Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Spending One-On-One Time With Every Kid in a Big Family

Having 6 kids, one of the things I'm asked a lot is "How do you have time for each of the children in a large family?"

It's culturally accepted that spending time alone with each child is the holy grail of parenting.

We assume it's necessary for healthy parent-child relationships and happy children, forgetting that "one-on-one time" is a new concept that's only been around for 40 years or so.

One-on-one time is the holy grail of parenting... or is it?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Some things invented 40 years ago turned out to be pretty good ideas, like cell phones and car seat laws. And some are more like... new Coke.

So I think it needs to be examined to see whether individual time with each child actually is as important as we think it is.

Personally, I think it's overrated. 

My husband and I spend most of our time and energy on whole-family activities like hikes, games, or movie nights. Sometimes we do stuff in smaller groups with 3 or 4 of the kids, depending on their ages and interests.

The way I see it, it's family time that really makes a difference in how happy and stable and secure each kid feels, and I don't think family time gets the credit it deserves.

All kids need to feel like they're part of something bigger than themselves. Building a strong family identity makes each kid feel like they're a part of something special.

Spending time en masse, no matter what the size of your family, gives you time to bond with your child and it also gives siblings time to have fun together.

(Secretly, I suspect that the modern emphasis on one-on-one time can actually encourage sibling rivalry, unintentionally sending the message that time with mom or dad only counts if your siblings aren't there to "ruin" it!)

Needless to say, there are not a lot of daddy-daughter dates happening in this house on a regular basis.

One-on-one time is the holy grail of parenting... or is it?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

That said, if I were to make a time log for my entire day, I'd see plenty of time spent with each child individually. It's just in increments of minutes, hundreds of times a day, instead of a solid two-hour outing once a week.

I smile at each child when she comes home from school, make eye contact while he's telling me a story, ask her opinion about something in the news, read her a story, or ruffle his hair as I go by. Don't discount the cumulative effect of these everyday interactions, repeated over and over, to make an impact.

Also, we work together.

When I recall the times I've felt closest to my husband, most of them are when we're teammates working toward a common goal. In the same way, bonding time with your kids can happen just as easily on a trip to the grocery store or pulling weeds in the yard as it can happen in a bowling alley or a mani-pedi place.

Helping my kid outline an overwhelming school project might not be as fun as going out for pizza, but if the end result is a strong connection and a kid who knows I care, what really is the difference?

My one caveat is that older kids, around the time they hit puberty, do need some regular alone time with a parent. They're going through murkier feelings that can't exactly be discussed over a family round of Uno with the 4-year-old listening on.

Luckily, teenagers are night owls who need to be taxied to the orthodontist and soccer practice, providing plenty of opportunities to talk after the little kids have gone to bed or while you're alone together in the car. (Incidentally, eliminating the pressure of eye contact makes the car the absolute best place for difficult parent-teen conversations.)

One-on-one time is the holy grail of parenting... or is it?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

So in answer to the question "How do you make time for all of those kids?" I suppose I'd say I've never kept a mental spreadsheet of how many parent-child dates we've been on with which kid and when.

Instead, I've focused on having frequent relationship-building moments with every one of them, no matter how ordinary the moments or how many other people are in the room.

If my husband and I are worried about one child in particular, we have no problems giving that kid a hug and taking him out for ice cream.

But in general, I think they're just fine knowing mom and dad love them. With or without a special date to the putt-putt place.

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5 comments:

  1. Nicely said. My family is only newly with 4 kids but I agree that while one-on-one times are rare these days, I find that I am constantly able to fine moments to connect with each child. Hugs and kisses every morning and night, reading a favorite story, or even a trip to the store with less than all of your siblings feels like enough right now.

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  2. Very well said. I totally agree with you. I've really tried to make the kids feel special and loved by me by giving them three things throughout the day: 1) eye contact when I'm speaking to them, 2) physical touch--give them a hug, tap on the shoulder, or tousle their hair whenever I can, 3) focused attention--this can be done even when others are around. And because I've succumbed to current fads, I've made a "special day" once a month for each child. Their special day is their birthday day (luckily I don't have any born on the same numerical day of the month). We usually only have time on their special day to spend an hour or two together, but the kids really look forward to it (and so do I). My husband really tries to take a kid on any errands he has to run or have one of them help him with a project around the house. Also he holds regular (about 6 times a year) interviews with the kids just to get a sense of how life is going for them. I love your articles. Keep them coming!

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    1. I don't think one-on-one time is bad at all - if you and your kids think it's fun then do it!

      There are many ways to be close to your children, and when people wonder how I have time for so many children (or worse, assume that I must be neglecting them) what they're really saying is, "There's only one way to be close to your children and it's individual parent-child dates once a week" or whatever.

      I share my observations mostly to take the pressure off of parents who feel like copious amounts of one-on-one time, for whatever reason, doesn't work for their family. They can still succeed without it being a big part of what they do.

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  3. Thank you for taking the pressure off! Ain't nobody got time for that.

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  4. I love this! I do think there can be a lot of emphasis on one-on-one time, but I want my kids to learn to play together and also enjoy and have memories of family time all together. You guys sound like you're doing a great job!

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