Ever since the children started nursery and school and as such spent more time away from me I wondered about the subject of that special parent/child time, especially when you have more than one. Carole and Nadim Saad have written this great book called ‘Kids Don’t Come With A Manual’ and let us have this extract on the how, what, why and when, when it comes to spending time with your children. 

Use for: creating a stronger connection with your child, building a child’s self-esteem and sense of significance, addressing attention-seeking behaviour and misbehaviour, improving communication, cooperation, sibling squabbles.

To create a strong emotional bond with our child, we need to spend time with them. This has become more difficult nowadays, particularly in families where both parents are working. Often, we cannot increase the time that we spend with our children, and we therefore need to make sure that we make the most of this time spent together.

This is particularly important to keep in mind for Dads, as they generally spend less time with their children than Mums.

One-on-one Time is a key way of building a long lasting connection between us and each of our children, and for ‘filling-up their emotional bank account’. One-on-one Time is distinct from ordinary ‘ad-hoc’ time spent together in that it has to be scheduled and anticipated. And because it is designated one-to-one time, we need to make efforts to keep the rest of the world at bay, including other family members while this special time is taking place. The idea is that special time, far from feeling forced or artificial, delivers what it promises – in other words, it becomes an island of special, focused bonding time between parent and child.

Why it works:

Most (if not all!) of our children’s ‘mis’behaviours are a call for us to give them significance and connection. And when we give a child some One-on-one Time, it goes a long way to satisfying their basic need for attention, which can significantly reduce their need to confront us or enter into a power struggle. Because One-on-one Time exists as a focused island of time spent between the two of you, it is a period of peace, togetherness and communication, which can be looked forward to throughout the rest of the week. Above all, One-on-one Time allows parent and child to get to know each other in a peaceful and caring fashion.

How to give one-on-one time:

  1. At the beginning of a day or a week, schedule some time that you can dedicate to each of your children individually.
  2. For children younger than five, try to schedule at least ten minutes every day. With children older than five, you can do it less regularly, but for longer periods. You should ideally schedule at least 30 minutes once a week.
  3. Tell your child at the start of your session, “This is our One-on-one Time together.”
  4. Offer a choice of two or three activities to do together (all of which appeal to you), and ones that you know your child likes. A chosen activity could be sitting together to read, cook, go for a walk, do a puzzle, play cards etc.…

NB: We strongly recommend that your activity includes ‘playing’ (see tool Playing), as this is something that we don’t usually do enough of with our children. You need to remember to let your child ‘lead you’ in the game that they chose. And don’t get too competitive!

Try not to associate One-on-one Time with shopping as your child may link it to material gain, which is not the point of your connection.

The voice of the strict parent:

Having a very full schedule, I neglected to make time for my children individually as well as a group. But once I became aware of how important and life changing One-on-one Time is for a child I schedule it in as regularly as I possibly can, regardless of how busy I am.

The voice of the all-heart parent:

Although I gave as much time as I could to my children, I mistakenly thought that it was important to do special activities together as a family, in order not to create any jealousy between siblings. However, once I realised the benefits of One-on-one Time I put my heart and soul into planning our solo-sessions together with each of my children. And I was also reminded of the importance of scheduling in one-to-one time with my partner too.

An extract from Kids Don’t Come With A Manual by Carole and Nadim Saad, £12.99.