Monday, March 12, 2018

Make it special: Take time for one-on-one parent-child dates

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If you have multiple kids, or even just multiple parents, you might have the worry of how to give one-on-one attention to a child, apart from the spotlight-hogging of siblings or everyday routines. Your kids will relish time to be with a parent free from distractions, with all the attention for the space of a special outing.

My husband recently instituted a new family custom of parent-kid outings, where each child gets a special date with each parent. We have three kids, so he set up Saturdays on our family calendar with a code for which parent goes out with which child, and it rotates around so that every three weeks, a child gets a date, and every six weeks, both parents will have gone out with each child. Did that math make sense? Let's assume so.

Here are a couple reasons that prompted us to try for some one-on-one special bonding time with each child:

  • Sam had been working a lot recently, so his time with just the kids was scattershot and hurried. In contrast, my time with the kids was always en masse and filled with distractions like errands and housekeeping.
  • We have a 10-year-old, 6-year-old, and 3-year-old, and we started realizing the 10-year-old was the non-squeaky wheel who never got the grease. After spending his baby and toddlerhood in dramatic isolation, Mikko is now the quiet, chill tween who lets his brothers talk over him. We figured each child would appreciate some time to express himself without any competition.

We picked Saturdays as our parent-kid day because our kids like Denny's (#notsponsored), and the location near us offers a kids-eat-free promotion that evening. It would make it a relatively inexpensive but still special outing, one the kids would look forward to and that we could reserve for just these parent-son dates.

So far, it's working wonderfully. It's neat to see what the kids will talk about and draw us into when they're the star of the show. It gives Sam and me a chance to see what our kids are like when they have all the attention. It makes for easier parenting for the parent going out, considering we have only one child to deal with at a time (oh, those glorious early years of one-child parenting I didn't realize I'd miss!) and there's no potential sibling squabble brewing. Our kids greatly enjoy Denny's (bacon!) and being able to command a parent's attention for a few hours.

I know we're not the first ones to come up with this idea, but it persists because it's a good one. If you can figure out a way to work it into your parenting, I recommend it.

Here are a few ideas for making it work for you:

  • If you're solo parenting multiple kids, don't feel stressed about adding this in to your routine if you can't swing it. Siblings can handle living in a group, and this is just a nice supplement. If you do have childcare available sometimes, you might consider adding in occasional one-on-one outings as you can afford it.
  • If Denny's is out of your budget, consider lower cost ways you could have fun. Maybe you could go to a library story time together, hang out in a mall playspace, or go on a hike, tailoring the outing to your kid's age and interests.
  • If going OUT isn't an option, maybe you could have a stay-at-home date. Naptime or early bedtime for a littler child could be one-on-one time for an older sibling.
  • Don't rule this out if you have just one child. It's still a great idea to have a parent with less day-to-day childcare responsibility have time to connect with the child one-on-one, or for the parent with the bulk of childcare to have a fun time out with no expectations or pressure.
  • While one parent and child are out, the remaining parent can use the time for connecting with the children staying home. Sam and I will often use the opportunity to play a game with the kids we're at home with, which makes the day special for everyone.
  • Don't worry if every outing isn't Super Amazing. Kids value routine. Showing up for these one-on-one dates over time will make solid good memories for them, and will help pave the way into keeping communication lines open into the tween and teen years.

Do you have one-on-one parent-child dates in your family? Share how you make it work!

unsplash-logoBruno Nascimento     ambermb unsplash-logoLondon Scout



Inder-ific said...

I feel a little weird - I think I'm the only parent whose kids are not the LEAST bit interested in this idea. They would rather be together always. They don't want to go out alone with a parent. This doesn't mean they don't squabble - they totally do, but when I try to get one of my kids to go on a fun trip with me, the invited kid will just cry until I agree to bring the other one as well. And if one kid doesn't want to go on the trip, both kids will agree it's a terrible idea. It may sound nice, and there are definite perks, but it can also be a pain in the butt, lol! They are like, why would I want to hang out just with you, mom? BORING. I want Joe/Maggie to come too!

Lauren Wayne said...

@Inder-ific: Hey, if it works, it works! That's really sweet.

Elisheva said...

This is such a great thing to do, both for parent and child. And I like how you mention at the end that showing up consistently is a big deal! That shows (instead of telling) a child that you value them and your time together. Growing up in a family with 11 siblings, I always appreciated the one-on-one time I got with my parents.

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