I come from a big family. My husband comes from a big family. Perhaps it was inevitable that we would have a big family, ourselves. A big family comes with many blessings — there's never a dull moment, my children have built-in friendships, and I will never be lonely in my golden years. However, sometimes children can feel lost in the crowd. It is important that each child gets a little one-on-one time with Mom and Dad. Here are 6 ways I've discovered to make that happen.
1. Mama Time
I assigned each child one night a week where they would get one half hour to spend with me in any way they chose. Sometimes they would just want to talk. Other times they'd choose a game to play. In this way, I discovered who their friends were, what kind of music they liked, and any problems they were having. I didn't always love the activities they chose to do, but I always loved spending time with them.
2. Father's interviews
A father's interview is a little more structured than Mama Time. This is a great opportunity for Dad to check up on his kids. It can be as simple as asking, “How are you doing?”, “Any problems?” and “How can I help?”. You can help your children set goals and encourage them in their school and other activities.
When I was a teenager, my little brother liked to set up what he called “appointments.” He'd let me know he wanted to chat with me. We would make an appointment for me to come talk with him at bedtime that night. We'd talk about Little League baseball, annoying teachers at school and his latest crush. It was meaningful to both of us, and it was something that I knew I'd want to try in my own family.
4. Informal dates
Going on informal dates with your children is a great way to spend one-on-one time with them. My little brother was quite the charmer. He liked girls at a very early age. I remember his Sunday School teacher was concerned that he was kissing girls in class. He was three! So, when he got a little older, he liked to go on practice dates with me. I would drive us to McDonald's. He would open the car door for me and get the door to the restaurant. I would give him the money, and he would order and pay. Then, he would hold the chair for me while I sat down. We would enjoy pleasant conversation while we ate.
When our children turn 16, my husband or I take them on their first date. We let them choose a fancy restaurant, and we go out to dinner. Like my experience with my brother, we teach them how a young man or woman should behave while on a date. It is a wonderful time to celebrate the adult that they are becoming.
My husband will regularly walk into the house and say, “Who wants to volunteer?” Ah, the old Catch-22. My children know that if they volunteer, they will have to help their dad with some task or errand. If they do, they will get a treat at the end of it. However, they never know if the task will be difficult, or if the treat will be worth it.
Sometimes, he will take them to help someone move. This could mean hours of grueling physical labor. Other times, it's a simple errand to fill our water bottles, pick up an item from the store, or drop something off at the neighbor's. Regardless, my husband has never failed to get a volunteer. It's because of the one thing that always tips the scales in his favor: They get to spend time with Dad.
6. Be available
Listening to our children is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. However, our children aren't always ready to talk when we are. It is important to recognize those moments when our children want to chat and to be available to them.
For example, one son likes to talk with me in the car on the way home from school. My teenage daughters, however, prefer to come into my room right before bedtime. When I see that my kids want a little conversation, I turn down the radio or put down my book and give them my undivided attention.
Whether you have one child or a whole brood, spending one-on-one time with them will be meaningful to your children and you.