Saturday, 30 July 2016

Why it's important to schedule time with each child

Life in a larger family can be full on. And, while there are many advantages to having multiple siblings - there's always someone to play with and there's always something going on - sometimes, there are downsides too. In particular, managing to spend quality, one-to-one parent/child time can often be difficult - especially when there is a demanding baby in the picture.

When we first expanded our family from one to two children and then to three, we made a conscious effort to ensure the older siblings were not left out by the new arrivals and we often scheduled time where one parent could spend time with one child. However, by the time number four came along, finding alone time to allocate to each child proved more difficult and our good intentions got lost in the fog of sleep deprivation and survival mode.

But, actually, spending quality time with just one child at a time is really important. It helps you get to know them as a person rather than as part of the wider family unit and it really cements the parent/child bond.

So, as we organised our summer holiday childcare, we realised there was an ideal spot for Beatrix to spend a day with her mummy. I wanted it to be a day all about her, so I asked how she wanted to spend our day together after we had dropped Elliot at his Junior Grecians Day with Exeter City Football Club.

Beatrix chose to go to the cinema, followed by a shopping trip to find some bits for her birthday party bags and a present and card for her friend's birthday party this weekend. It was obviously a special day for her as she chose to wear one of her best outfits: her Anna princess dress combined with a rather fetching royal cloak from the dressing up box.

After dropping Elliot at the Exeter City training ground we headed into Exeter and went straight to the cinema to see what was on. Luckily, we arrived shortly before the Mini Mornings showing and we were able to go straight in to see Kung Fu Panda 3 (we were under strict instructions from Elliot NOT to see The BFG or Angry Birds as he didn't want to miss out). After the film we wandered up to the shops. We enjoyed a lovely mooch around John Lewis where we hunted for possible birthday present ideas for her before wandering to Card Factory and then went on to Smiggle, where we bought a basketball hoop set for her friend.

By this point, we were getting hungry so we visited the Boston Tea Party for lunch. Bea had beans on toast, chocolate milkshake and a cake and I had the crushed avocado with hummus and poached eggs on organic pumpernickel rye with an iced fruity tea. While we waited for our food, Bea raided the children's book table and food a Biff, Chip and Kipper story to read to me.

Once we had refuelled, we headed to Tiger and Poundland where we got lots of lovely bits for her party bags before heading back to get Exeter.

At nearly six years old, Bea is now incredibly independent and really knows her own mind, so it was lovely to be able to have the time to listen to her ideas and thoughts. I made a conscious decision to allow her to dictate what we did and, although I made suggestions about the shops we visited, it was ultimately up to her whether or not we actually did. I also made sure we were looking for and buying things for her, rather than me: after all, this was her day, not mine. My job was to be there, listening to her, valuing her and reminding her how important she is to me.

We had a brilliant day and I've remembered how important it is to put time aside to focus on each child as an individual. The next job is to pencil in dates with Elliot and Wilf before scheduling another date with my daughter.

How do you find time to focus on one of your children and what do you get up to?

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