One-On-One Time – Connecting With Your Child

Parenting can be stressful. Between getting your child ready in the mornings, school drop-offs and pick-ups, organising meals and ensuring homework is completed, it can be easy to feel like there are too many demands and insufficient time.

When parents are low on time, something that often gets put down on the priority list is connecting with their child.

Follow our tips for connecting with your child through one-on-one time to create a stronger relationship, have more fun and make parenting and discipline easier.

Tip 1: don’t be afraid to switch some family time to one-on-one time

Social expectations often mean a lot of pressure to present a certain way as a family. For everyone to be immaculately dressed, for the house to be clean and tidy and for everyone to get along. The reality is that no family is like this. The nature of family dynamics often involves sibling rivalry, arguments, messiness and different needs and spending quality time as a family can sometimes make these differences more apparent.

While there’s no need to give up on family dinners or holidays, it may be worth organising your time as a parent to spend one-on-one with your children.

Often a child needs to have a parent’s full attention, affection, and energy can help them to feel safe, loved, open and free. Children often blossom by spending this kind of time with their parents.

And the good news is that it feels good for you, too! By bonding and spending quality time with your child, you’re creating positive moments and memories together, which feels good for everyone.

Tip 2: it’s the little things that count.

Sure, it would be great to be able to take your child out for a regular outing, such as a shared meal or going to the movies. However, this can be difficult for many parents to orchestrate. This is where it can help to focus on the little things. For example, spending some extra time reading at night with your child one-on-one, driving in the car together alone (and maybe having a sing-along or play Eye-Spy), hanging out the washing (and playing a game of ‘categories’ or Simon Says) or cooking together (and getting your child to help mix and taste test) are all things most parents do already. Get creative and brainstorm some simple ways you may be able to spend more one-on-one time with your children.

Tip 3: be present and remove distractions.

Children crave attention. Sure, children can ramble on or talk about topics that don’t interest you sometimes, but it’s important to show your child that you’re focused and engaged in what they have to say.

Make eye contact, nod when your children are speaking and ask questions to ensure they know you’re listening and interested in what they’re sharing. Asking your child about their opinions on a topic can help spark an animated conversation and make you feel more connected.

When spending quality time with your child, avoid distractions. For example, try leaving your phone in your pocket or bag and choose a time of day when you don’t have other stressors to focus on (e.g. preparing for bed or dinner).

Tip 4: Show affection.

Telling your child you love them is essential to making them feel safe, seen and cared for. Equally as important is showing your child your love for them. In this way, actions can speak as loud as words.

Hug your children as soon as you walk through the door at the end of the day. Snuggle up on the couch with your child when they’re watching their favourite show. Before bedtime, cuddle up or stroke your child’s hair – get to know how your child likes to receive love and affection and try and show them in their own way that you love them.

Tip 5: Play and have fun.

Children explore their world through play. Whether it’s getting on the floor and playing trucks with your toddler or playing cards or a board game with your teenager – children love to play and have fun.

Having fun with your child isn’t a waste of time – quite the opposite. By joining in something your child enjoys and allowing them to show you things they are good at and find enjoyable, you are not only bonding with your child but helping them feel safe, seen and loved. By being silly, laughing and having fun, you are more likely to feel good about yourself as a parent and genuinely enjoy your child’s company- a win-win for everyone.

10 ideas for one-on-one time.

  1. Games: ask your child to play their favourite game with them, whether it be teddies or Uno.
  2. Art: make a drawing or painting together, or do a “portrait session” of one another. Get messy and have fun!
  3. Read together: read aloud from a book of their choice.
  4. Play: put aside time for pretend play with your child’s favourite toys. Sit down and play with them on their level. 
  5. Let them stay up one night a week: let your child choose a book or a game to play (no screens).
  6. Date night: take your child on a “date” to a favourite spot. Whether it’s pizza, hot chocolate, or going to the park, let them help you choose an outing to do together.
  7. Cook a meal together: spending time together in the kitchen is fun for kids, and it helps to have an extra set of hands. You can even split up the cooking for more one-on-one time. For example, have one child help prepare dinner, and then another help creates a dessert.
  8. Build a fort: rearrange furniture, camp in the backyard, and build a fort to hang out together.
  9. Run errands: sometimes, simple things like going for a drive or to the supermarket can mean a lot to a child. Pick up a snack, or let them help you collect things – involve them in some way.
  10. Talk about their interests: give your child your undivided attention and talk about what they’re interested in. This includes those video games! If it’s important to them, then make it a priority to learn more about their interests. Listen to why they like it. Let them feel heard.

Better Self Psychology specialises in helping children, teenagers, and young adults.

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