My favorite tip for building relationships with our children is a simple one. It doesn’t require much money, time, or energy, and yet it brings such joy and closeness between each parent with each child. What is it?
Buddy nights are just what you might imagine: one parent and one young buddy going out for some one-on-one time. We prefer to actually leave the house for buddy nights, because just as when a husband and wife go out on a date, the whole atmosphere is different and more intimate when you are alone with undivided attention. We can talk more, and listen easily with no distractions. Our children know that we are 100% theirs for a few hours, that they are important to us, and that we believe they are worth setting aside special time for.
How does it work?
For us, buddy nights happen every Thursday after dinner. Having it scheduled and on the calendar has been key for us. Back when we first started buddy nights, we did not have a set, scheduled day, but would simply “aim” for it weekly. Without a pre-determined date on the calendar, however, those special evenings would be hit or miss.
Putting the event on our calendars creates a plan and a commitment, which helps ensure it actually happens. Using Google Calendar has the added benefit of sending us timely reminders, so we can not forget our plans!
My husband and I take turns for buddy night. He’ll take a child out one week, and I will take one the next. The kids take turns as well. We started a while back with our oldest, and worked our way down to the youngest. When we got through everyone, we started over again, reversing the parents so that each parent could spend special time with each child.
So for example:
- Week 1: Dad takes Writer out for buddy night
- Week 2: Mom takes Handyman
- Week 3: Dad takes Cowgirl
and so on.
After all kids have had their weeks, we start over, but this time:
- Week 1: Mom takes Writer
- Week 2: Dad takes Handyman
Currently, all children except our one-year-old have regular buddy nights with us. That means it takes two months to go through the entire cycle of children, and each one gets about six buddy nights a year.
What does a buddy night look like?
Buddy nights vary in how they play out every week, with one exception: Dessert!
In our kids’ minds, dessert tends to be an essential beginning of an ideal buddy night. On those occasions when we go out to dinner as a family, we never order dessert because… well… $3-6 per person times eleven people is just ridiculous! Whole family desserts happen at home, for the most part. Buddy nights, however, provide an opportunity to try the cheesecake, creme-brulee, or chocolate lava cake without breaking the bank. And our kids relish it!
Sometimes dessert is all we do, and that is truly enough to foster conversation and strengthen relationships. However, we usually do something else as well. Shopping often happens. Somehow my buddy nights with my boys tend to happen when they are in need of shoes, so we will go shoe-shopping. When I’m with one of the girls, they often want to go look at dresses, scarves, shoes and such. My husband doesn’t really do dress-shopping, but he’s happy to take a stroll through Target or Hobby Lobby from time to time.
Handsome left the house as a cowboy, and returned as a Neverland Pirate
Sometimes we may do something extra special, such as hitting golf balls, miniature golf, bowling, or seeing a movie.
A small but important note on older kids:
With older children who are sometimes reluctant to open up, a long drive is helpful. Side by side in the car together, where they don’t need to make eye contact, they are often more open to sharing their hearts. For this reason, we sometimes choose destinations that are farther from home.
Is this they only one-on-one time they get?
By no means is this they only time we spend alone with our children. As homeschoolers, we are together nearly all the time! We work to keep our lives light on “activities,” so that we are always available when our children want to talk, or when we want to have a conversation with them. I often call one of them to sit at my bedside and chat, or make an extra cup of tea or coffee and invite one to sit at the kitchen table with me. Often if I’m heading out of the house, I invite one to come along. Our life is full of one-on-one moments!
Buddy nights help us to ensure that we are intentional in prioritizing time with each of our children. We are striving to live our lives purposefully, rather that just floating along wherever the wind blows. Relationships with our children are so dear and important to us, and buddy nights are one way of arranging our lives to make time to nurture that. Those hours we spend are so precious, and I know that we will never regret one moment of it!
I’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences, and ideas on growing relationships with your children! Please leave a comment and share!