I have found that my kids need time with me. No big surprise, right? But sitting watching a movie together doesn't count, nor does having them hang out for hours on a Friday evening at my office while I try to finish up my work for the week. I have found that what my kids really want is one-on-one time with me doing something that they want to do. This is especially true as we leap back into a new school year, full of homework, soccer practice, swim class, etc.
I am sure most parents have read about the value of having a date night with your child, with your spouse, with your BFF, etc. While there is tremendous value in having a designated night out with the important people in your life once a month, or a weekend away once a year, there is one more step that I think works better than anything else to create strong bonds between parents and children. I first heard about the idea from Pam Leo, author of Connection Parenting.
When I was going through my parent coaching certification a couple of years ago, Pam taught one of the classes. This was one of the most powerful and insightful classes about parenting that I experienced. It touched my heart deeply and changed me as a parent forever. I guess you could say it was like a big, loud wake-up call. One of the simple things we can do to connect with our children, she said, was to spend one-on-one time with each child. She called the time spent together "Mommy time" or "Conner time" and everyone in the our family knows that it is a sacred moment not to be shared except by the two people participating. Sometimes our "Maggie time" is simple, reading a book or playing Barbie. Sometimes, my schedule is crazy and I have to be more creative, like using grocery shopping or running errands as time to spend alone with just one child.
We try to schedule a 15-minute block of time one or two times a week where one child will have my undivided attention to do whatever they want. This might be playing Polly Pockets with Maggie, cards with Conner, reading a book -- it doesn't matter. The important point is that they get to pick. What I have found from doing this is that they feel more loved but they also know to ask for “Mommy time” when they are not seeing enough of me. It is amazing what I can learn about what is happening in their lives in 15 minutes of undivided attention. We have all kinds of wonderful, fascinating conversations and I learn about what is happening at school, in the classroom and on the playground. (I have found that “Mommy time" is just as important to my husband and that our relationship is better when we spend that few minutes each week talking to each other without distractions.)