Families are busy. There are sports and homework, clubs and work. With smart phones, we are constantly tethered to work and friends. Enter date night, the cure for busy families. The golden rule of date night is one-on-one with your child. Children know parents are busy. By setting aside space to give them your undivided attention in a meaningful way, you are making powerful statement of how important your child is. How you set up your date nights depends on your kids and your family. Just remember, put away your phone, and get out of the house. You wouldn’t take your first date to your living room, turn on the TV to your favorite channel and ignore him/her while you check your Facebook status. Don’t teach your child that is proper date behavior. Think of this as giving your child the dating skills they’ll need for later. You are giving them the parameters for proper behavior: opening doors and pulling out chairs, paying for meals. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing so that your family can craft its own date night:
- Make it formal. Not in the sense that you have to get dressed up (although that is perfectly wonderful) but in the effort and planning. Arrange the date and take effort with your outfit. Make it a reoccurring event on the calendar (the first Tuesday of every month) if that is what helps make it happen.
- Bring a flower or some other small token. For some children, gifts (in all shapes, sizes and value) are powerful statements of love.
- Paying. What is proper behavior for your family? Should the guy always pay? Then a parent should give son money to pay before they go out. If you believe in splitting the bill, then make sure either your son or daughter has money to pay before they leave. It can be a great time for a quick mother-daughter or father-son chat about the power of money as it relates to independence and expectations regardless of your stance.
- Choosing the activity. Letting your child pick the activity can ensure that they are excited. It can be anything from hanging out at a coffee shop, bike rides, dinner, or catching a baseball game. It doesn’t need to be expensive but it does need to have opportunity for conversation. Teenagers can be tricky creatures when it comes to navigating potential embarrassment with parents. Letting your child choose something that they are comfortable and enthusiastic about keeps everyone happy and the date a success.
- Conversation. This is your opportunity to get to know your child with no siblings or partners to distract. Spend most of your time listening. Having some honest, age-appropriate stories from your own youth may help them open up because by showing your vulnerability, they will be empowered to show theirs.