‘One on one time’ – spending individual time with just one child, making time to connect, giving them personal attention, filling their cup – this is one of my best parenting tools, and one I find myself turning to again and again as my kids get older.
When one of my kids is out of sorts, or struggling, or pushing buttons, or losing it left right and centre, even if I have no idea what is going on, or how to make it right, I know that one on one time will help.
I also know that one on one time is a great way to stay connected to my kids so we can communicate, and deal with issues before they become overwhelming for all of us.
Apart from being a great parenting tool, it’s also enjoyable. I like my kids (even when they are driving me bonkers), I like spending time with them, and I like spending time with them without the competition or distraction of others.
One on one time is awesome, but it’s also one of my biggest parenting guilt traps.
The ideal that you must ‘schedule one on one time with your children every day, or at the very least once a week‘ hangs over my head like a gloomy cloud. Often it is more than a week… let’s be honest… more than a few weeks before I realise that one or more of my children hasn’t had much… any… one on one time.
I get that one on one time is important… really I do, but sometimes I just don’t have enough time to fit it in. The idea that I can somehow squeeze one more thing into our schedule seems ridiculous… I have four kids you know!
Oh but don’t you know, says the voice of guilt, the more kids you have the more important one on one time is! So start making that schedule! Start planning that ‘Mummy Daughter date night’, and that day out for your son.
It’s taken me a while to look past the articles about ‘daddy daughter dates’, to quiet the guilty voices, and to realise that one on one time with our kids doesn’t have to be a huge production. It doesn’t have to take lots of preparation, cost money, or even take hours of your time. One on one time can be just as effective in small snippets, as part of day to day life.
Here’s five ways we spend one on one time with our kids when we don’t have any time!
Ask Your Child to Help.
No one said one on one time had to be all fun and games,and just because you really need to make dinner or do the grocery shopping doesn’t mean you don’t have time for a little individual time with your child.
One of my favourite one on one time activities is to take one child with me to do the shopping. I get a helper, we get private time to chat in the car, they get the perk of choosing which treats we buy, and we enjoy time just the two of us.
Cooking dinner together is another good one on one time task. Folding the washing works too, even if you are the one doing it and putting it away while your child sits and chats next to you, that still counts as individual time.
It Doesn’t Have to be a Lot of Time!
Five minutes spent with each child at bed time is my parenting secret weapon. I have a chance to check in with each child, talk about the good stuff from that day, and the not so good stuff, and just generally have a cuddle and reconnect. I know bedtime can be chaotic but for us five minutes each night is time well spent.
Look for other snippets of time during the day – a few minutes cuddle on the couch, ten minutes outside throwing a ball, a quick drawing game together… none of these things take long but they all add up.
Driving Time is the Best.
If you have a family like ours, there isn’t much quiet time to talk, let alone much privacy, but driving my kids somewhere is the perfect time for a chat. On the way to an appointment, a quick trip into town, on the way to an activity or play date, there is something about sitting in the warm, quiet car together that always gets my kids talking. Or sometimes we just turn up a favourite song really loud and sing at the top of our lungs!
Sometimes, when I can see that one of my kids really needs to be loved up and there is just no room in my schedule to manage it, I bring in reinforcements. A day with a grandparent or favourite aunty or uncle can help fill your child’s cup.
Sure, it’s not the same as being with a parent, but it does have it’s own advantages – having adults other that their parents that my kids trust and feel connected to is important and something I want to encourage, and a grandparents always know how to make kids feel special.
Just Do It!
We know this one on one time gig is important, we know it has benefits for all of us, so sometimes, you just need to make it happen. It might not happen once a week, it might not even happen once a month if you have a crazy irregular schedule like we do (thanks shift work!) but make it a priority, find time in your schedule, mark it on the calendar and just do it.
Our kids know that these days will happen, they know that everyone will get a turn, they spend time planning what they will do, they save money to go towards treats and and they look forward to it.
Let’s ditch the guilt over ‘how often’ or ‘how much’ and just make one on one time something that is important, something that we will do whenever, wherever and however we can.
How do you manage to fit in one on one time with your kids?
Read the comments or scroll down to add your own:
I’ve taken to popping into my big girls bedroom after the others are asleep to give her a few minutes chat and debrief. Some nights she just wants a good night, but others we chat for longer. But I know it is not enough and I’m working at find times to met their needs. I often use grandparents as a divide at conquer, 1 child gets 1-1 time with a grandparent, while another child gets 1-1 time with me.
I found it so surprising how important making time for a quick bedtime check in was as my kids got older… I guess I thought bed time would be less time intensive with bigger kids, but actually it is the perfect time to connect!
I have 30 minutes of one on one time on my daughters chore list. I am held accountable for spending that time with her everyday the same as she needs to do her homework and listen. Also the one one one time is whatever she wants to do for the entire 30 minutes. I know that this is not going to work if you have multiple kids, but having it on the chore list helps to make sure even when it gets busy to make some time available.