WHAT: Advocates for Children’s Annual Parenting Matters Conference

WHEN: 8:30 to 3:30 p.m., Saturday, April 9

WHERE: Central Maine Community College, Auburn

COST: $30 per person

TO REGISTER: call 783-3990

NOTE: Scholarships and off-site child-care available

Together time
Wondering how to carve more time for your children out of your hectic schedule? The answer may be in your most ordinary and everyday routines.

Parenting conference focuses on “quality time,” setting limits and other child-rearing challenges.

You have to drop your daughter off at soccer practice. Your son needs to be picked up from his piano lesson and your toddler is waiting for you at day-care. Oh, and you need to stop at the cleaners, pick up some milk and figure out what and when everyone will eat dinner. And what about those four loads of laundry that need to be done?

If you are a parent, this schedule probably sounds familiar.

In the midst of fast-paced routines, moms and dads are being urged through magazines, books and other media to spend more “quality time” with their children.

Are parents being stretched beyond their limits? And what is the definition of “quality time” anyway?

Dr. Will Wilkoff, a practicing pediatrician for nearly 30 years in Brunswick, will speak to these and other related issues at the 14th Annual Parenting Matters Conference hosted by Advocates for Children on Saturday, April 9, at Central Maine Community College in Auburn.

“Many parents come into my office and express a concern that they are not spending ‘quality time’ with their children,” said Wilkoff. “In most families both parents are working and they worry that they don’t have time for ‘quality time.’ “

Wilkoff believes that it is important for all of us to look at how we got here and to figure out who is defining “quality time.” Several years ago, families had several children and no one was expected to spend one-on-one time with each child. Now, we live in a society where families have fewer children so each child becomes a higher priority, he pointed out.

Recent research has shown that a child’s first few years are critical to his or her development. Companies, like Baby Einstein, have responded by flooding the market with thousands of baby products they claim parents need to spend “quality time” with their children.

Wilkoff encourages families to forget the products and to stop looking to the media for the definition of “quality time” – and to, instead, look to their own children.

“I can remember my son sitting on a clothes hamper watching me shave every morning. He enjoyed it,” Wilkoff said, stressing “quality time” can be simply watching Mom and Dad go about their daily routines. Parents can chat with youngsters and even encourage them to participate in whatever they’re doing. If you have to vacuum, give your child a toy vacuum and let her “help” you, Wilkoff urged. As your child gets older, he can help you fold laundry and prepare meals.

Wilkoff also suggests that parents might want to examine how they are currently spending their time. For example, if they lived closer to work, they might be able to spend more time with their children because they wouldn’t be on the road as much. He also reminds parents that children are often at their best early in the morning. Parents might consider going to bed a little earlier themselves so they can enjoy some “quality time” with their children in the morning. If everyone gets up early enough, “breakfast can be the family meal,” Wilkoff said.

Colleen Lunn Scholer is a freelancer and a member of the board of directors for Advocates for Children. She lives in Auburn with her husband and 17-month-old son.

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