When you first separate and learn the ropes of single parenting, you will overcome many parenting challenges. However hard it might feel at the beginning, you will find a balance and a new way of parenting that works for you.
In this article, I discuss a dilemma you might not even consider initially. That is how, as a co-parent with more than one child, to get one-on-one time with each.
This is a predicament for every single parenting style, including co-parenting, solo parenting, parallel parenting, or anything in-between. When you have your kids, you're on your own. It means getting that all-precious one-on-one time with each child can feel nearly impossible, however much you and each of your children crave it.
Finding ways to spend quality one-on-one time with each child is crucial for their emotional well-being and the parent-child bond. While it may seem daunting at times, implementing strategies and making conscious efforts to connect individually with each child can profoundly impact their development.
Having co-parented one child and solo-parented another for over ten years, I'd like to share my advice and help you carve out that all-special one-on-one time with each child.
Reframe one-on-one time
I used to think of one-on-one time as a big event or extravagant activity, but it doesn't have to be. The solution is easier when you realise this and reframe your thinking around it.
One-on-one time can be as simple as doing an activity around the home together, sharing a bowl of hot chips after an extracurricular sport, or doing a weekly chore, such as grocery shopping.
Make the most of the more mundane moments when you have one-on-one with a child. Put your phone away and start a conversation.
Anytime with just the two of you is precious. Don't waste it.
Schedule dedicated time with each child
I swear by a good routine to stop my life from crashing around me. Making time for the essential things in life is a must, including one-on-one time with your children.
It doesn't mean you have to take each of them to a different cinema viewing every week or out for dinner. These are occasional treats, which while great, are not sustainable in your busy family schedule. They are likely not sustainable on your purse either!
Instead, put aside an hour each week with each child to do something together around the house. For us, my eldest loved netball, so we'd shoot hoops together after school every Wednesday. My younger daughter loves cooking, so we'd make a cake or bake biscuits together every Sunday afternoon.
Life can interrupt our carefully laid plans, so if you miss one week's dedicated time together, that's ok. Just make sure you get back on track the following week.
Bring in backup
Can you get someone to care for your child or children, leaving you to have time with just one?
If you have little by way of support, think creatively. Is there another single mum who might have the same problem as you? Could you arrange a care system allowing both you and her one-on-one time with each of your children individually?
I struggled for support when mine were little. Eventually, I enrolled my youngest into childcare one afternoon a week, allowing me two hours after school with my eldest. Weigh up the cost against any other options available to you. It was well worth the money to have a set time to spend alone with my eldest. And my little one loved childcare, so it was a win/win/win!
Alternate care options
Talking of professional care options, you can use these to not only allow yourself some me-time but to orchestrate individual time with each child.
When my daughters were in primary school, we made full use of the after-school club. Both girls would go together one day each week, allowing me time to catch up on weekly chores. Then one would go to the club on her own the following day, and the other on her own the next day.
This gave me time with each child once a week, knowing the other was safe and happy in a familiar environment with friends.
Note: It is super important to allow yourself self-care time too, so balance this with getting one-on-one with each child.
Use bedtime for one-on-time with each child
Getting your kids to bed in a non-chaotic, restful manner is a skill you learn to master as a parent. As a single parent, combining bedtime with one-on-one time is genius!
I'm not saying do completely different bedtime routines for each child. Who would have the time for this? But separating story time and allowing longer to chat and cuddle up with each child is nice for you and them. It could make the bedtime routine run more smoothly as they look forward to their cherished one-on-one time with you before going to sleep.
This can work well with older kids too. Take time to sit with them before they go to sleep. Chat through the highs and lows of the day and focus solely on them.
Make it happen with technology
We spend most of our lives trying to get our kids off technology. But there are times when it comes in handy, such as when you are masterminding how to get one-one time with each child.
If your children are old enough to own a device they can message on, send them personal messages. It's not entirely private time with them, but you can have a special mother/child chat about the two of you with no one else involved.
If you are at home and all your children need minding, you can spend time with just one by setting the others up with an age-appropriate game or some fun online education to entertain them.
Finally, most kids (boys especially) love online games. Take advantage of their hobby by learning how to play with them. It's a great way to connect without leaving the home. Not only are you meeting them on their level, but they'll think you're a super-cool mum for joining in the gaming fun.
Encourage individual hobbies
Having two girls, I always felt lucky that they had similar pastimes, toys and sports hobbies.
However, encouraging their individualism is essential and an excellent opportunity to connect with them without your other children getting involved.
My younger daughters loved jigsaw puzzles, while the other found them boring. Instead of encouraging her older sister to join in, I would use our puzzle time as one-on-one with my younger daughter, knowing my older daughter was content to sit out the activity.
Tailor your time with each child to fit in with your little ones characters and hobbies while encouraging their beautiful uniqueness.
As a single parent, I must make time for one-on-one interactions with each of my children. Despite the challenges, by dedicating specific time to each child, I demonstrate my love for them, build trust, and show interest in their unique needs, interests, and concerns.
Spending one-on-one time allows me to observe and appreciate their individual qualities, strengths, and struggles. It creates shared experiences and memories that strengthen our relationship. While finding this time can be difficult, I hope this article has inspired you to find ways to make it happen.
Ultimately, prioritising quality one-on-one time with each child as a single parent creates a nurturing environment that fosters emotional development, strengthens the parent-child bond, and contributes to the overall well-being of our family. Despite the demands, the rewards of these connections are immeasurable.