The magic of one-on-one time with your children

Making positive memories.
Making positive memories.  Photo: Shutterstock

Last year a mother came to chat to me after a seminar to thank me for some advice. I gave her some 12 years before when she had become a solo mum of five children aged 2 to 12.

Apparently I had suggested that she concentrate on ensuring her children felt deeply loved and connected and to work out ways that she could find some one-on-one time with each of her children.

This grateful mum told me that she had passed on my wisdom to her children and together they worked out ways that they could have special one-on-one time with mum, despite the busy home full of children.

For one of her children it was helping with cooking, with another it was helping her practice her netball shooting and there was always the walk after dinner around the block with their dog. She said it helped her so much and her kids had grown up to be happy young adults.

It reminded me of how lucky I had been as a child to be able to spend as much quality time beside my awesome farmer dad. Long drives in the truck, lots of driving in the farm ute, checking on sheep and plenty of time walking behind a mob of sheep guiding them to a different paddock or the shearing shed.

So much unhurried time to really linger over our conversations and to pause to capture fascinating moments that would occur quite naturally from Mother Nature.

Watching a baby lamb being born, catching a glimpse of the massive wedge tailed eagle that nested on a nearby giant gum, and laughing at one of my dad's terrible shaggy dog jokes – that we had all heard many times. We still laughed so hard that tears would roll down our faces.

These are some of the exquisite moments that can only happen in a one-on-one experience.

Even though I have written about the importance of micro-moments of connection with our children given how busy our lives are today, I want to remind you of the importance of scheduling some one-on-one time with each person you love who lives in your home.

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One of the most obvious one-on-one moments is reading to your children in their bed as they prepare to go to sleep. No matter how irritating it can be if you have to read the same picture book 35 times – hopefully still trying to sound enthusiastic – these precious moments are ones that nurture both parents and children.

As a mother of sons, bath time was rarely a quiet event. Indeed they seem to look forward to share bath times with great delight as it was a different environment to have fun and to play.

If you can, bath time with just one child can be one of these magical one-on-one moments that can fill everyone's heart.

My heart still melts when I see some of the photos of bath time with one of my boys when they were very little. For some weird reason bath time is often a time when boys remember what happened at day care or school – and that is a golden moment for any parent.

Well before the overcrowded curriculum and NAPLAN, I gave each of my sons the occasional day away from school for some one-on-one time with me doing whatever made their heart sing.

Sometimes we just sat and watched a favourite movie – yet again – The Lion King, Forrest Gump and the whole series of Karate Kid were favourites.

It was not only a day to reconnect with that particular son, it was often a day he needed to energetically regroup, to catch up on some much-needed rest or to escape the endless rules and expectations of a busy school day.

Many families have told me how they have created special family rituals and happenings so that they can have one-on-one time with their kids.

Having a telescope and watching the night sky is something many enjoy. Charades, board games and card evenings are also golden moments.

Walking to and from school is another time that can be one-on-one. Sometimes on the way home from an extra-curricular activity there may be 20 minutes where you can grab a coffee and a milkshake for some more one-on-one time. Whenever this happened in our home it was supposed to be kept a secret!

Having a good dog who needs to be walked also creates opportunity for one-on-one time. One family told me that when their beloved dog died, they would pretend they were still walking him so that they didn't lose that special time.

One-on-one time is incredibly important for parents as well. Prioritising a date night or making time to catch up for coffee or a quick lunch is equally important to keeping our hearts open to whomever we are co-parenting with.

Nurturing this relationship is almost as important as nurturing our parent-child connection because if this relationship breaks down, it can cause heartache for your children.

So bring this conversation to your family meeting and ask your children "how can we work out opportunities to have some one-on-one time?"

Making positive memories that last will not only help your children when they are children, it will assist them to be more loving, connected parents themselves one day.

Maggie Dent is a parenting author, educator, resilience specialist, mother of four sons and a grateful grandmother. Maggie is speaking in Sydney on 14th September 2017 about Calm, Common-sense, Connected Parenting for parents of children birth-8. She blogs at www.maggiedent.com