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Special Time

I recently wrote about sibling rivalry on my own blog.  Even the closest siblings have moments of frustration and jealousy.  I discussed different ways to help each child feel important and loved as well as ways to decrease sibling conflict.

One of the best (and often most difficult due to logistics) ways to help children feel important is to carve out a little extra 1:1 bonding time in the form of “special time”.

First children generally enjoy a fair amount of solo time with each parent, but when that second (and third, and fourth…) child arrives, it’s hard to find the time for 1:1 play with each child.

With two kids and limited help, I am always on the run, trying to make everyone happy at once.  The three of us enjoy time spent together, and when my daughter is in preschool my son gets lots of extra “mommy mornings”.  We go out for blueberry muffins, stop at different parks, and enjoy long walks to the fire station and around town.

I see the benefits of special time with my son almost immediately.  He’s generally a mellow and happy soul on any given day, but when he gets his 1:1 time with me his smile is endless, his vocabulary blossoms, and the “I love you mommy”’s are constant.  As much as he likes to chase his sister and play games of her choosing, he needs a little time to just chat with mommy, look for rocks, dig in the sand, and be himself.

But big girls need their special time too, and that’s where I struggle to find the time.  While most people hire babysitters to get away and run some errands without their kids, I hire a babysitter to find some alone time with my daughter.  We go ice skating, throw coins in the fountain at the mall, take walks to the nail salon and the Farmer’s Market, and spend time reading at the Library.  And on days when the babysitter isn’t around, we spend my son’s naptime baking, making art projects, and playing outside.  She loves our time together.  She’s calm, happy, and free from worry.  She feels connected. She knows that I am 100% focused on her during our time together.  It makes a big difference.

Finding alone time with daddy is a completely different story.  He travels a lot.  He was away for 7 of the last 8 weeks.  And when he’s in town he tends to log 14 hour days most days of the week.  It’s the nature of his job, but it’s hard for a four year old to understand.  She can usually count on special daddy time on Sundays during our son’s nap.  They head out on the bike and spend a couple of hours just being together.  The smile on her face upon her return is priceless.  It’s easier for him to sneak in 1:1 playtime with our son when we’re at home, but our daughter needs the time away to feel the 1:1 connection.

With daddy back in town, we have a special day planned today.  Just the three of us.  We are headed to one of the many outdoor shopping malls in Los Angeles to make a stop at American Girl Place.  While she loves looking through the catalogues, we’ve only been to the store once before.  It’s a bit of a drive from our cozy little beach town, and little brother is still bound by a long nap in the middle of the day.

While we are there we will take a ride on the trolley that circles the shopping center, check out the cool fountain, pop into the bookstore, and maybe even stop at the Farmer’s Market for a yummy snack.  I’m sure she will love it.

While we do our best to fit in 1:1 time with each kid (and daddy joins my dates with our son on preschool mornings whenever possible), we don’t often have time where it’s just our daughter with us out for an adventure.  She needs that time to be reminded that she is loved, important, and valued.  She needs a couple of hours of time where we are 100% focused on her, her thoughts, her dreams, and her achievements.  We know that we love her 100% of the time, but sometimes kids just need a little reminder.  Sometimes they need to feel like the center of attention, just for a couple of hours, so that they can find their place in the family once again.  Sometimes they just need to regroup.  We all do.

As we head off on our fun daughter day adventure I feel a small twinge of guilt about leaving our son behind for the afternoon.  I can’t help it; it’s who I am.  But then I remember that he will get our babysitter’s undivided attention during those hours.  She will read to him, play cars with him, take him outside to catch bugs, and make paintings with him.  And he will love very minute of it.

How do you find special time with your kids?

Katie is a Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist/Parenting Consultant in Los Angeles, CA.  She has a four year old daughter, two year old son, and a rock and roll husband who makes her life complete. Katie has a parenting advice blog at can also be found on Twitter.


Friday 24th of June 2011

Great article thanks. I am having the same problem. My child that doesn't go to school yet gets one on one time with me but the one that does, doesn't. Next year they both go to school and I will get one on one time with my new baby. I can make time with one daughter without the other but I will always have my new son with me because he nurses (and will not take a bottle.) so right now I cannot have 1:1 time at all really.

I'm off to check out your blog.