"I wish my mom spent more time with me."
"I love it when I get to play games with my family."
These are actual things I've heard clients say. Guess the age?
They were middle school kids. I regularly hear kids ages 11-14 say things like that. Surprised? I was. We like to think kids don't want to be with their parents but that's not true. They need it. Regardless of age, they need time: one-on-one time as well as family time.
I've previously discussed family game night but, now, I want to discuss the importance of one-on-one time with your kids. When I say one-on-one, I mean parents, together, spending time with just one kid and each parent, separately, spending some time with just one kid. This can sound daunting especially if you have numerous children. My older sister has five children ranging from almost one to eleven years old and she and her husband manage to have one-on-one time with each of the kids. I love seeing how much her children enjoy this time (she takes pictures).
Here are some suggestions:
1. Plan a monthly "date". Each month one child picks something they want to do with both parents. Each month it is different child. Set up some boundaries based on things like what you can afford and how much time you have to spend. Make it worthwhile, though, and allow a few hours. Get a sitter for the other kids. Devote the scheduled time to the kid on the date. So, no calling the other kids, no checking your phone, etc. If you can swing doing more than one date a month (meaning with a date with a different child), go for it.
2. Engage in weekly one-on-one talks with each child. This can be just a few minutes but again devote the time to them. Both parents should do this, sometimes alone and sometimes together.
3. Find some activities that you can do around the house with each kid (or maybe even two kids). Examples include bike riding, taking care of the car, yard work, etc.
4. When you are out on a family outing, you can still get some one-on-one time. For example, if you are at a baseball game go to the concession stand with one kid to get snacks. Take that time to chat a little. Then later maybe you will take a different kid to the bathroom without the other kids.
A couple of warnings:
1. Try not to let your kids see you enjoying time with another kid way more than them. For example, you love fishing and your 12 year old loves fishing. For the last three weekends you and your 12 year old have gone fishing. Your 15 year old hates to fish but loves makeovers. By no means do I think you need to engage in three weekends of makeovers with her, but find a way to connect with her. It's a hit to her self esteem when a parent never seems to have "fun" with her but always with her brother.
2. Put some safe guards in place so that regular cancellations don't happen.
Stefanie F. Pisarkiewicz, LPC
Experience and information from a counselor and mother- sharing her two cents on children and teens.