Growing up in a military family, my dad was constantly deployed. He’d be gone for 3-6 months at a time, leaving my mom alone to wrangle us three kids. When we were living in South Korea, my parents came up with a brilliant idea. Each weekend, they’d reserve time to spend with us one-on-one. The kids would get to pick what we wanted to do. It was an excellent practice that provided for some great memories and experiences.
Planning one-on-one time with your children is an excellent practice to adopt. Not only does the child experience the love and attention that quality time can give, the parent gains the same benefits. This can be an especially powerful tool in the middle and high school days, when kids try to publicly distance themselves from their parents.
During this one-on-one time, parents should do what the kids want to do. This will give the parent invaluable insight into the thinking of their child. This insight can be used to further strengthen and reinforce the parental relationship. It also puts the parent in an ideal place for sharing what’s really going on in their life. When in their own element, a kid is more likely to open up about what’s really going on, especially emotionally. This can prevent a whole range of negative life events in a child’s life when a parent is able to meaningfully and intelligently intervene.
Aside from the direct benefit to the parent, this one-on-one time will become the highlight of both of your weeks. You’ll both be looking forward to the time you’ll spend together. It’s a time for the child to feel loved and for the parent to express love.
Activities can be widely varied. It might be something athletic like taking a walk, running, or playing ball. It might be a shopping trip, dinner and a movie, or a sporting event. The most important thing is that the parent is participating in an activity that the child wants to do. That might mean some sacrifice, especially if it’s a physical activity. Again, this is about expressing the value of the child in the parent’s life.
If you have more than 2 children, this practice can be difficult. My parents handled the three of us very simply: 1 child with mom, 1 child with dad, and 1 child on their own. The "on your own" child got to do whatever they wanted at home. For me, I think I mostly played computer games, the time for which was greatly limited during the week. These days, it might be watching a movie, reading, or taking a bike ride. This should be considered as recreation time, so it should be a treat. Loosen some restrictions that happen during the week so that any child who isn’t getting one-on-one time that week still gets to feel special.
If you’ve been struggling to get your child to connect with you, or if you’re looking to build upon your relationship and continue to grow it, consider adding one-on-one time to your weekly schedule.