Each year I choose a word that’s a theme, if you will, for my year. And after the insanely busy end of 2015, it was crystal clear that my word for 2016 would be connect. My kids are growing up way too quickly, and it’s crucial to me that we connect as a family. We do this at family dinners most nights of the week, focusing on each other and each sharing the best and worst parts of our day (if you haven’t tried this, I highly recommend it – it’s a great way to learn about the highs and lows of your child’s – or spouse’s – day, and our kids typically can’t wait for their turn to share).
We get a lot of time together as our group of five, and I love it. Game nights, movie nights, bike rides around the neighborhood – or even just all doing separate things in the same room – we spend a lot of quality time as a family.
One-on-one time, however, can be harder to come by. I first thought about this as each of my children ended up grocery shopping with me on various weekends. It was a rare chance to have extended time with just one of our three kids, and I loved the opportunity for conversation with each of them (and oh my, how topics differ from child to child!).
An idea was born from these shopping trips, and I decided I’d implement it in 2016 as a resolution of sorts – a way to have intentional time with each child. I created a chart that allows for purposeful time for my husband and I with each of our children throughout the year. In January, I get a date night with our oldest; my husband gets one with our middle son, and our daughter gets to choose a family activity for us to enjoy together. In February, the names rotate. I get a date night with our daughter, my oldest son is paired with my husband, and our middle son gets to pick the family activity. Each child has a special role for the month, and each parent gets one-on-one time with a child.
I put the chart up on our fridge, so our kids can see where their names fall each month, and so they can start planning what they want to do for their date nights or family activities. (To get your free printable PDF of this chart, click the image above, or click here.)
Some rules we plan to implement are: a budgetary limit (these are supposed to be fun times out, but it could easily get expensive if the kids plan for laser tag and the arcade all evening; setting a budget lets them have appropriate expectations) and no straight-out shopping trips (we want the focus to be on the time together, not on the children buying a cool new toy – but shopping might be involved for a craft project, for instance). Some ideas could be:
- Dinner at your child’s favorite restaurant
- A movie (follow it up with dessert somewhere, or a trip to Starbucks, so you have a chance to chat about the movie & anything else)
- Batting cages
- Craft night – at home, in a separate space from the rest of the family, or out at a crafting store (an alternative could be a paint-your-own-canvas night; these are popular in my city; we also have a paint-your-own-pottery place that our kids enjoy.)
- Roller skating at a rink – or at the park
Offer your children suggestions if they need them, but let them guide the activity planning so you can see what they really love and be a part of that with them.
For the family activity night, the child in charge that month will get to choose what we do (with parent approval), and we will all participate – without grumbling! This is a great opportunity for siblings to participate in something outside of their comfort zone, and to teach kids to support each others’ interests even if they don’t match their own.
Note: If you have two children, you can still use this chart! Just alternate the date nights for each month and alternate who gets to pick the family activity (i.e. in February Sam is with Mom, Jane is with Dad & Sam picks the family activity; in March, Jane’s with Dad, Sam’s with Mom, and Jane gets to choose for the family). If you have four or more, you can just adjust the rotation; this means that some months children are off the chart, but if it is an issue you can think of other ways to include: a child gets to stay up 10 minutes later than the other siblings in January, for instance).
I’m looking forward to time with our kids, and I hope this chart helps inspire you to connect with your family too!