It seems like all the experts agree---dates with your kids is a great idea. That's nice, but getting something from "great idea" to "implementation complete and part of monthly schedule" are two very different things in a household with multiple young children.
For several years now, we have made valiant attempts to institute 1 on 1 dates with our children. We would start, try, keep it going for a while but frankly the demands of chasing the other three, life and ministry caught up with us, and our good intentions were all that we had left(well, that and 4 kids).
But, we finally hunkered down, committed, and decided to make it happen. We pray regularly for our kids, we want them to feel special as individuals, and we're trying to raise them right. With God's help, we can do dates. Right?!?
Right. So, we put one kid on the calendar for each week, and started dating. With our plan, they would each get one date per month.
It was not an auspicious beginning. The kid going on the date was super excited, had a great time, and was ready to tell all to his siblings upon his/her return...but the remaining house-bound three were grief-stricken, jealous and upset the entire time their sibling was gone(in our house, that also means that they got pretty loud). It was not a pretty situation! Every time a date was on the calendar....it was more cringe-inducing than exciting.
For a while, the dates seemed to be ready to die a premature and unhappy death...but we pressed on. And, after all of the kids had a chance to go on their their date, even in their young minds, they started to get it.
It wasn't long before they realized that their sibling might be having a great time without them, but it would soon be their turn. They LOVE the one-on-one attention (tough to come by in a house with four young ones). And they have started to talk about their dates all month long...deciding which parent they will bring, (they get to decide) where they will go, what they will eat, what books they will bring for mommy or daddy to read to them...and whether they will go to the big store in town that has...drum roll...escalators!!
After several months of 1 on 1 dates with our kids, we are into a routine. When the CHOSEN ONE leaves for their date, the other siblings wave goodbye happily. And, upon their return, they crowd around the returning brother or sister and pepper them with questions about what they did.
It's working a lot better than we thought it might. At first...it seemed like yet another parenting disaster...but it has turned out to be a great way for our kids to learn delayed gratification, the importance of polite patience, and also to take joy in the happiness of others.
And to think we almost kissed dating our kids goodbye...We're so glad we didn't.