After we get school supplies and lunch plans worked out, extracurriculars locked in, and book our autumn holiday, the next thing I try to do is:
4. Make opportunities for special one-on-one time for each of the big girls with me and with their Dad before school goes back
I find - often - that one of my biggest challenges in parenting three children is finding opportunities to have one-on-one time with each child. Over the summer, all the kids get plenty of time with me and with G, too, but it's as a group, not, unless we specifically plan for it, one on one.
This summer each of my big girls has had a 2-night sleepover at my Mum's house by themselves, so each kid has had time just with me and C while their school-aged sibling has been away. C has been back at her Thursday creche for 2 weeks, too, which has given me two days with just the big girls and I. While they've certainly enjoyed that, it's not been quite a substitute for one-on-one activities and time.
All three of them, despite their very different personalities, crave and need this personal time with parents. C has been asking me for three weeks now, "When are the big gels going back a school?" with a plaintive note in her voice. She goes on to say, with great satisfaction, "THEN we have our Mummy an' C days!" She loves and needs the rhythm of days that can be more 3-year-old-centric (and having most of my attention without sharing!)
With the older two, I see the need for one-on-one time in increasing attention-seeking behaviours and complaints that things aren't fair / obsessing over imagined privileges that the other one has allegedly received. Both G and I have noticed that a special outing with Mum or Dad for each kid works wonders in reducing this wearing competitiveness between them. (And it is tiring to listen to over and over, as I'm sure anyone with more than one child can appreciate!)
In termtime, the structure of our activities provides regular injections of one on one time. A and G do guitar lessons together, while E and I will be doing piano. In termtime I do the groceries on Sunday afternoon and take A with me; G and E stay home and play board games while C naps.
Somehow, in summer, it seems to be harder to find the one-on-one opportunities, but I really believe it's important that we do so before school goes back. So I'm taking E out to get her hair cut and have morning tea tomorrow, and I'll take A with me to grocery shop in the afternoon (and probably take the opportunity for a cuppa again!) G is going to spend some time playing games with E while A and I shop (and C naps), and he and A are back to guitar lessons Tuesday night, which he'll follow with a visit to the ice creamery for her.
For us, this makes a lot of difference to everyone's feeling of readiness to get back into the swing of things.
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