Last year, my husband and I started having Alone Time (quality time) with our kids when we noticed they were more whiney, aggitated with each other, and just generally more difficult for no reason. Because it was unlike our children (you know your kids and their normal irritability, and when something else is going on) we decided to spend one-on-one time with each of our children to get to the bottom.
Connection is as essential to us parents as it is to our children. When our relationship is strong, it’s also good, so we receive as much as we give. That’s what makes parenting worth all the sacrifices. That connection is also the only reason children willingly follow our rules. Kids who feel strongly connected to their parents want to cooperate, if they can. They’ll still act like kids, which means their emotions will sometimes overwhelm their still-growing prefrontal cortex. But when they trust us to understand, to be on their side, they’re motivated to follow our lead when they can.
Alone Time/ Quality Time was that life changer connection for our family. We started with only 15 minutes each day. But that was enough to change our family dynamic within two weeks.
Alone time with four kids?
It sounds more complicated than it really is. And it doesn’t take up our whole evening. Or week, for that matter! A simple schedule can help you keep track of it.
Monday is Emily’s day. Tuesdays belongs to Alexander. Nika has Wednesdays. Anibelle is still too young to join in on this game. But she will get her own day soon enough. We decided that we’ll wait till the age of three just because before that age, they demand so much of our attention, it basically is like Alone Time every day! 🙂 You can decide what works for your family. Perhaps you both work late and your 1 year old is in creche most of the day. You might want to start with him at that age. Do what works for you, and adjust accordingly
We used to give the three eldest two days a week, and for most families, two days a week will work great. But because someone always had a Saturday, and weekends were harder to keep routine, we decided to make it once a week, but longer each day.
How it works
To lessen the constant fighting about the pink chair, the paw patrol cup, who sits next to Anibelle in the car, and what CD were listening to on the radio, we decided that on your day, you can choose these things. It does not mean you make the rules on everything that day, but when there are choices, we leave it to the person whose day it is, or they have first option.
But the most important part of your day is the Quality Time! In our house, 30 minutes before bedtime, you get to choose an activity and a parent to do it with. It doesn’t have to be super creative, or planned, or educational. Take your kids’ lead. But it is one-on-one time. The other kids (if you have more) are not allowed to join, or bother you. Play somewhere the others arent. And if they’re everywhere, send them to their rooms! My kids have to read a book or draw in their bed during sibling Alone Time.
Some nights, Emily would plan her time out exactly with a book or two, then Barbies, and then we’ll end off colouring. And soooo many nights, Nika would just bring her handbag, and pack it all out and tell me what she has. Alexander loves building puzzles with his dad, but some nights he wants to pack lunchboxes with me for his Alone Time. (I kid you not!) We really just want our kids to know that they are seen. Loved. And that they matter. Apart from their siblings.
But I only have two hands!
True. So do I. That’s why we reply on our partners during Alone Time. It’s not like we’re going to the movies with one child and leaving them to fend for themselves. We are in the room next door, and when my daughter and her dad are having Alone Time, it’s my job to make sure the others stay out, are doing something to prepare their minds and bodies for bed time. If it’s been a crazy day, I’ll go read them a nice long story. Otherwise, they read a book or colour in. Play time is over.
This special time for our kids is only 15-30mins long, and although I know your day is just as crazy as mine (or worse!), it goes by so quickly. This is a couple of minutes a day that your child gets to play with you – share his world with you, uninterruptedly. Research shows play can improve children’s abilities to plan, organize, get along with others, and regulate emotions. ( and can help manage the body’s stress response.) In addition, play helps with language, math and social skills, and even helps children cope with stress.
If you’re stuck…
…Or if it all feels like too much, and you already don’t have enough time in the evenings. I feel you. We’ve been there. If this is not priority in your family right now, PLEASE DONT FEEL JUDGED! You’re doing an amazing job. And each family is different and it doesnt mean you dont think spending time with your kids is important. We know you are trying really hard to balance it all.
We’re only human. There are days when all we can do is meet our children’s most basic needs. Some days it’s nothing short of heroic simply to feed them, bathe them, keep an encouraging tone, and get them to sleep at a reasonable hour so we can do it all over again tomorrow!
We have four of these demanding littles. And our kids needed this. (Later came to see that we needed this too!) Don’t add more to your plate if this is not what you feel you should be doing right now. But if you do, start small. Start with 15minutes before bed time. I’ve put together some ideas to get you started. Click on the kid date ideas link below!
>>>> Kid date ideas <<<<
Let me know which ones work for you, and comment with the fresh ideas we can add to this list!
As always, all my love,