The value of one on one “dates” with your child.

This is a moving story about a single Mom with two boys who relocated to New York from outside the US.

“Helen” moved shortly after finalizing her divorce and accepting a job promotion in her field. The position required long hours but came with the high salary she now needed to support her children. The move was a heart wrenching decision, in part because neither of her children spoke English.

She hired an experienced and gentle full time nanny who was fluent in their language and was careful to enroll the children in a thoughtful and accommodating grade school. She also did an excellent job of setting aside time on the weekends to give the boys plenty of love and attention.

Their new life was challenging but stayed mangeable for a few months. Then the older child started becoming friends with boys who were getting in trouble in school. Shortly afterward he was repeatedly sent to the principal’s office for disruptive behavior. We spoke and agreed that her sons were not getting enough one on one time with her during the week. “Helen” decided to ask the nanny to stay a little later two days a week so she could take turns “dating” each child for a half hour. I suggested that each boy choose what to do during that time.

Her sons were excited by the idea. The one who was “in trouble” chose to walk to the 99-cent store near his house to buy one thing almost every week. “Helen” loved spending relaxed time with her boys and was able to share her considerable care and thought even though the time was limited.

Remarkably soon after the “dates” with Mom began her oldest boy was out of the principal’s office.

I didn’t hear from “Helen” again until her oldest was in middle school. Although he seemed to be doing well he had developed a healthy dose of pre-teen temper and had gotten into some minimal difficulties in school. He was reluctant to visit me with his Mom but when he did he seemed ready to storm out of my office if and when I said anything that made him mad. We managed to visit comfortably for a while and then I asked if his Mom was still hanging out with him after work one day a week.

Somewhat startled, I watched as this “tough” 12 year old “teared up”and shook his head no. “Helen” lovingly put her arm around her son, comforting him. Soon they got up and left. I never heard from them again. In my line of work no news is usually good news. I assume the reminder of the significance of that one on one time helped.

Children love and depend on their parents. The simple gesture of regular undivided attention can mean a lot to a child.