Creative Child

The Importance of 1:1 Time with Your Kids (Plus Date Ideas!)

by Rebecca Eanes

It’s tough. In the busyness of modern life, it isn’t easy to carve out one on one time with your child, unless you count the million car trips per week where you’re hustling to get somewhere. (Spoiler: That probably doesn’t count.) And if you have multiple children? Well, while you’re being a superhuman, fly me over a latte.

Goodness knows you don’t need another thing to add to your plate, but being intentional about spending quality time with your kids individually will really pay off. 

Following World War II, scientists in the UK began surveying every woman who gave birth over a one-week period in 1946. This resulted in roughly 14,000 questionnaires about every aspect of birth in Britain. This was repeated again a generation later, and this continued until they had collected surveys on 70,000 children over a 70-year time period. This became the longest-running study of human development in the world, growing to encompass five generations of children. 

In her book, The Life Project, Helen Pearson breaks down the results from this massive study and came up with some powerful conclusions about parenting. She lists a range of parental behaviors that the studies have associated with good outcomes, and the good news is that they’re not that complicated!

  • Being emotionally warm.
  • Taking them on excursions.
  • Reading to them daily.
  • Talking to and listening to them.

These seem pretty basic and obvious, but I know, for me, between work, band activities, theater activities, household duties, and general errands, finding time to sit down and read or have meaningful conversation doesn’t just happen without serious intention. I suspect that I’m not the only parent who finds it difficult to make time for quality time. This is where it’s important to point out that quality matters over quantity. In fact, Melissa Milkie, a sociologist at the University of Toronto says, “I could literally show you 20 charts, and 19 of them would show no relationship between the amount of parents’ time and children’s outcomes. . . . Nada. Zippo.”

So, blocking off an hour every day to sit anxiously with your kid so you can check off the “spent time with my child” box is not as beneficial as 10 minutes of warmth and listening. It’s not how long you show up but simply how you show up, and now we can all collectively exhale a sigh of relief. This, we can do.

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