I remember pinning this quote and continuing to think about it. I try to listen, but with three kids vying for my ears and all the craziness of life I am 100% sure that I am not “listening earnestly no matter what.” Instead of feeling like this was an area I was failing, I came up with a solution to carve out some listening time for each of my kids.
My husband and I have started having one-on-one dates with the kids. We started by putting the dates on the calendar to make sure that we planned around it, making it top priority. It also adds to the fun because the kids can “see” their date and get excited. We try and keep the dates simple, something that is for both the child and parent to do together, something that encourages talking (no movies etc.),and nothing that involves buying toys.
This is our list for this year: (some will be combined)
- Sunset picnic at the beach
- Nature hike with a scavenger hunt that you plan together
- Laser tag
- Lunch (sitting outside)
- Grocery shop and make dinner
- Putt Putt golf
- Get nails done
- Farmers market
- Make a garden or plant flowers
- Fancy dinner where we dress up
- Frisbee in the park
- Rock climbing
- Roller skating
- Riding our bikes
- Go for frozen yogurt
- Shop for and complete a craft
- Out for breakfast and a beach walk
- Visit and book store or library
- Write and illustrate a book together
- Driving range or playing golf
- Zoo with an A-Z picture scavenger hunt
- Day trip
- Running or exercise class like kids yoga or dance
The activity is not as important as the participation. My husband and I both try our best to be to be present and engaged with no distractions (yes, that means not checking the phone). Creating an environment to encourage talking and really listening. In this fast paced world, it is hard to slow it all down and just be in the moment!
So all of this may seem pretty obvious, but I will be honest it was not as easy as I thought it would be. For my son and I’s first outing, we went to eat dinner and then play laser tag. It was very strange at dinner. There were so few times that it had just been the two of us. I hate to admit it, but I was struggling to come up with things to talk about. This reinforced that these dates are important!
After dinner we went to play laser tag which was great fun! We were on the same team, laughing and running wild. On the way home he shared that he had a blast and that I was a fun date. Yes, my heart melted and I was hooked! I love these special times just as much as my kids.
I have learned that it is better to start with a fun activity to get the conversation started and flowing and then finishing with lunch or dinner. Check out this link for some ideas get kids talking from Positive Parenting Connection. I like to prepare by thinking of some things to talk about before the date and I also ask the kids to think of at least one question or topic to discuss.
These dates have become something I am most proud of with parenting. Not only are we listening and opening up the lines of communication, we are teaching our children how to talk to adults, exposing them to new activities, showing how much we value spending time with them and creating a tradition that will hopefully continue into adulthood.