By Christina VanGinkel
With kids big and small, from infant to teenage years, we often hear how important spending family time together is. And it is very important. Just as important in my humble opinion though, is one on one time that parents should spend with each of their children. One on one time allows kids to interact with the adults in their lives without having to compete with other family members.
For example, consider your children's personalities. If you have a boisterous child, always talking, always making themselves noticed, and a quiet child, one who just sort of lets life happen, consider how each might act if you spent time alone with each of them. The quiet one might open up, making exchanges that with the other sibling around they never had a chance edgewise to even attempt. The boisterous child would also benefit. Without the other sibling around, they might even calm down a bit, opening up on a more calm level. If you have, a larger family, with a variety of personalities amongst the kids, one on one time takes on even more importance. It lets kids create a relationship with their parents identifying themselves as a unique being, and not just one of the gang.
One on one time allows parents to do activities with each child that others in the family may object to, also. How often have you tried to go to the movies for example, and each child wants to see a different movie that is playing? One on one time can provide a child with the opportunity to make a choice, be it a simple movie choice but still a choice, without competition from his or her siblings at each turn. While competition can be a good thing, when kids are competing for the attention of the adults in their lives, it can be a good thing to occasionally just pull them apart and allow them each access without any competition whatsoever.
Even when competition is not an issue, when both the kids and the adults in a family are good about taking turns, not talking over each other, one on one time can still be good. Not everyone wants to do the same things at the same time, whether it is a different movie, a different restaurant, a different route to take a walk, even different flavors of ice cream. One on one time allows children the chance to be an individual with their parents. It gives them time to take shape as who they are, not always with the influence of others.
If you think your schedule is already too hectic, to figure in one in one time with each of your children, consider small blocks of time where you might be able to squeeze in some individual quality time. Quality instead of quantity can be the key to making this work, so how about carving out ten or fifteen minutes with each child in the evening before bedtime. In ten minutes you can talk about homework, find out if they need anything signed, even hear about who did what in the lunch line today that made the whole class crack up. Keep in mind that even relatively short individual time should allow kids the chance to open up about anything they want to. By getting kids talking about the mundane tasks that make up their days, they will be more apt as time goes by to keep talking about their days, the good, and the bad, the ordinary and the extraordinary.
During this time, make sure the other kids in the family understand that they may not intrude, especially if they want the same respect when it is their turn. In ten minutes you can hear about a child's day, especially when they are not being interrupted every minute by a brother or sister trying to get in their day in the same span of time. During the time you are allotting to each of the kids, the other kids can be doing homework, washing up for bed, reading a book, etc. They should not be spending it doing something that each will feel like they are missing out on something when it is their turn to take their one on one time, such as watching a movie.
If you have a large family, you might think that you cannot accomplish this each day. Maybe you cannot. Then do it when you can, as some one on one time is definitely better than none at all.