When we had our second child, both my husband and I marvelled at how easy having one baby had been.
The benefit of hindsight is a curious thing. Having one baby was not a piece of cake. But when we threw the second into the mix, things got very hectic, very quickly.
There is the practical part of parenting two children. The toilet trips, nappy changes, feeding times and sleep - but then there’s the heart stuff. Wondering whether you’re short-changing the toddler as you sit locked in a chair, breastfeeding for hours. Or feeling like you had more quality time with your first when they were the only one on the scene.
Children also thrive on individual attention
Psychologist Justin Coulson says, “Our children feel important, heard, and worthy when they have our undivided attention. Outings, walks and other forms of one-on-one time may be the most important way we can show our children we care about them and want to listen to them.”
Individual time with your kids is also more fun. You get to enjoy their company completely, and there’s no sibling rivalry to contend with. But finding time to be alone with one child is not easy.
Here are some tips on how to do it.
1. Re-think what "quality time" looks like
The main secret to one-on-one time is not to get too ambitious. You don’t have to take them to Dreamworld for the weekend. Finding an hour, or even half an hour, a week is enough. When you think about it that way, suddenly it becomes much more achievable.
2. Re-jig pick-up and drop-off times
Most parents spend their time ferrying children around. Sit down with a week-to-view calendar and see where the flexibility lies.
It could be that on Tuesday you can pick up one child earlier from daycare, and take them for a milkshake or a trip to the park before you pick up the other child from school. If your work is flexible, you might be able to drop one off earlier and have some time with the other.
This only needs to happen once a week. Don’t get yourself in a tangle trying to find time every day.
3. Divide and conquer
If you are doing this parenting gig with another human, the ol’ 'divide and conquer' can work a treat.
Work out with your partner a good time on the weekend for you each to do something with one child. This can only succeed if you are physically in different locations. One of you might go to the park, while the other stays home and plays with Lego. Make sure you are clear with each other and make a plan. Do the same thing the next week, only swap children.
4. Schedule their extra-curricular activities at different times
Rather than have them both going to swimming lessons at the same time, stagger them. Hanging out with one child while the other is in the pool can be a time of connection and fun. Take pencils and spend the time colouring in next to each other, or play cards. The important part about one-on-one time is that you are with them, sharing stories and time.
5. Turn off your phone
Final measures to ensure one-on-one time success: turn off your phone. Put it somewhere you can’t even look at it, and for the time you are together, allow your child to be the centre of your attention.
Put it in your diary and stick to it. Having said that, don’t kill yourself with guilt if life gets in the way of time alone with your child. This is real life, and it doesn’t always go to plan. Start small, and see what works for you and your family.
Enjoy the time you have with them. Finding time alone with your children can be hard work, but ultimately, it’s incredibly rewarding - for both of you.
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