Dates (Now Referred to as D.E.B.T.s) with Kids
Finding opportunities for quality, one-on-one time with each of your children is surprisingly difficult. As our family grew, we realized how much we wanted to carve out time to cherish special moments with each of our children individually. We put our heads together and realized we could apply the same strategy we used with one another to strengthen and cultivate personal relationships with our kids.
As parents short on time, we had already noticed our lack of quality time with one another, and had addressed it by putting into practice some of the marriage strengthening strategies outlined in our blog Date Your Spouse. Soon after, we sat down to discuss the question of how to carve out one-on-one time with our kids and we realized we could recycle the same concept with them! At that moment, “dating” our kids became our new reality.
Scheduling Tips for Dating Your Kids
When we first started out, the dates weren’t formal or scheduled, but we quickly saw the importance of making this investment in our relationships with our kids a calendared activity.
We have four kids now, but when we started these dates, we only had three boys. We didn’t want to bite off more than we could chew, so we decided to shoot for one date per week. With three kids, this resulted in one date per week, per kid, and required us to rotate which parent went out with which child every other month.
EXPERT TIP: One thing that worked especially well for us was leaving ourselves an unscheduled week every month to allow extra time in case another date had to be rescheduled. This also allowed us to keep things simple by restarting the schedule at the beginning of each month.
Here’s what our initial schedule looked like:
Child 1: Week 1 with Dad
Child 2: Week 2 with Mom
Child 3: Week 3 with Dad
Then, next month would flip:
Child 1: Week 1 with Mom
Child 2: Week 2 with Dad
Child 3: Week 3 with Mom
Eventually we realized that this schedule didn’t allow for any of our boys to have individual time with BOTH parents – a double date, if you will – so we switched it up to allow one child each month to go on a double date.
Here’s a version of the updated schedule:
Child 1: Double Date
Child 2: Dad
Child 3: Mom
Child 1: Mom
Child 2: Double Date
Child 3: Dad
Child 1: Dad
Child 2: Mom
Child 3: Double Date
With this schedule, our boys get a quarterly double date with both of us and a single monthly date with one of us on the off months.
This is the rotation we still use today. The schedule is a permanent feature in our calendars so that we stay on track. We calendar everything that matters – read more on that in our Maximum Impact Guide.
Activity Ideas for One-On-One Time with Kids
Early on, our dates were as simple as a 50 cent donut from the local shop and a walk in the park. Pretty much exactly what any little kid would want! As they got older, we started allowing them to choose a meal from a fast food restaurant (fast food is a rare indulgence for us so it’s considered a huge treat!). Once quarterly double dates were implemented we added the option of sit-down meals to make the time a bit more special.
While the boys always enjoy an edible treat, we also use dates as a chance to do something special that the other kids might not want to do. For example, our youngest boy could spend hours at Target deciding which lego set he wants to save up for next. In contrast, we were recently able to take our oldest to a haunted house that the other boys wouldn’t have been ready for. The trick is to do something of their choosing so they know the one-on-one time is truly about them.
No matter what we do, it’s always more about the time we spend together. Often we’ll bring a game to play (like UNO) and let them choose the restaurant, or do something more active, like throwing a football, Top Golf, indoor skydiving, etc. The options are endless!
Finally, we use the special time together to check in with the child. This is highly dependent on personality, mood, and overall season of life. Sometimes they are happy to discuss life and give us updates. Other times they don’t want any type of interrogation. Over time we’ve learned to manage our expectations and let the child guide the time as much as we can.
Evolving Dates by Age
Funny enough, one of the biggest changes we’ve dealt with recently is a request (*cough cough* DEMAND) from our boys to stop using the word “date.” They’re teenagers now, so it makes sense. The new name we came up with is actually an acronym: D.E.B.T. stands for “Deep Emotional Bonding Time,” and we’re happy with the name change because it makes it clear that we want the time to be for real connection.
EXPERT TIP: One thing we’ve learned about our boys is that they tend to respond differently depending on how we frame our questions. We’ve learned to say things like, “tell me about your school day” instead of asking, “how was school?” That slight change has changed one word answers to more conversational responses.
Another thing we did as the boys got older was to start building life lessons into our time together. Teaching our kids how to order for themselves at restaurants and encouraging them to pay with cash we gave helps them understand the relationship between activities, money, and math. It’s also a great way to teach them how to interact with adults and practice good manners.
Is Dating Your Kids Right for You?
We guarantee that spending quality, individual time with your kids is right for you! Customize the experience to you and your children, but start making one-on-one time a priority. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, expensive, or complicated. It’s the time that counts.
Start with what you feel comfortable with and let it evolve from there. And remember to always have fun!
Need some date ideas? We’ve created this handy print-out with ‘levels’ of one-on-one time ideas based on age – download yours here!
Not sure what to talk about on the date? We get it! Especially as they get older, kids tend to get tired of the same-old questions we tend to ask. But you’re in luck! We’ve created a print-out version of some of our favorite questions for you to bring along on your next D.E.B.T. – get yours here! Or take a look at the questions below and grab your favorites for your next one-on-one time.
- Learn about their likes and dislikes
- Who is your best friend and why?
- What are some of your favorite things? Are they the same as they were last year?
- What is your favorite topic to learn about?
- What’s going on in their life?
- What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen or heard since our last date?
- What’s something interesting you’ve learned recently?
- Tell me about a challenge you’ve faced this year.
- Tell me about a time you felt proud of yourself.
- Learn about their hopes and dreams
- If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
- What do you want to be when you grow up and why?
- If you had a private island but couldn’t leave, what would you want to have there with you?
- Encourage character development
- Let’s say you won a million dollars. You can spend half on whatever you want and donate the other half. What would you buy and what cause would you donate to?
- Tell me about someone you felt happy/sad for and why.
- How do you feel about your chores? Do you feel like you are ready for more responsibilities?
- What’s an example of unkindness you’ve seen recently, and what did you do? Would you do anything differently next time?
- Fun questions to encourage creativity and humor
- If you were a superhero, what would your name be and what superpower would you have?
- If you were invisible for a day, what would you do?
- What title would you give a book that was all about you?
- If you could switch places with any family member, who would it be and why?