Creating One-On-One Time


After school, I play goalie for my youngest son who’s practicing his shooting skills for an upcoming soccer game. Then I help one of my kids with their homework and help another one study for a test. I watch my daughter jump on the trampoline and practice her front and back tucks. I make dinner with my youngest son because he’s currently really interested in learning to cook. When Dad gets home, we eat dinner and clean up afterwards as a family. On the way to gymnastics, I hear about all the drama that happened at school that day and listen to “teenie bop” music and sing along with my daughter. Later in the evening I play a couple games of “Uno” and “Dutch Blitz,” with my daughter while my husband plays video games with our sons. Before bed, I do yoga and eat popcorn with my oldest son. These are just a few examples of ways I spend one-on-one time with my children on a given day.

This doesn’t happen every day of course. But I try to be intentional about scheduling time with each child, whether it is taking them to practice, going out to eat, running errands, or playing a game with them. Once a month we let our kids pick a special thing that they want to do with just Mom or Dad without their siblings. Last month one child chose to go golfing, another one wanted to go to a special ice cream place, and another wanted to go out to eat at their favorite restaurant.

Attachment specialists like Bryan Post and Heather T. Forbes recommend the 10-20-10 approach (10 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes after school, and 10 minutes before bedtime) as a basis for creating intentional time with each child. This timeframe is a guideline to help parents creating positive interactions and attachment building experiences.

Here are a few more tips for parents on creating one-on-one time with their children:

  1. Limit distractions – Put your phones away, turn off any distractions, and protect your one-on-one time from outside interruptions.
  2. Time alone in the car – When you have to run an errand invite one child to join you. The car provides a great place for conversation. Parents can take turns driving their kids to their regularly scheduled activities.
  3. Date night – Plan a special date night with each kid once a month and do an activity of their choosing.
  4. Wake your child up on a positive note – Spend a few minutes in the morning sitting on your child’s bed talking to them about the day ahead, holding them, or discussing dreams they had that night. Create a positive note for them to wake up on. Having a special morning one-on-one can usually start the day off right.
  5. Spend time together at bedtime – Read bedtime stories, do devotionals, give hugs, or discuss your highs and lows from the day.
  6. Bake or cook together – Take turns preparing a special meal or treat of their choice together.
  7. Check in after school – After school is a great time to check in with your child and get a recap of what happened that day. This may be over snacks or maybe while helping them with their homework.
  8. Be active – Walk, run, go on a bike ride, plant flowers, do yoga, walk the dog or do another exercise together. Pick up a sport that you both can do together like golf or tennis, or maybe you can pass a football or frisbee together.
  9. Notice the time together – Appreciate and notice the time together out loud. For example, you might say something like, “It’s so nice that just the two of us could go on a bike ride together today.”
  10. Be creative – Find something that you and your child are both interested in and find a time to do it together. If you’re interested in art find a local art or pottery class for you to join. If you like reading pick out a book that you both are interested in and read it together and discuss it.

One-on-one time helps create attachment between a parent and their child. Every family is different so find what works best for your family. Be thoughtful and choose activities that you both will enjoy and try to plan ahead. Make the most of the time you spend together, especially when kids are young because they grow up fast! Give yourself grace if it doesn’t happen each day, each week or even every month but keep trying to create these special one-on-one moments in your child’s life.

Angela Simpson is an adoptive parent, social worker and adoption advocate. Angela is MLJ Adoptions’ Support Services Specialist and works with families throughout their adoption process. Angela and her husband have two sons and have just recently added a daughter to their family through adoption.