Do you carve out one-on-one time for each of your kids?

One of the things I get asked the most in relation to having a big family is whether I’m able to spend enough quality time with each of my kids.  And my response to this question usually surprises people…

The thing is that no, I don’t really spend quality one-on-one time with each of my kids, or at least not in the way I assume people are implying when they ask me this question. I don’t regularly schedule specific outings or dates with one child at a time in an effort to give each of my kids my undivided attention. With five kids, there is simply not enough time in the day (or week or even month!) to do that. Also, more importantly, I value our time together as a family so much (and hope to instil that same joy for my kids), that I wouldn’t want to compromise family time for individual time with my kids — it wouldn’t feel natural for our family rhythm and routines.

Instead, I make sure to connect with my kids on an individual level throughout the day whenever I possibly can. I try to seize the moments when I happen to naturally be with just one of my kids, even if it’s a fleeting moment at the beach or wherever — in the car on the way to horse riding, running a quick errand to the grocery store, when I’m braiding the girls’ hair, when I’m hanging laundry on the line with one of the boys, reading a book before bed, brushing teeth, tying up laces, etc. There are tons of little moments throughout the day where I connect with each of my kids, and these moments are sufficient for us in terms of individual attention.

Instead of overthinking it too much, I often think about my childhood. Growing up in a big family, I never felt neglected by my parents; it wasn’t even something I thought about. I loved spending time with my siblings when my parents were busy or distracted, and loved being all together as a family when my parents were with us. As I’ve said before, I think one of the biggest benefits of having siblings is that you have to learn to share the attention — it’s a great lesson in resilience and managing expectations. I’ve always felt the advantage of having siblings outweighs any potential lack of parental attention I received as a child, and hopefully, my children will feel the same one day.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you have a big family, what is your policy with giving your kids one-on-one time? How do you make it work if it’s something you do prioritise? Is giving your kids enough one-on-one time a worry you have? Please share.

Courtney x


Comments (14)

Robin W
June 13, 2019

Having twins, I have noticed this is something many twin moms worry about a lot. And I agree with you. It’s a great experience to learn to share and to experience being part of a unit. Our society is so focused on the individual these days. I don’t think this is something my parents generation even mulled over that much (I’m 48). I’m an only child, and while I often get tired of the criticism thrown at only kids, I have to admit, I think that I would have faired better in my relationships and expectations if I hadn’t felt like I was always so much in the center of things. It sounds to me like you have a great family dynamic. 🙂

June 13, 2019

I love spending time with each of my 3 kids separately, and wish I’d done more of it from when they were little. It’s easier to carve out trip time and I’m more relaxed when we’re having fun, not just running the circus at home. We have time for special treats, jokes, no sibling interference, and great adventures. Some of these trips are with my parents or other family members, and they also enjoy spending time with one of my kids at a time. My big kids are heading off to college soon and these trips we’ve taken since they’ve been teenagers are some of my favorite times with them.

Annie from Brimful
June 13, 2019

Similar to you, there isn’t the capacity for me to spend consistent individual time with each of my kids. But I am always on the lookout for when one needs a little more attention. And when that’s the case, I’ll take that child out for a date to the library or for a steamer/smoothie. For their 5/10/15th bdays, my husband and I allow each child to pick a special trip with one of us. That has been a very treasured family tradition so far!

Courtney in Australia
June 14, 2019

I love that notion of just being really aware of when a certain kid needs more attention from you. I guess I do this too, without even being aware of it. As with all things parenting-related, awareness is always the key! xx

June 13, 2019

I am the mother of 4 kids and I don’t regularly schedule time with them 1:1 for the most part. I try to keep in tune with how they are feeling and who seems like they need some extra attention. The exception to this has been when my oldest child was being diagnosed with special needs, my 3rd child starting acting out a bit to get attention. For a short time I instituted a once weekly afternoon walk to our local coffee place where he would get a hot cocoa. It was only about 20 minutes, but it seemed to help immensely. We no longer need that time, but it was very valuable for a few months.

June 13, 2019

I am now realizing that being one of four daughters, I actually kind of did come from a big family! It never occurred to me! I think that what people forget is that for every kid you have, it’s another family member for your kid to have one on one time with. It might not be with you all the time, but it’s one on one time with someone who loves and cares about them and is part of their team.

Courtney in Australia
June 14, 2019

Hi Jessica,
Thanks for your comment! And that’s so true what you’ve said about kids getting one-on-one time with their siblings. Even just an older child pushing a younger one on the swing, or reading a book, or helping in the bath, etc. They get so much from their siblings! xx

June 13, 2019

I think it’s imperative to spend individual time with each child. It doesn’t have to be a long session of time, a trip to the grocery store, running errands, etc. Just a portion of time when that child has your undivided attention. Yes, I think it’s important to share and learn the patience and tolerance that comes with being part of a large family. But it’s also important to have time for confiding and learning about your child as an individual not just a sibling. I have a friend with six children and she made an effort to take each one out to dinner by themselves on their birthday, no siblings, just mom and dad and birthday child.

Courtney in Australia
June 14, 2019

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jill. I agree, those small moments (trips to the grocery store, etc.) are good enough to ensure you’ve checked in with that child. I think the idea of taking the birthday child out to dinner is sweet in theory, but I think my kids would be so sad not to spend their birthday with their siblings! I guess that’s where I struggle… that usually the one-on-one time comes at a cost of family time. For example, birthdays are so special — not just for the birthday child, but for the siblings as well — they love showering their sibling with love and attention on their birthday! Weekends are so precious in our family, I can’t imagine taking one child out for a few hours on a Saturday and leaving the others at home. It’s so tricky! Anyway, I appreciate you sharing. xx

June 13, 2019

As a single working mum, who happens to live thousands of Kilometers away from any family or close-knit friends, I try to make the time that I do get to spend with me y children as qualitative as possible. It’s about the small and often simple things. Hugs as I’m dressing the children for school, a gentle caress on their face as I’m drying them after a bath; loud sloppy kisses or tickles as I’m tying shoe laces. Whenever possible, I try to be there as much as I can for them (accompany their school classes on excursions, read to their class, man a stall at the school fête etc). I live in a society where I need to break through certain traditions and teach my children from my own experience growing up in Australia. Nice article

June 14, 2019

I have two kids (8 and 5) and when my oldest was 5 we started a tradition of taking her for a weekend trip each year. First me, then my husband, alternating. Now that my little boy is 5, we’re doing it with both. One year with papa, one year with mama. These little trips have come to be a highlight in the year, a memory making moment. We hope to continue for as long as they want, well into adulthood as far as I am concerned :). The day to day connection is at the core of everything but this little weekend each year is special to us all too.

June 14, 2019

We have three kids and I do take them to the occasional shop trip, or on a quick coffee date. Not that often but sometimes they just need a little extra attention. But we also do a lot of family walks and stuff and I hope they will remember both, the family stuff and the one-on-one time.
Also, with five members of our family, trips to the zoo or other expensive things will cost so much so they each get there special day, they can choose wherever they want to go and we plan a whole day with just the two of us. That way, we save money and I love spending a whole day with just one kid, doing what they love best.

June 14, 2019

I guess it depends on the type of relationship you seek with your kids. In order to really know who they are, for them to come to you wwith their most painful, their most vulnerable, I don’t think it’s possible without one-on-one. Maybe you didn’t feel neglected as a k8d in a big family without one-on-one, but did you feel like your parents really know you, see you, understand you? For me, that’s the kind of relationship I want with my daughters, where I get to know and connect with them , as I do with other important people from my life (my husband, my frinds) relationships that require one-on-one for this exact reason. It’s okay not to always having to share everything with our siblings, we are separate beings with different needs, we need some special, undivided attention from our loved ones.

June 17, 2019

My ideal scenario is to do everything as a family and when the children were little this worked fine but as they have grown this isn’t so easy and doesn’t work for them. Mine range from 6 to teens and so their interests are so varied. A stroll in the park or a museum visit just doesn’t cut it for the teens. I have to do things that suit their individual interest, so cinema trips with the older kids, bike riding with the little one. Much as I love been all together it’s hard to make work as they have aged and develop interests that their siblings don’t share but as others have said quality one on one time really makes them open up in a way they can’t with siblings present. My daughter sometimes asks for a mum and daughter day so we’ll watch a musical or go shopping which her siblings hate, we really bond on those days and her siblings don’t miss out as I’ll do something they like another time. It’s all organic and happens when they want it so feels natural. Having said all that there really is no right or wrong The only important thing is to spend time with our families so they grow up feeling loved and secure.

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