John and I have ten kids, and that’s a lot! Often, it’s easy to see “the kids” as a group, but they are individuals. With each of them there is a one-on-one relationship that needs to be fostered and nurtured. This is hard to do when we also have jobs, housework, homeschooling, and church and ministry activities, yet it is important. More important than I sometimes remember.
Seven of our kids were adopted, and only one of those was an infant adoption, so the kids came with backgrounds of trauma which has led to all types of fun (not really) behavioral issues. I’ve gone to hundreds of hours of therapy with them over the last three years, as we work through trauma-based issues, and do you know what the #1 tool has been to fostering healing? One-on-one time with me their mom. One-on-one time fosters bonding. One-on-one time helps regulate kids. In a world that is overwhelming and confusing one-on-one time helps kids find their foundation and their center.
So how is it possible?
1. Schedule it.
The first trick to one-on-one time is just to schedule it. One of the best ways is making dates to take our kids to lunch. We set the day, and they get to pick the place (within reason). We try to do these dates monthly. This means there is one day each month that our kids know they have our full and undivided attention. (Which also means keeping electronics and smart phones tucked away, especially mine!)
Of course it doesn’t have to be lunch, I’ve created a free printable that you can use to schedule a special time with each child. They’ll have a ton of fun coming up with ideas for your time!
Also, Becky from YourModernFamily.com uses a unique way to schedule one-on-one time:
Spending one-on-one time with each of the kids can be challenging because they each want our attention all of the time. I was talking about this with my dear friend, Kristy, and she told me a wonderful idea that we have since adopted and we now use every month:
Every month on our child’s ‘birth date”, they get to have “their night” (example: our first son was born on August 29th, so every month on the 29th is his night. Our second son was born on April 18th, so the 18th of every month is his night).
I love that idea!
2. Connect in small increments.
When I was having big behavior issues with 2 ½-year-old Casey, the therapist asked me to spend 5 minutes a day of one-on-one time with him. The time had to be away from everyone else. He had to have my full attention, and I was to play what he wanted.
Casey and I had a special toy box just for this time with Legos, animals, and cars. As we played my job was to:
- State what he was doing (“You are lining up the cars”)
- Praise him (“Great job sharing with Mommy”)
- Repeat his words (“The car is red”). This let Casey know I was focused and paying attention. It built a connection between us. And, amazingly, his behavior improved!
This has worked with old kids, too. I have one older girl who has struggled in our home. After years of trauma, followed by years in foster care, it’s hard for her to connect and feel loved. What was the therapist’s advice? 15 minutes of one-on-one time a day. And, yes, it’s worked.
On days when I take the time to spend with her, her behavior improves immensely, and it’s only 15-minutes! (Okay, the truth is that we usually go longer because we’re having so much fun connecting.) Sometimes we just sit on my bed and talk. Other times we bake. And once she helped me open a stack of business mail, and we had fun reading letters and notes from my readers together.
When spending time together in small increments let your child know what to expect. “We will play with toys from this box,” or “We’ll have ten minutes to play today and another 10 minutes tomorrow.” Kids will usually want more options and more time, but letting them know ahead of time what to expect will help with expectations and transitions. (After all, what kid wants fun time with Mom to stop?!)
3. Add one-on-one time into “together” moments.
My three youngest kids share a bedroom, and they do the bedtime routine together. Yet as a mom I also want to connect with them individually at the end of their day.
Bella, Alyssa and Casey are still all young enough to sit on my lap so they each get to pick out a short book, and they snuggle on my lap as I read it. Also, when it’s time for them to pray I sit by each child and rub (or scratch) their backs while they say their prayers. An added bonus is that they take their prayer time more seriously and don’t goof around much … but sometimes the prayers do stretch out a bit longer, because they are enjoying the caress. Before I leave the room, I also tuck them in, snuggle them down and give more kisses and hugs.
4. Always say “yes.”
I’m honored when kids want to spend time with me. When they ask thinks like, “Mom, can we make some cookies?” or “Mom, do you want to play a game?” I try to always say yes. “Yes” doesn’t mean I stop what I’m doing, but I do take a moment and think through when I can spend time with them. I’ll tell them, “I can’t bake cookies now, but let’s do that after dinner.” Make sure if you give a time, you do your best to stick to it. Work hard to keep your word.
5. Work one-on-one time into ordinary events.
If you’re going on an errand, choose one child to go with you. If you’re cleaning a closet ask for help. (You might be surprised that kids usually don’t mind rolling up their sleeves and offering a hand.) If you’re pairing socks make it a game, playing against each other. It’s these little things that will create positive memories for your kids.
6. Use drive time to your advantage.
Parents are always shuttling kids around. Instead of allowing your child to use electronics to “tune out,” use that time to talk and connect.
7. Pay attention and heed the Holy Spirit.
When you get that feeling that one of your kids needs one-on-one time, don’t ignore it. Both Mama instincts and the Holy Spirit can help you discern which child needs you NOW. There are times when I glance at a child’s face and just know. It’s then I clear the calendar and spend time with that child. The best moments spent together are the ones when our kids need us most and we make ourselves available.
What about you? How do you schedule/spend one-on-time time with your kids?