5 Tips for Giving Each Child One-On-One Time

by: Erin Ollila
It's important to make sure you spend enough one-on-one time with your children, but some days it's not always easy. One is having a meltdown at dinner while the other is waiting patiently to be fed. What do you do? Five parents weigh in with their tips for splitting your time when you have multiple children.
5 Tips For One on One Time

As I’m nearing the due date for my third child, I can’t help but wonder how I’ll possibly make the time to give each one the individual attention they deserve. The kids will soon outnumber the adults in our household, and it’s important to me to make sure they feel as if we’re making time for them.

No matter how hard we focus on individualized attention, life happens, and moments can derail us. One kid may be having a rough day, while another is content to play quietly. One has a meltdown at dinner while the other is waiting patiently to be fed. It’s important to stay the course and make an action plan for focusing in on each of your children.

1. Make Your Children Part of Your Routine

Here is some real-life advice from five parents who split their time and energy so each of their children gets an equal piece of them.

Darlene Manchester Ballard, mom to a boy and girl, suggests that parents in the same household, “divide and conquer. With two kids, we each take one to run errands on a Saturday. Errands get done in half the time and everyone gets one on one time.”

More: The Value of Family Routines

2. Engage in Their Activities 

Katheryn Tavares-Stein, a social worker and parent to three young children, agrees and shares an additional suggestion, “I also pay close attention to the things they like and will sit and do what they want to do, rather than always bringing them along on my errands. Even if that means watching 30 minutes of YouTube videos about Minecraft or Try Not to Laugh videos or terribly acted movies about mermaids.”

Mom and teen using tablet

3. Nurture Your Child's Passions

Similarly, understanding and developing their passions is one way to spend quality time together. Edward Costar, a father to two adult children with multiple grandchildren, says, “I'm a big believer in finding what interests your children and nurturing that. So if you have one, like I did, who was a gymnast, diver and athlete, and another who was an actress, reader and singer, I found a way to take them to lessons, meets, plays, practices or auditions, that became ‘their’ thing with Dad. Together we built special memories that were ‘ours’.”

More: Support Your Child's Interests

4. Schedule Regular Date Nights

One form of advice that most parents I spoke with shared with me was simple: take your kids on dates. Liz Steinmetz Moorhead, a mother of three young children, says, “we have scheduled one-on-one ‘special nights’ once per week, rotating among the three kids and trading off between me and their dad. I also have scheduled midday time when I have specific time with each one. I think knowing that there's going to be a ‘turn’ coming up and it's in my calendar helps them to feel less anxious or jealous of time spent with the others.”

Mom and toddler cooking

Find us on Pinterest for ideas for fun activities you can do with your kids!

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5. Make Moments Every Day for a Good Night's Sleep

Finally, I asked Susie Parker, certified sleep consultant and founder of Sleep Baby Love, if she had any professional advice she could share with us on the matter. She says, “Let the older child stay up after the younger one goes to sleep for a short, but sweet, bedtime routine.” She also suggests spending individual time with them during the day. “Focus on quality versus quantity. The goal is to fill your child's tank up each day even if it's only for a few minutes with a tickle fight, cooking together, cleaning up together, talking about the day, and more. The more attention you give during the day, the less attention your child will look for at night when they are supposed to be sleeping.”

No relationship is perfect, and you won’t be able to fill all of your children’s cups completely in every moment of the day. However, with a little effort, and possibly even some planning and scheduling on your part, your kids will always know they can get some direct time with you when they need it.

More: Ten Ways to Make More Time for Your Kids