Tuesday, October 2, 2018

3 Easy Ways to Connect With Your Kids Individually When You Have a Big Family

If you follow me on Insta, you'll see I have an affinity for the #BigFamilyProblems. Mostly because, well, that's my life.  

In all honesty, I often use the hashtag sarcastically.  Because I LOVE having a big family.  And I love having an even number of children.  My middle two tend to "buddy up" while my oldest and the baby do the same.  Or sometimes the oldest two girls gel while the younger two play together.   It can be pretty awesome!

But we need to remember that our kids need some one-on-one time with mom and dad.  Having "buddies" (aka, siblings) is great.  It really is.  But our kids are individuals with their own needs, personalities, and dreams.   

So here's how we make sure each of our kids gets some one-on-one time with mom and/or dad:

1:  Go on a date.

Yes, just like you might date a spouse or partner, you need to date your kids!   Our oldest three are on a rotating schedule.  They get to pick which parent takes them on the date and what the activity is.  It's usually about an hour of time.  Sometimes we manage two dates in one weekend, while other times it might take us an entire month to get to all three dates.

The date doesn't need to be expensive.  With a big family, I know it's not realistic to spend a ton of money.   My kids most commonly choose getting ice cream or lunch, because they get to pick the place and take their time.   

Other ideas include a solo trip to the park (free), a trip to the store to spend their allowance, or occasionally, a movie.  (Though this often ends up being a double-date where one parent takes two kids.)  

2:  Run an errand. 

I look at this as a win-win.  Your family needs groceries, and a child can accompany mom or dad.  This gives us time to chat and usually the chosen kiddo gets a special treat of some sort, such as a quick run through the drive-thru for a hot chocolate.   If we're at a store that has toys, we linger on that aisle for a bit and listen to our child's interests.  

One of our kids loves to go through the car wash, for example.  Another child loves going on a library run.  It might even be driving up to the drive-thru pharmacy to pick up the family prescriptions.  We roll the windows down and blast that child's favorite music.  Sometimes they request gum from my purse, which is also a big deal since we don't let our kids chew gum all the time. You can make every day errands special!  

3:  Linger at bedtime.

Sometimes we linger a little longer with one kiddo at bedtime, giving us the opportunity to chat, cuddle, or listen to them tell us about something that's pressing on their hearts.  Bedtime is a great time to unwind and talk, parent-to-child, while the other parent gets the other kids to bed.  I recommend this most on nights that is not a school night, mostly because school nights are stressful for all.   

I also like to give my kids a "good dream in their mind" by saying something aloud that they love and touching their forehead. The kids even ask for a "good dream" before bed sometimes.  This sets the tone for a good night's sleep.   

My kids also love when I ask them questions such as "The Favorites Game." I ask them three questions about their favorites, such as:  what is your favorite food, what is your favorite season, what is your favorite color?   It's super simple and fun.  

A few guidelines:

-Make your dates technology-free.  Except, of course, to snap a few pictures to commemorate the fun.  You keep your phone tucked away, and you don't let your child bring a device. 

-Set a budget.  This makes the date-choosing fair to all the kids and keeps your family's finances in mind. 

-Create a schedule.  As I mentioned, we rotate dates with our oldest three kids, but we don't do it every weekend.  However, putting dates on a calendar is helpful for kids to know what's happening, with whom, and when.  

-Give choices.  Older kids may know exactly what they want to do, but younger children are often more successful with choices.  "Do you want to go get ice cream, or do you want to go to the park?"  

-Make dates about time-spent-together (experiences) and not things.  I'd suggest not making dates a toy-buying-excursion, unless of course, it's something linked to an activity.  Like you purchase water guns and then have a water gun fight together when you get home.  

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