Most parents would probably agree that one-to-one relationships with their children are vital both to individual development and to family solidarity. Mother or dad gets a better look at a child’s true personality when he’s not competing with brothers and sisters, and the child seems to glow in the warmth of personal attention. Yet, with busy family members going in countless different directions, it would be easy to throw up your hands and declare, “Impossible!” But take heart: time alone with each of your children can happen without huge time commitments or elaborate planning.
Faced in recent years with the complexities of my husband’s business, my return to college, and our children’s growing list of activities, we’ve had fewer and fewer empty blocks of time. To compensate, we’ve made a commitment to incorporate one-to-one time into our weekly schedule.
Each week, one child is chosen to go grocery shopping with me. (I try to go in the evening or on a Saturday when dad’s around to keep tabs on the other children. Another child has the responsibility of helping prepare the Sunday meal and setting the table while dad keeps the others occupied.
We’ve also made it a practice to take one with us on short errands, whether the errand involves seeing someone briefly or stopping by the bank. Such opportunities for small trips come up numerous times during an ordinary week and can serve as important one-to-one times for babies as well as older children.
During forty-minute drives to choir rehearsals on Sunday afternoons, a child and I sing or just chat. Often, we’ve discussed things that would not have come up in normal household conversation. When school’s not in session, my husband tries to take one child with him on overnight trips when he’s driving alone. The children think it’s great to eat at a restaurant and sleep in a motel.
All but the youngest have attended city council meetings with their dad and have been to classes at the university with me. Besides increasing their knowledge of the world around them, these experiences are ways of showing our children that they are important, even though we have obligations to fulfill.
Other parents we know have taken the opportunity to get closer to their teenagers via trips together. Before her son left for a mission, one mother rode all the way from Utah to California with him—on the back of a motorcycle!
As an illustration of how important these one-to-one experiences can be to a child, I am reminded of the time my son David was asked in school to list the three neatest places he’d been. Heading the list was “The concert in Provo with my mom,” followed by “Lake Powell” and “Disneyland.” When you rate first with competition like that, you know it’s worth the effort!