Over the years, having consistent one-on-one time with my kids has taught me that some dates with them are simply more special than others. All the time you spend with them underline your love and devotion to them, but some of those dates will stand out more than others. You will begin to have your favorites and of course, so will they. Reflecting back on our dates, I began to study to see what characteristics were consistently there and came up with ten ways to create memories with your child. I truly believe these will become lifetime memories for their childhood and your relationship.
Our monthly dates consistently come up in conversation at our house. You would be surprised how much a part of our family dynamics they truly are. They are all special, but especially the more memorable ones.
Look at them and discuss them with your child as you begin to plan your next adventure!
(Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. This commission doesn’t cost you anything at all. The commissions earned help to allow me to provide the resources offered on this site. If you would like to read my full affiliate disclosure, you may do so here.)
1. Make each date a big deal.
Start talking about it at least a week in advance, and get excited about your date! Don’t just act excited – be excited! Your child will know the difference. Talk about it with him in front of other family members. If you talk about social networking in your household, especially if your child is on a social network, post about it and make sure he knows you did. Talk about it to friends and family members so that your child can hear you.
Don’t fake it, but if it’s important to you, please make sure they know.
Start early. Whether your date idea is a surprise or your child is involved, make sure you plan. Planning breeds creativity. I promise you will never come home from a date feeling like you planned too much. There can be a time and place for spontaneity, and I’m not diminishing the joy that can come from it, but on an average basis, planning is an essential element to having memorable dates each month. Sometimes we have a few months of dates planned out ahead of time, but if not, we are planning our next date on our way home from the current one.
3. Get your child involved.
You have a couple of different options for your date; you can surprise your child (and sometimes you should), but most of the time, I suggest involving them in the planning process. They can help you if they are three or thirteen and they should. It shows you value their input.
A week before your date, you can sit down with her and pick something out together or ask her ideas. Be sure to ask her in a way that makes her feel like you are interested in her opinion and as often as you can, incorporates their ideas. This will, of course, get easier as they get a little older. When they are old enough, begin to allow them to plan the whole date for you sometimes. Maybe trade off, you plan one month they plan the next. Find what works for you.
4. Be unique.
There are only so many times you
can should go to the park or dinner and a movie. Over time, I have learned that unique dates almost always make the most memorable ones. When it’s different, it shows that you put some time and effort into it, which, in turn, shows you care. There are hundreds of things you can do with them. You can use the Date Ideas Page to get you started. It not only has the ideas but all the tools and planning you’ll need for each date, as well. Finding unique ways to spend one-on-one time with them based on the season or activities only your town has to offer are great ways to make your dates unique.
5. Capture the moment.
You may or may not be like me and enjoy taking pictures, but it’s important to capture each date somehow. You may not think much about this now, but I assure you that you will later. The kids and I enjoy so much looking back over the years of our date pictures. It’s a visual reminder to them that you love to spend one-on-one time with them and helps them remember each date.
Fast forward to your child’s high school or college graduation or maybe his wedding day or the day she moves out. Now imagine handing them some form of a journal, scrapbook, or DVD set to music that catalogs your dates over the years. Can you imagine how much that would mean to your child and what it would do for your relationship as he or she begins adulthood?
6. Have an official day (of the month).
I know the more children you have, the harder this one is. I also know how crazy busy our lives are. Just the fact that you have committed to having dates with your children on any ongoing basis is heroic enough.
If possible in your schedule, select an individual day of the month and make that your official date day. There are a lot of family dynamics where this is possible. Regardless of your ability to have that one particular day each month, anytime you turn down other opportunities because you have your date scheduled with them shows and reiterates their importance to your calendar and life.
7. Give your cell phone a rest.
This is hard. I know.
And I told you in #5 to capture the moment, which makes it even harder.
There is nothing that says to your child, “our time together isn’t important” like checking email, Facebook or Twitter on your date. For good or bad, our phones are the reality of the world we live in. I just want this to be a simple reminder that this one is a deal breaker. If you do the rest of the things on this post and stay on your phone during your date, you might as well stay home. Use it for good like pictures, videos, etc., but beyond that, leave it alone. One option is to put it in airplane mode, that allows you to use it for features you need like pictures but keeps you off the internet.
If this is more of a serious issue for you (and you’re not alone), here are a couple of articles to help when spending time with your child and maybe in your life overall.
I was on my phone once (not while on a date), and Eli was trying to tell me something. I said I was listening and he replied, “but dad, I need you to listen with your eyes.”
It was one of those moments that a simple sentence made a profound impact on my parenting. Tuck it away for the evening!
8. Celebrate the great ones.
One of the things we started doing our first year was on the last date of that year, we picked his (Eli) favorite from that year, and we repeated that date. He loved going through and picking his favorite. It felt empowering and made him feel special.
You can also choose to have two dates that month, one new one and one for the favorite that year. On the 5th birthday of the beginning of our dates, we made a night of returning to as many former date locations as possible and taking selfies. We loved the game of it and talked about our memories the whole evening. We ended up making it a two-part date that month. Highly recommend that!
9. Talk about previous dates.
I don’t know exactly how this started, but during the first two years of dates with Eli, we made a game of naming off all our previous dates (in chronological order) up until that time. We did this in the car on our way to our current date.
We would talk about what we did, where we ate, our favorite things, etc. I loved our tradition because it helped us remember, and it was fun to reminisce. It was also great to see Eli’s perspective looking back, and seeing our dates through his eyes. Another positive, it gave me ideas for future dates.
That’s just one way to celebrate. Your options are endless here on how you do it. Create a photo album, interview each other at the end of each date, create a scrapbook, have a nice dinner one night a year and just talk about the year and what you learned. You can never do this step enough.
10. Ask and listen.
You need to do the first nine things as much as you can. If you do, I promise it will enhance your relationship! There are so many factors that contribute to a great date night with your child. But, there is one ingredient can never be forgotten, and that is the purpose of the date itself.
At the very core of each date is the goal of spending one-on-one time together. It is an extraordinary time for just the two of you, so in whatever you do and however you go about it, talk to your child, ask her questions and listen. Ask and listen. Ask and listen. Over and over and over.
Maybe he’s five and wants to talk about what happened on the playground at kindergarten today. Maybe she’s 16 and just needs to talk guys, school, or college without a lecture. The dates are two-part. The first part is to make sure they happen. The second is to care enough to ask questions about our kids’ lives and listen to what they have to say.
Change your family tree
What your relationship with them looks like in 10-20 years begins today. They want you there now. They want to share their lives with you.
By deciding to have consistent one-on-one time with your children, you can change your family tree. Commit to having dates with them, and they will want the same for the relationship they have with their kids. There aren’t many things you can do as impactful as deciding to love your children with time.
If you are spending one-on-one time with your kids, what are some thoughts and ideas you have? Please leave your comments and share. I would love to learn from you, and I know others will as well.
If you would like to get started having this special time with your kids and need some help, please let me know. You can reach out to me on the contact page, or you can email me at email@example.com. I would love to help and encourage you in any way I can.