I’m a mom of three boys. I used to hate grocery shopping; I would drag all three kids into the grocery store ready for battle. Each of my three children seemed to become more challenging, and I couldn’t focus my attention on any one child. I was simply putting out fires while I tried to buy food.
After many crazy grocery store trips, I started shopping alone. In order to make this work I had to go on weekends, giving up family time, or evenings, thus sacrificing “me time.” Then one evening, when my youngest had taken a late nap and wasn’t ready for bed, I decided to take him with me. With only one child to manage, his “grabbing things off the shelf” bit was playful and an invitation to be silly. I came home feeling positive, and a new tradition was born.
As busy parents, it is easy to overlook the gift of time we can give our kids. Despite often being physically together all day, my children never really got my full time and attention. With so many needs to be met, my husband and I felt like we were always in triage mode and missing the chance to enjoy our children, until we instituted a policy of giving each kid some one-on-one time each week.
The difference in our children’s behavior after introducing regular one-on-one time has been dramatic, and the benefits to us as their parents has been equally dramatic. We have seen improvement in attention-seeking behavior, gained deeper insight into our children’s inner thoughts and dreams, and have a greater ability to let our children’s interests guide our interactions. Spending one-on-one time changed our family dynamic for the better.
Making Time for Special Time
This one-on-one time might sound time-consuming, but here are five easy strategies to schedule one-on-one time into your weekly routine.
Use Errands for One-On-One Time.The game-changing moment for us was realizing the power of errands. My husband and I have a quick conversation about who could use some one-on-one time and then we invite that kid to go on an errand trip. While running the errand our child can choose the music or decide to talk. They get to help with the errand and usually pick out a few things for the family as well. We largely avoid the huge meltdowns because the kids are enjoying having fun with us, and it makes us look forward to running errands as well.
Let Their Interests Guide You.We are always on the lookout for activities that match our kids’ interests, then we book just two tickets. For example, my oldest boy loves to go to tea. In reality, he probably just associates high tea with a multi-tiered dessert offering! Whenever we are on longer trips, we find a place for me to have high tea with him. It is a great way to have some special time doing something that would be more challenging with both his brothers around. Meanwhile, my husband takes the two littler ones to a playground, which is much more fun for them anyway.
Utilize Other Adults.One-on-one time doesn’t have to be with you. We don’t live near family, but when they come to visit or join us on a trip we ensure they have special time with each child. This is usually the most precious time of their trip. My middle child always goes to get ice cream with his Grandpa; he will plan for weeks ahead of a visit where they are going to go and which flavor he will choose.
Change Up Your Seating Arrangement.With five of us in the family we have to split up rows when traveling on public transportation. Sometimes we even need two hotel rooms. We use this time to get special time. Instead of booking the seats all together, we arrange to have the set of three sit a bit away from the set of two. This lets the people in the set of two have some special time without the distraction of the rest of the family. On a recent flight I spent nearly the whole time coloring with my middle child and laughing about our funny color choices while my husband was happily playing with the other two.
Complete Household Projects Together.Much like running errands together, there is an opportunity in your daily routines for special time. My four-year-old loves to help my husband cook dinner. My six-year-old loves our laundry folding time and often asks if we have anything to fold. The one-year-old enjoys picking up toys and putting them into baskets. Each boy loves spending time with us getting things done around the house.
The most amazing thing about adding a little one-on-one time into your schedule is that parents also end up with more time for themselves. In our house we’ve noticed that when our kids know one-on-one time is in the schedule, they are less needy overall. I find more quiet moments in the evening since bedtime doesn’t drag on forever. The childrens’ deep need for connection is met more quickly one-on-one, and after spending time with an adult they are often excited to be back with their siblings for a different dynamic.
QUESTION: Where in your schedule can you find one-on-one time with your children?
CHALLENGE: Consider when you can spend one-on-one time with your children this week, perhaps using one of the strategies described above. Schedule that time in advance and make it a priority.
Edited by Deborah Nash and Nollie Haws.
Image provided by the author.