I know we see our children every day, but do we really “see” them? When was the last time you shut off the rest of the world and gave your undivided attention to your child for a significant amount of time? I’m talking phones off, totally immersed in an activity leading to an unscripted genuine off-the-cuff deep conversation kind of attention?
If you ask most of us parents, myself included, they’d probably say they see their children multiple times throughout the day. In the morning when they wake, driving them to and from school, as well as, after school activities, at the dinner table, etc. But if you really reflect back on an entire week, how much undivided attention do you, or should I say, can you, give each child? I mean, let’s be fair, you’re also very busy. Between work, household responsibilities, assisting with homework, driving children everywhere, refereeing sibling quarrels, etc. there is little, if any, time left in the day to grab a shower let alone provide each child with a significant amount of undivided attention. If you’re anything like me you might try to sneak in that undivided attention with each child just before bedtime. While this is a great practice, more often than not the eyelids become heavy and that special time is minimized. Is there a solution to this time dilemma? Yes, the solution is to date your children.
Date your child? The idea might sound weird at first, but think about it, every relationship needs to be nurtured properly in order for it to thrive. If you don’t have dates with your spouse in which you give one another your undivided attention and spend quality time together your relationship will deteriorate, trust me, I know. Same with friendships, you take the time to arrange coffee and lunch dates with friends, why should your relationship with your children be any less important? And as children get older and enter the tweens and then teenage years they become even busier with their academics and social lives, if you don’t take the time it will pass you by. And yes, there will be a certain amount of resistance, especially with teenagers. Don’t take it personally and don’t give in, this is definitely one thing you need to stand firm on…no excuses, you follow through on your date day/night (yes, even if you just got into an argument…in fact, especially if you just got into an argument beforehand). So how do you have a date day you’ll both enjoy? Simple, plan it!! Like any other date, it needs to be planned and planned together.
Plan the Date Together. When you go on any date planning is involved. Thus, when you go on a date with your child plans need to be made in advance, of course, you can have a little wiggle room, but for the most part the “main event” needs to be discussed. What’s really cool, and something people don’t often talk about or acknowledge is the anticipation and the excitement beforehand. The anticipation of knowing a date day has been planned, is on the calendar, and rapidly approaching is actually when part of the experience begins! So discuss some fun things you think your child might enjoy…remember parents, this isn’t about you, it’s about them, so get outside of your comfort zone a bit and try new things together. Think of new restaurants around town, and it doesn’t have to be an entire meal, maybe a fun dessert, ice cream, coffee drink.
Some fun ideas to get you started…
The Main Library (dates don’t have to cost a lot…grab hot chocolate/cookie at Rustbelt afterward)
If you have a teenage son here’s an epic date day that my son Max and I just experienced!
Then we were off to throw some axes!! I mean, what teenage boy doesn’t love throwing sharp objects at a target? Lol!
And we ended our date with Chick-fil-a in the car due to the fact that their dining room wasn’t open and watched an episode of The Office. It was an amazing day! From bonding over burgers being reckless while driving (at the arcade) to learning some valuable life lessons while axe throwing (who knew?!), I can’t think of a better way to have spent an afternoon/evening or a better person to have shared such fun experiences with! Well, maybe his sisters, I’m getting my next date lined up…
Date rules. Like any date, the idea is to enjoy the experience together, so there needs to be a few rules ahead of time.
1-No phones (okay, you can take a few pics) but other than that NO PHONES! I despise seeing a group of people, or even a couple on a date, and they’re all together physically but miles apart mentally and emotionally because they’re all on their phones.
2-Conversation topics: Family, Faith, and Friendship. It’s important to remember that date day is not about discussing chores around the house, what happened between them and a sibling the day before, it’s about building your relationship, and that happens when they know they have a safe space to talk freely…thus, allow them to naturally sway the conversation. I think you’ll be surprised at how fast they will open up and share some of their concerns, things going on in their lives, etc.
3-Go with the flow. Remember, they are the child, the adolescent, you are not! They might have a moment of frustration, which is actually magnificent, what a great opportune time to help them build some life skills. To help them acknowledge how they’re feeling, why they’re feeling that frustration, and how they can navigate themselves through it so that one day when they are on a date with a future potential spouse they will be prepared.
4- Have fun. There’s a huge difference between being childish and childlike, channel your inner child, have fun, show your children how to have fun, that life is more than just work and household responsibilities, life is a gift to be lived!!
Get the next one on the calendar. This is where most people go wrong. Tell me if this sounds familiar, you talk about how much fun you had on a date and how you need to do it again soon, but you never define “soon”, is that in a couple weeks, months? If you have multiple children I highly recommend getting a date day/night on the calendar for each child at least every other month. Thus, at the end of your date day/night schedule the next one. You don’t have to have everything planned, but you do need to have that next date on the calendar or else it won’t happen, and let’s be honest, next to your spouse your relationship with your children is the most important relationship so get that date on the calendar now!