I have a memory of going to the hospital with both of my parents to get stitches. Sitting between my Mom and Dad in the front of our Caprice Classic, my Mom reports that I said, “Everyone is going to think it’s my birthday!” In a family of seven children, I remember those wonderful times when I got to go out to eat on my birthday and have my parents all to myself. They did a great job making us feel loved individually, not just as a herd.
I struggle with this sometimes as the mom of a large family. It is easy to think of feeding the whole group, clothing the whole group, and trying to get the whole group in the car with their shoes on. Even if you have only one child, and especially if you have more than one, developing an individual relationship with each child is an important part of good parenting.
One way to do this is to have regular “dates” with your kids. Not only are these times alone with your kids just plain fun, studies show significant benefits, especially when dads take one-on-one time with their daughters.
On University of Texas Study showed that girls who have good relationships with their fathers tend to wait longer to have sex.
“This shows us that it is not enough for dads to be merely present,” says Regnerus, an assistant professor of sociology at The University of Texas at Austin. “They need to be active in their daughters’ lives. There are hints here that girls who have poor relationships with their dads tend to seek attention from other males at earlier ages and often this will involve a sexual relationship.”
Another study reported that kids whose fathers spent time with them in leisure activities did better academically, and the more time a father spent with his children, the lower their rates of depression, anxiety, and aggressive behaviors.
Here are some ways incorporating dates with kids might work in your family:
1) Set aside a date and time and mark it on the calendar. If it isn’t planned, it won’t happen.
2) Let the child decide what you will do, within guidelines (in other words, you don’t have to go get a pizza and play mini-golf if your budget won’t allow it). Sometimes the best dates are at home, playing a game, doing a craft, or putting together a model after other kids are in bed.
3) Don’t turn every outing into a chance to lecture and preach. Just talk and enjoy being with each other. If you need to discuss problem behavior, save it for another time.
4) Express your gratitude and love for your child. Some people have a hard time verbalizing affection, but children need to hear what you love about them and how glad you are to be their parent. Be free with praise and appreciation.
5) Don’t wait until your children are teenagers and begin to go through natural separation from parents to try to spend time with them. If you have established the pattern of doing things together, you can stay close to your teen, even when they need independence.
Some of my favorite Mommy Memories are of times when I’ve taken the time to be alone with my kids. And I love to see my husband escort one of my little girls out the door to show them they are loved and teach them how they deserve to be treated.
If you haven’t made this a habit, start this weekend! Even if you can only spare 30 minutes, spend that time enjoying some one-on-one and reap the benefits.