Tuesday 20 March 2018

The Importance of Spending One-on-One Time With Your Children

If you invest in one-on-one time with your child when they are young then you will build your relationship and their trust in you for when they are older

Every parent wants to have that joyous bond with their child. One where they are both respected as parent and cherished as friend. I think one of the keys to that closeness and developing a special relationship that will last a lifetime and weather the storms is spending intentional one-on-one time with each of your children.

Now before you start telling me that you have six kids, no money and your partner works away from home, this doesn't have to be expensive or too time intensive.

Yes, of course you can have those kind of special times too. Both my girls chose time as their main Christmas present this year, so during February half-term Miss M will go away with my husband to London to see a show and stay overnight. Then a few days later Miss E will go away with me to see my Mum and stay in a great hotel with a pool. We will all have the most amazing time I'm sure and in doing so we cement our relationships further.

I have friends who call their one-on-one time with their child a date. We don't do that, but if it works for your family, then why not. These dates tend to be out of the home and scheduled a way in advance. This seems to work particularly well if you are very time poor and have a large family. I have one friend with six children and each child gets two dates a year, this way the parents only have to do one a month and it doesn't end up costing too much in either time or money. It also means the month can be set and the child can be looking forward to their time with their parent or maybe both parents, which is like the ultimate treat. 

A Weekly Investment of Time
However as I said before, let me share what really worked when my children were younger and it only took me one hour a week. That was 20 minutes per child. Even you can find 20 minutes in your busy week, right?

Children need quality time, not necessarily lots of time. So each Friday once we were home from school and the snacks were done I took turns to have 20 minutes with each of my children. This was time that they got to choose how they spent. Very often it involved make-believe and I was a pupil in Miss M's school or perhaps I did crafts with Miss E. The key is for the child to lead and dictate the pace and the activity. That way they finish their time feeling really full and valued.

As JJ was the older, sometimes he'd want to do something that took longer than the 20 minutes so we'd have our time together last so it could overrun. Or we might even wait until my husband was home and we could go out. I can recall many fun sessions in the local swimming pool early evening when he'd have me playing games or chasing him.

It will work for your family too
When I've mentioned this to friends before and talked about how well it worked with my children I often heard objections from them about how it couldn't possibly work in their family. As their other children wouldn't give the space needed to allow the one-on-one time but the kids really do learn to tow the line very quickly.

Yes, of course in the first couple of weeks I had frequent interruptions from one or other of my kids but I just gently reminded them it was their time next and if they couldn't respect that JJ had his full 20 minutes uninterrupted then theirs would also be full of interruptions. I also added an extra 5 minutes to the child's time who had been interrupted, so the other child or children ended up waiting longer.

For my girls who were the younger ones I found it was best to put something on the TV that they enjoyed and that would allow them to focus, then the waiting time would go quickly. Nowadays if I did it again I might let them play on the iPad but we didn't have that six years ago. JJ, who was the older one used to go to his bedroom and play as he could occupy himself. It doesn't matter what you choose for the child to do as long as they are safe, happy and able to wait their turn.

If you invest in one-on-one time with your child when they are young then you will build your relationship and their trust in you for when they are older
Yes, this was one of our sessions. This is Miss M aged 3 years painting my face.

Practical Considerations
  • Start talking to your kids about having special time just for them. Big it up and make them understand that this will be really enjoyable time just for the two of you (or of course it could be your partner instead)
  • Have a set day and time so they know when to look forward to (for us it was 4pm - 5pm on a Friday each week).
  • Make sure they understand that they can dictate the activity during their 20 minutes. The are in control.
  • Get the child to start thinking about the things they might like to do with you - play a board game, play doh, craft activity, bake cakes, kick a ball about, go on the trampoline, watch a video game, watch them play a video game (yes really, I hated this one but JJ loved to show me his builds on Minecraft and talk to me about how it all worked) or Miss M's favourite was make-believe. Which again I really don't enjoy but 20 minutes isn't long and the benefits that came from playing her game far outweighed my boredom.
  • Plan which order the children will go in, take turns each week with this to keep it fair.
  • If for any reason you can't do it on your set day, let them know in advance that it will be a different day or that a week will be skipped. Don't let this happen too often though as they will treasure the reliability of this special time.
  • Set your other children up with an activity whilst they await their turn.
  • If one of the waiting children interrupts you, remind them it is X child's time and they must wait until XX time. Depending on their age and understanding will dictate how many times you need to give them gentle reminders. If you feel they understand but are being impatient or unkind, interrupting intentionally then increase the current child's time by 5 minutes and advise the other child they now have to wait longer. They soon learn!
  • Make sure you have everything to hand for the one-on-one activities, such as baking ingredients, toys, paper, paint, skipping rope - whatever it is.
  • Put your phone aside and don't be tempted to look at it at all during the special time. You want to give your child the message they are the most important thing in your world at that time
  • Smile, laugh, make conversation and generally enjoy yourself even if it isn't your first choice of activity. Take the time to tell your child how they make you proud, what you love about them and why they are fun to be with. Give them a confidence boost and be specific.
A more recent time, building Lego with Miss E
I hope this has been helpful to you. If you have some different ideas or have tried something else that works then do please leave a comment and share with us all. Thanks, Mich x

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If you invest in one-on-one time with your child when they are young then you will build your relationship and their trust in you for when they are older

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