December 3, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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How do you spend your time with your children? If you’re like most parents, when they are small, most of your time is spent caring for them, reading to them, playing together, and watching TV together. As they get older, more time is spent traveling from one activity to another, working on homework, making meals together, and still watching TV together.
Although these are all worthwhile and necessary activities, for the most part, they don’t really promote getting to know each other better. When the family is together playing a game or sitting in front of the television, there aren’t many opportunities to engage with each other deeply.
To get to know your children more thoroughly, you need to spend one-on-one time with each child separately. That is, one parent going out with one child for a scheduled time of enjoyable interaction. Each parent should regularly take each child on a special outing.
When two people go on a date, the point of spending time together is to get to know each other more deeply. That’s also the purpose of scheduled time alone with one of your children—so you can both get to know the other more completely. This bonding time allows for situations and conversations where you get to know your child better and they come to a greater understanding of you and your ideas.
These are relaxed, enjoyable, important events that are put on the calendar and can’t be moved. Treat these get-togethers as if you were meeting with a very important person—because you are. Now is not the time to stop by to see a friend or check up on a situation. This is time dedicated to a VIP.
You could go out for dinner, go to a park, get ice cream, or take a long car ride on a scenic road. Try a game of mini-golf, spend time at a bookstore, or go to a baseball or hockey game. Find something you can do together that allows for and even encourages meaningful conversation.
There are many reasons to have quality time with each child. As you get to know each other, you can help each other grow. Proverbs 27:17 (NIV) says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Of course, you have many things you want to teach your child, but God can teach you through your child, as well.
Here are just some reasons why you should keep company with each child separately:
“It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.”—2 John 1:4 (NIV)
When asked how their day went, most kids will say, “Ok,” and nothing more. But when they’re engaged in something else as they speak, the thoughts and words flow more freely. Also, people find it easier to answer more specific questions. So, as you take a scenic drive, ask your child something like, “Who was at the game last week?” or “Did Susie get the part that she wanted in the play?” Asking about their friends will leave a door open for dialog about themselves.
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”—Deuteronomy 6:6–7 (NIV)
As the two of you interact with the world around you, you can share your ideas about what you see. When you’re getting ice cream, if you see a customer being rude to a worker, you can discuss rudeness, grace, and consideration with your child.
“Do not be shaped by this world”—Romans 12:2a (ICB)
While on your social outing, you’re sure to see other people meeting socially. From actions and snippets of conversation, you can tell when people are friends, co-workers, on a date, or married. These are great opportunities to reason about appropriate behavior with people of the opposite sex, ideas about marriage, and dating in general.
While you’re playing mini-golf (or in so many other situations these days) you might see a young couple kissing and touching each other openly. Allow your child to see what is happening and take time to talk about ages, places, and circumstances where such behavior is or isn’t proper. Discuss kissing and holding hands, but save serious conversations about sex for some other time when you’re alone together.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”—1 Peter 4:8 (NIV)
You may want to have a get-together with your child if you see they’re in need of some guidance. It’s a good idea to schedule a time and place in the near future, because to your child, a spur-of-the moment announcement after an incident might feel more like a lecture than a special outing. Serious talks and discipling meetings are necessary, but that’s not what these trips are about.
Think about the guidance needed and try to find a situation where the relevant topic will come about easily or naturally. If your child is struggling in school, try visiting a bookstore and see what interests them. Volunteering together at a soup kitchen can help adjust the mindset of a child who is acting entitled. Getting together like this to work out an issue shows your child you will always love them and want to help.
Family times, dates with your spouse, and activities that involve only some family members are all important, but each spouse spending one-on-one time with each child is invaluable. The trips may seem ordinary and even dull at times, but each child will have many memories of feeling loved and treasured.
Elizabeth Wheeler is a content creator and copywriter mainly for the Christian and homeschool markets. She lives in Boca Raton with her husband and their two children. She enjoys writing, reading, and spending time with her family.