastern Europe).