Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Spending individual time with the kids

I highlighted a post by Planning with Kids in one of my Blog Bookmarks last month. In the post she outlined how she manages to spend time with her kids on an individual basis. Now PlanningQueen has five children whose ages range from 11 to 1 (I think), so the fact that they each get individual time with Mum is no mean feat.

This post has had me thinking about my own parenting and how much time I actually manage to spend with my own children on an individual basis. In truth, I have to say, not much. I know that their whining, fighting, and general uncooperativeness are often cries for attention. It should be worth it to me to find time for each child. They deserve it.

My intentions are good, but, given the fact that I am at home alone with the kids much of the time, my follow-through isn't always great.

I know this is important for them. For building self-esteem. Keeping the channels of communication open between us. Enhancing our relationship through meaningful shared experiences. I've studied Psychology. I get it.

But I don't always do it.

What I do tend to do is pair them. "The twins" together, and "the big boys" together. The big boys and I will play games when the babies are sleeping. Or the babies and I will play games when the big boys are otherwise engaged. Not so much of one child at a time though.

What I am doing well:
About a year ago, we started to stagger the kids bedtimes, so that there is some time with less kids in the evening. The main reason we did this was to make the whole 'going to bed/going to sleep' routines more managable as our kids each share a room with one of their siblings and we were finding that the big boys (in particular) were keeping each other up.

The twins (19 months) get 'slotted' at 6.45pm.
Doo Dah (3.5 years) at 7.10pm
Nugget (5.25 years) at 7.30pm

So they are not actually on-their-own with us at night, but they get more attention from either parent for some time before going to bed. They like it. We like it. They are all in bed by 7.30pm. It works for us.

Natural opportunities:
Throughout the week, there is usually a snippet here or there where I find myself in the company of only one child e.g. with Doo Dah when Nugget is at school and the babies are sleeping or with Dew Drop when the Minx is asleep and Doo Dah is playing quietly in his room. This is an opportunity that I seize and engage him/her in quality conversation/play time so that we can maximise the fun and closeness of this little freebie.

Where I could improve:
The PlanningQueen talked of scheduling 1:1 playtime. She has a regular schedule at the weekend where each child gets 20 minutes of her time. They get to choose what they want to do with her and whether or not they want their siblings to participate.

You would need to set the ground rules first (like 'it has to be a house-based activity' if you are still the adult-in-charge of the rest of the gang), but they get to choose. It is their special time with you.

I love this idea and I could see that it would work well with our older boys, but I can't see the babies managing to patiently wait their turn (just yet. They are good but they are not THAT good). I reckon I will definitely give this a shot though once the babies are closer to 3, because I think my kids will love it!

The other area that is suggested is Split Family Activities. So when there are multiple things to do at the same time, you have to split up the family (you know like when one kid is invited to a party and the others aren't?).
This happens to us sometimes, but what we tend to do is one of us will take the twins and the other will take the boys (you see the pattern?).

I think we need to try to break out of our habit of 'pairs'. It is easy that way, but it is not the only way to do things. Who knows, by mixing things up a bit, we may just find a bit more time for each child on their own. That really would be a bonus.

What about you? How do you manage to spend time with your children individually?


Maxabella said...

We are also guilty of 'pairs plus one'. I get time with Maxi-Taxi when he goes to OT (car time, there time) and when he does his reader and sight words at night. Time with Cappers is when M-T is at school and The Badoo is asleep, we tend to cook something together. The Badoo gets time when the other two are playing a game that she's been banned from (often). We do the gardening together. It's not something I've really given a lot of thought (obviously) but food for thought as they get older.

Busy Working Mama said...

Wow, good for you! That's great you try to squeeze in some one on one time. I am sure your kiddos appreciate it. I only have one daughter and my hubby and I both work but try to mazimize her time out of daycare and with us. He goes in late and drops her off at 830 or 900. I go in early, leave by 4 and pick her up at 420pm every day. She's in bed by 730-8pm. Even still I feel like I have too little time - but it is quality time!

Kelly said...

This is a great post, thought provoking for me. Time to make a change and spend more one on one time with each of my three children.

shauna said...

Michael gets some time with just me because he is usually late to school but hes nearly 17 and has wild hormones and sometimes its not suitable to talk in the morning. Sometimes it is. Teenagers are a different breed.

Liam is nearly 14 and hardly ever. Hes more interested in friends.
Tom is 12 and we spend quite a bit of time play fighting or teasing each other.
Niamh is 7 and shes always hanging around with me. Poor kid.

I had more of them kind of spread out age wise so it hasnt been a real issue.

MultipleMum said...

Thanks for your comments! I feel like I am at least not the only one who struggles with this some of the time. It is nice to know, from Shauna, that it will get easier. I like your pick up/drop off schedule Busy Working Mum. A great idea!

life in a pink fibro said...

Having only two, it's a bit easier for me. I spend a lot of quality time with Mr3 when Mr6 is at school, and Mr6 and I do guitar lessons together and read together every night. So far so good. But I've got nothing going on compared to you so I'll just sit back quietly now.

r_lloyd said...

I was just talking to some friends about the idea of spending one on one time with our children and we were commenting that we dont remember our parents worrying about spending lots of specific one on one time with us and we still all felt loved!! The time just sort of happened as you drove in the car or sat and watched them cook dinner, did homework etc. Maybe they were quite organised and specific in what they did with us but from a child's perspective it was just all part of doing stuff with Mum and it didnt matter what that was, even doing the groceries with her was fun in my eyes!! I wonder what my girls will remember as the fun things I did with them?

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