My daughter peered at me from behind the kitchen door as I was busy preparing dinner.
“Mumma, I want you to play the dollhouse game with me”
“Not now”, I replied. “I am finishing up the kitchen work first”.
Her head dropped low and she turned back but her voice still carried: “But you said you will play with me”.
It had been a busy day. Super busy. My office work, household chores, cooking, kids’ online classes, everything seemed to be weighing me down. But with this incident I realised while I was fulfilling my responsibilities to a large extent, I was missing out on giving one-on-one attention to each child. Frankly, in working motherhood, there’s this little thing called time that gets in the way of our best intentions. Our days are often a frenzy of work and home commitments. It’s hard enough to get everyone where they need to be each morning, let alone carve out one-on-one time with each of your many children.
Why Is One-On-One Quality Time So Important?
Children desperately need quality time alone with their parents to feel loved and secure.
Investing in regular quality time with your child can help them feel so much more settled, less stressed, more secure, confident, and more cooperative.
It builds self-esteem in shy, less outgoing children. By singling out your quiet child (and each child in the family in their own turn), you’ll show them that you are willing to take the time to draw them out of their shell.
Creating quality time with each child also tends to greatly minimise sibling rivalry. It may cut back on attention-getting behaviour. You know how children often act out in an attempt to get attention!
Kids need attention, just like us adults. And they love a parent’s attention better than most. Children crave quality time with their parents because they have such a deep innate and healthy drive for that attention. A regular dose of ‘special and alone time’ keeps children feeling more content. It’s a great way to ‘refill their cup’.
But spending time with each child may be difficult when you have more than one child and you are a busy and tired mom (oh well, being busy and tired comes with being a mom!)
So, here are some very practical ways to spend one-on-one time with each child, which I am sharing based on my personal experience as a mom of twins.
Tips To Spend Quality Time With Each Child If You Have More Than One Kid
1. Divide & Conquer
Well, as much as it may sound like a strong statement, I think the most practical and viable way that works for me and my husband is by splitting up our time. We take responsibility for each child for ‘a’ specific time on ‘a’ specific day when it comes to spending quality time. Splitting up as a family can offer ample time for each parent to spend time with each child. For example, if you have two children, one weekend, the dad could hit the mall with one and the mom could go to the dance class with the other. The other weekend, just swap the kids and indulge in some quality time with the other child.
2. Make Your Children Part Of Your Routine
Spending time with each child does not have to be an expensive or out-of-the-norm affair. You can simply involve the child individually in household errands and spend some ‘one-on-one’ time making the activity fun. For example, grocery shopping is something you have to do anyway, so why not use it as quality time with your kids? By taking turns grocery shopping with each child, you are squeezing in that one-on-one time while you take care of a necessary chore. Allow them to help you with locating things for the home on the shopping list, and you can always buy them a small treat for a job well done.
Similarly, if kids are over 4 years old, you can involve them in the kitchen with you. Call each child (one at a time) into the kitchen and let them take turns helping you with something. Or do as I do, and place the children on a rotation where each one has an assigned night each week to be the dinner helper. It may take patience to have kids help in the kitchen, but it’s totally worth it. You’re teaching them practical life skills and spending lots of quality time with them at the same time.
3. Indulge In Things That They Enjoy
Pay close attention to the things they like and sit and do what they want to do, even if it’s watching 30 minutes of Peppa Pig or their favourite YouTube videos. Catch the moment when your little girl is drawing and sit next to her. Initiate a discussion and let the child know that they can open up and use this alone time with you to share their thoughts and talk about their day.
Remember, the real quality time will not come as a separate time slot in the day. It’s just those small moments that you need to identify and capture so that each child gets individual attention.
4. Take A Walk Together
Looking for a way to spend time with your kid, but also stay active? Then use the evening outdoor time! You can spend quality time with each child by taking a walk together. Do this on alternate days with each child.
This system has been working great in our family; every alternate day, one kid goes cycling with one parent while the other takes a stroll with the other parent. This way, we get to talk to each one individually and listen to them with undivided attention.
5. Take Advantage Of Unplanned Opportunities
While it is wise to deliberately chalk out quality time moments with each child, sometimes the opportunities come naturally. For example, if you have a 2-year-old and a 6-year-old, you could spend time together with the 2-year-old while the other child is at school. When they come back from school, you could spend some time with the 6-year-old during mealtime or while changing.
Most likely, the 2-year-old would go to bed earlier than the 6-year-old; this offers you uninterrupted time alone with your 6-year-old before they head to bed. Use bedtime to cuddle, listen, strike a conversation and share how much you love them. The idea is to take advantage of the in-between unplanned opportunities as they come, to spend time with each child.
But here’s the most fantastic and real-life parenting tip that I would like to share: When you’re together for one-on-one time with the child, point it out.
When you’re actually sitting there with just one of your kids at the table, note (out loud!) that it’s so nice that only you and they get to eat breakfast together or paint together. Just the two of you. Then, you’ll start to notice for yourself that there are indeed times when you’re one-on-one that you hadn’t thought of. And it will give confidence to the child that you care. Trust me, this really works! And will keep you away from any creeping #momguilt!
Focus on quality versus quantity. The goal is to fill your child’s tank up each day even if it’s only for a few minutes with a tickle fight, cooking together, cleaning up together, talking about the day, and more.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, let yourself off the hook, mama. The fact that this issue worries you means that you ARE being thoughtful about your relationship with each child. So just take each moment as it comes. You will figure it out over time. Things change as phases change, and there’s always an opportunity to course-correct. I’m pretty sure, like most things in parenthood, the question of one-on-one time with each child will be an ongoing, ever-evolving dance.