by Meredith Flory
The month of December is a hectic time for many families. Filled with holiday celebrations, recitals and school activities, there’s a rush of shopping, working, and events that may leave your family having fun, but feeling frazzled. However, as we enter the new year, if you then find a lull in your family calendar, the last few days of break or the following weekends of cold, dreary winter days, can be the perfect time to reconnect with your children and spend one-on-one time away from distractions and the daily routine of parenting. Planning a “date” with individual children can be a way to feel refreshed in our parenting and help our children feel special as we reinforce positive communication and traits such as creativity and kindness.
A planned special date is different from time that you are incidentally with only one child – it is time to forget about chores, schoolwork and other things we constantly ask our children to do, and instead simply show attention to their thoughts, feelings and interests. For parents that work long or odd hours, it can be a great time to reconnect, or for blended families, a time for children to individually develop both new and continuing parental relationships.
Spending intentional time with an individual child can be more challenging for some families. For large families or single parents and families where one parent is away frequently, time to manage individual plans may be hard to come by, so some creativity may be required. For instance, instead of leaving the house, create a rotation of weekend nights where one child will get to stay up late for a special board game or movie. You may be able to find another parent to trade baby sitting with or involve extended family. If these options will not work for you, come up with a group activity where each child still has small moments to spend with you and allow their opinions to shine, such as everyone picking their own dinner at a food court, camping in the living room or backyard, or taking turns being “in charge” of a family movie or game night.
The time following the holidays is a good time to implement this for several reasons. First, many families are working to find ways to minimize item gift giving at the holidays. Purchasing an “experience” and planning a special day in the near future can be a great alternative to purchasing more things to clutter the house. Additionally, the winter break may allow you to find the time and motivation to make plans with a child, particularly older children and teens who might be more resistant to the idea if they could spend the time with friends. For family asking for gift ideas, suggest time together with individual children as well, encouraging relationship building through event tickets, or gift cards to restaurants and shopping with the intention of going together. These could be things the extended family member does with the child, or a contribution to parent-child activities. Some of my favorite memories from childhood are of time spent with my aunts and uncles. I do not remember a lot individual gifts, but I do remember when my uncle took me to see Phantom of the Opera, and movie nights spent with my dad’s younger sister before she had her own children.
While a more expensive outing may be a great idea for a gift, there are plenty of ways to make a parent – child outing budget friendly or free.
Make it special. Regardless of how casual or upscale an outing you decide on, make it feel fancy through small personal touches. The morning before, write your child a small note saying that you can’t wait to spend time with him or her. A small token like flowers, balloons, or even matching corsages can be exciting and let the child know this is not a normal outing.
Express and create together. Unlock creativity and imagination with an outing to complete an art project together. Artsy Me has studios throughout the CSRA where you and your child can decorate a piece of pottery (www.artsymestudio.com), Van Gogh and Vino offers child classes during which the parent can stay as well (www.vangoghandvino.com). For a budget friendly option, visit an art supply store and pick up things to work on a craft or sewing project of the child’s choice at home.
Celebrate a tiny chef. Do you have a child with more adventurous taste buds than their siblings? Or one that always wants to help make dinner? A trip to a unique restaurant where their siblings would not be able to order chicken nuggets might be in order. Consider a breakfast or brunch over the break or before school one morning if it works better in your schedule. Younger children might enjoy a fast food breakfast and play date, while a teen might enjoy a coffee or smoothie date at a local place like Inner Bean Cafe. Another option is to learn to cook together – Dolce Darlin offers baking and decorating classes if you can make it a group date with other friends (www.dolcedarlin.com) or look into upcoming dates for the Kroger Chef Jr. program (www.krogerchefjunior.com). If you need to find ways to fit this time in at home, a special night where one child gets to help plan the meal and cook while the others are in a different room is an option.
Help your teenager dream big. Consider planning a night out with your teen that would provide a cultural experience connected to their current hobby or future career interests. Do you have a budding artist, dancer or musician? Find tickets to a professional ballet, art show, opera or symphony concert. There are often options at the Miller, Imperial Theater or Morris Museum of Art in downtown Augusta and The Arts and Heritage Center of North Augusta. A high school athlete might be excited to find tickets to a professional or college sporting event in their stocking or a budding scientist a trip to a museum.
Encourage Reading. Making reading feel like a special event is a great way to model reading as a lifelong activity. A date to the library or bookstore to pick out books together can turn into a special occasion if combined with a meal or dessert out, or a walk in a nearby park. If you have been reading a series together, find a themed outing to celebrate finishing the books, like food that reminds you of the story or an activity that the characters would have enjoyed. When I was younger, my mom and I loved to go thrift store shopping together and she would give me a few dollars to pick out used books. When my daughter was a toddler, a trip to a used bookstore to choose some books together was one of our first outings that felt special, rather than an errand. Augusta Book Exchange, The Book Tavern and 2nd and Charles are all great options in the area for book shopping together.
This article appears in the December 2018/January 2019 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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