Before each one of our children was born, my husband and I dreamed and talked about the accolades our kids would achieve or how one would look like him or maybe more like me. Jared prayed over my pregnant belly and we began to form our expectations of what each child would be like. Now that I know each of my children, I can’t help but laugh at my incorrect preconceived ideas of personality, temperament, and talents.

God truly made each child uniquely different, even in the ways each one receives love. One child needs one-on-one attention without any interruptions while another child needs to experience adventure. But, no matter how different my children are, they have one thing in common—a need for quality time with Mom and Dad. When my second daughter was born, my oldest daughter began acting out. It didn’t take us long to realize that she needed some extra “love” in that season. So, my husband and I prayerfully came up with the idea of “dating” our children.

The dating tradition began as a means to show each child love during a difficult season. However, now it has become part of our regular rhythm of life. We look at the dates as opportunities to intentionally invest in our children. There are two values we want to communicate through the dates:

1. We are always available and accessible to our children for any concern, thought, or situation— or just to laugh.

2. Our kids walk away from the date feeling loved, encouraged, and affirmed. This means we cannot use this time to discipline or correct behavior.

I wish I could say that our one-on-one dates are a regular, weekly occurrence, but our messy, fulfilling life doesn’t always allow for everyone to have a regular night. Instead, we organically look for opportunities to celebrate our children. I encourage you to begin one-on-one or both-parents-with-one child dates if you haven’t already. It’s never too late or too early to start. Here are a few tips to help have a great date night.

Choose to do something your child wants to do. A wise counselor, Mark Mayfield, told us that if you are having problems relating to your child, try immersing yourself in something your child is interested in and watch the connection form.

Celebrate the differences in each child. Every child is uniquely different. The date nights should reflect their differences. Think of their love languages and construct dates that cater to those specific love languages.

Choose activities that lend to communication. If you are going to see a movie or something that prohibits communication, find a way to connect in conversation during the date at some point. Ask your kids about their interests, opinions, friendships, and feelings. Try to stay away from questions that can be answered with yes or no.

Listening to your child shows that you value him. When kids feel heard, it brings them a feeling of safety and assurance.

Be playful and joyful. It is important for your children to feel like you are having as much fun on the dates as they are and that it is not a burden to carve out the time to spend together.

Laugh a lot. One of the best ways to form a strong connection with your child is to laugh and have fun. We have found that laughter softens their hearts and breaks down walls.

My husband and I pray that God works in miraculous ways in your relationship with your child or children through the tradition of date nights like He did for ours.