One of the favorite questions and criticisms often directed at large families is the question, "How do you give each child the attention he or she needs?" Valid question. A very valid question. One I don't mind answering if it's asked with a genuine spirit and not as a veiled criticism.
First of all, I think to some degree, on one level, "one on one" time is overrated. To some degree. I know of several Moms who had their first child several years before having more children, and even now, years later, that oldest child struggles with jealousy and the inability to entertain or otherwise occupy him or herself. We want to raise our children to be independent and self-motivated, not dependent on others to run their lives or provide entertainment. (I hesitated on even including this paragraph as I most definitely don't want anyone to think we don't value our relationship with our children as individuals. I only included it because one of the things I am most thankful for is that our children get along really well for the most part, are learning to be self motivated, and they are also able to entertain themselves. The Moms I mentioned above find it so, so frustrating when those siblings come along and their oldest child remains their neediest child. I have witnessed it firsthand many times, and honestly, it would drive me crazy! :o)
That said, it is vitally important, especially in light of keeping connected to our children's hearts, to make sure each one is getting his or her love tank filled. That they know we're available anytime to just listen or talk. And that if it's really, really important, we will stop what we're doing and make time for them. And this can be more challenging in a large family.
So, this is what works for us, at least at this stage in the game with six kids ten and under, with one on the way.
For the last several years, I have been blessed to have an "errand day." My husband stays home with all the children except one (unless I have an infant, then he or she tags along.) I do ALL my errands on that day, and one of the children goes with me. I let them choose where we eat lunch (I have one that chooses McDonalds, every time, and another that chooses Red Lobster, thankfully, their lunch menu is fairly reasonable!) We spend the entire day together. Since we live about 45 minutes from town, by the time we do all the driving, lunch, and all the errands, it takes up most of the day. That gives them plenty of time to really settle in and be able to share anything that's on their heart. Mostly it's just fun, but especially with the older kids, I'm beginning to see that they really value that time when they can just talk.
This has been an excellent way to get in some good quality, one on one time. The kids each actually have their own "week." They get to sit at the end of the table for the week, they get to have nap/quiet time in the living room which is right by where I usually am, they get to go out with me for errand day, and they get to play a game with Glen and me one night after the rest of the kids are in bed. They all eagerly anticipate "their" week. And I look forward to getting to spend time with each one of my sweeties, when I can be focused on them (well, and trying to find the green beans, but you get the point.)
As my oldest daughter is getting older, I am realizing she needs to talk way more often than once every few weeks. For her, I have let her know, and continue to remind her, that anytime she needs to talk, to let me know, and I will make time for just us. It may not be immediate, but it will be as soon as possible. I believe that this is vital. And she has asked me enough times and seen my commitment to her to be able to trust me. I'm also realizing that when she is "off," something is going on, and the longer she's "off" the bigger it is. That's when I have to step back from the behaviour and situation and outright ask her what's bugging her. Sometimes it takes her a few days to open up, but she knows I care about what's going on with her, so she eventually does.
I realize that this plan wouldn't work for everyone. Maybe you have twice as many kids as I do and that would only give each child four turns a year. Maybe your schedule isn't set up in such a way as to allow you an entire day out while the rest of the kids stay home with your husband. In that case, if you chose to click on my link from Help For Growing Families because you saw my topic and you see a need or just have a desire to spend more one on one time with your kids, then I would encourage you to take your heart and your desire to the Father, the one who created your family just as He saw fit, that knows your children's hearts and needs better than even you do, that loves each one of them beyond your comprehension, and ask Him what His answer for your family is. I don't know how this will work as our children and family grows. Right now, I only have four that are in the rotation, as the youngest two are still too young to realize or even care that much. Maybe I'll combine olders and youngers so the older ones still feel freedom to open up, and the little ones are just out having a good time :o)One last point is something I just recently heard. I really wish I could remember where, it may have been the new The Old Schoolhouse magazine, but I'm not sure. Either way, a Mom was asked about one and one, individual quality time with her many children, and her answer was so true. She said something to the effect of she has many "moments" with each of her children every day. One on one time doesn't have to be this big, planned out thing where each child needs focused attention for at least thirty minutes. I'll be doing the laundry and one of the kids will come in and hang out for a few minutes. I'll be preparing dinner, and one of them will hop up on the counter, talk for awhile, then run off. A few minutes later, another one will pop in. We spend time together cleaning the kitchen. During free time, I am usually found either reading a book or on my computer. Frequently (sometimes more frequently than I would like!) someone will come sit with me to show me their picture, or sing me a song they made up, or read me a story they wrote. When I take time to stop what I'm doing and really listen to them, that speaks volumes. The point of quality time is to convey love and let your kids know they are valued and they are important to you. My kids get this even though I don't devote an exclusive half hour to each one of them every day. I am home with them all the time. I go out for errand day once a week, and to church on Saturday night. I would venture to say my kids spend significantly more time with me than kids whose moms work full time, are in school all day, and at sports on the weekends. And since we homeschool, we are literally together all day long.
So if you have a lot of kids and are worried, or you are thinking about having more but this is a concern, I just want to encourage you that quality time is easily doable in a large family. I have no concerns about my kids feeling like they don't get enough of me. I've let them know I'm available whenever they need me, and our days are filled with "moments." So be encouraged! And maybe, what works for us, is something that would work for you or you could adapt to fit your family.
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