One on one time with each of your children is worth scheduling. It’s can be such a valued tradition for each parent to carve out a special time alone with each child throughout your week. What you do doesn’t matter, what matters is that your child has 100% of your attention with no distractions.
It doesn’t need to cost money, take all day and it doesn’t even require leaving the house, but adding in special occasion one on one time can build cherished memories.
I still feel cherished and special when I think about some one on one time I had with my parents growing up. There was the time my Dad took me, just me, to go horseback riding. It wasn’t a habit and didn’t become a thing, we only went once, but it was a new experience and I did it with my Dad. I was the center of his attention the entire time we were together. Another time, we went hiking in the woods. On the day I was alone with my Dad, my Mom would take my sister somewhere just for her. On one of our days, my Mom let me choose what to do, I picked going to a Hallmark store! Truthfully, I still love gift shops and sending cards.
Finding time alone with each of your children isn’t always easy, but get creative and I’m sure you can see opportunities in your day to give even 15-20 minutes of concentrated attention to each child. Can you do a puzzle or craft with your 4 year old while your toddler naps? Can you go for a treasure-hunt walk through the yard or neighborhood when grandma comes over to stay with the other child(ren)? How about making the usual bedtime or bath time routine dedicated time to a child?
If your kids are older, sometimes the chances aren’t as available between after school homework and driving between activities. Even with a busy schedule, finding 15-20 minutes to connect with your school-aged kid or tween can be done. Making the time will pay off in a closer relationship and your actions will let your child know he’s valuable to you. Anna’s bedtime is still a sacred one on one time. We read, say prayers and sing our special song and do math after and during the song.
Steal your child away from homework to play a short game of Master Mind (he’s using logic skills while you chat), or have her peel carrots while you chop and ask about who she sat with at lunch. During one on one time with a child, it’s important to protect that space from interruptions from phones, other children or activity in the house.
Take a walk after dinner, give your daughter a manicure, ask your son to perform on his guitar for you. Taking an interest in things that matter to our tweens and teens helps bridge a parent child gap.
This summer, Nick brought our son to Rhinebeck, NY to see old World War I plane reenactments he loved as a boy. They camped in the car and still talk about their weekend together. He’s taking Ali to New York City this spring for a bigger one on one event. Regularly, Nick and Ali share other things that are only between the two of them, they write songs and Ali sings while Nick plays guitar. They sound amazing when they’re ready to share with the rest of us!
Ali always remembers one shopping trip from years ago when we were alone together. The zipper of a dress got stuck and I could not get out of this dress. We were laughing so hard that tears burst forth. Finally, giving up on our own, we walked out to the fitting room attendant. She couldn’t do it (by now I was feeling a bit claustrophobic) and called a manager; they had to cut me out of the dress. Little moments of togetherness can build fond memories and have significant meaning.
Labor Day weekend last year, Ali and I had a terrific mother-daughter weekend. We went to the Zac Brown Band concert, we’re the only two in the family who like country music, and Zac Brown is our FAVORITE! It was Ali’s first concert and I was happy to be a part of that first. The next day we went to the US Open we’re both tennis players and that was another first for her. We felt so close and had wonderful talks during our drive times (and a lot of loud singing, too!)
The activities you choose can become a special ritual, something you do regularly and only with that one child, or they can be out of the ordinary and a unique treat. Ask your kids for input on what they’d like to do with you. Brainstorm many options and put them in an envelope or box and choose from that.
In Carol Cooke’s book, America’s Answer to the Tiger Mother: How to Raise Successful, Happy Children, she spells out detailed, specific actions and reasoning behind them, for how to raise a happy family in the American culture. In one chapter, “Building a Supportive, Effective Family” and discusses ways to cultivate a close family; and planning outings with the goal of having fun together is on her list.
At all ages, each parent can make an effort to have focused one on one time with each kid. It’s a tradition in our house and helps us feel the connected.