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Managing Alone Time

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
I wasn't sure where to put this - so mods, please move if you see it belongs or is more appropriate somewhere else.

We are a blended, non traditional family. We live in a polyamorous household with 4 adults, and 4 kids: R is 4, K is 2.5, M is 1.5, and S is 1.5

Because the kids are so young, and are adapting to the changes of all living together (we have been living together since the beginning of January) they are requiring/requesting more alone time with individual adults. The kids have all grown up knowing eachother. The families met when R was 20months and K was 5 or so months - so its not like we are strangers.

We feel alone time is very important - for everyone. But are having trouble managing it. When R was alone time with his biological dad, D, M gets very upset and melts down. When any child is with the other dad, C, K gets very posessive and melts down. When any child is alone with one of the mamas when they come back they are very cranky and dont really transition well back into the household. We aren't talking about like giant excursions for hours - sometimes its just reading books in the bedroom, or going downstairs to watch a mama sew.

How do we manage alone time so that each child feels that are getting the time they need, but so that the other children don't meltdown? How often should alone time be occuring - if such a number can be given? Should it be equal, or based more on what the child needs. Should we use a timer? (I ask this one because alone time often occurs in R or K's bedroom, during which the other child often wants in their room). Any other tips or ideas as to how to manage this?
post #2 of 3
One of our kids is very into having "special time" with one of his parents. We know that it is beneficial for all the kids, so we try to provide it when we can. The one who really asks for special time with one parent generally gets more of it because he tends to need it more for whatever reason... but we make sure everyone has the opportunity because they all need it for different reasons, even if they aren't asking for it.

Anyway, we try to do it in a way that doesn't look like one person getting a special treat and everyone else just jealously witnessing it. So, for example, if I am going to take the 5-yr-old to do something (like get his hair cut)l, I can plan it at a time that his older sibling is in school and his younger siblings will be taking a nap. If dad is doing something special with the oldest, the younger two will have something special (like a TV show or a dessert or an outing) of their own. A few weeks ago we wanted to take the older two to a movie, so we got a favorite sitter for the younger two and told the 3-yr-old she got to have a "special [babysitter] night" and the babysitter was on board to do some things that felt like special treats.

Like you said, "special" time isn't always something extravagant.. I think it's often in the presentation. It will probably be beneficial that the kids are so young, because it is usually an easier sell to convince the ones who aren't having alone time that whatever they ARE doing is "special"... for the most part they will think it is special because you call it "special."

I think it's great for kids to learn that sometimes one person gets something that other people don't (like presents on their birthday or a prize for some accomplishment), but your kids are going through a big adjustment and this maybe isn't the best time to learn that. So for now, I would make it feel as fair as possible to everyone, which might mean that everyone gets something special at the same time. I don't think I would use a timer or anything... I would tend more toward distracting them with a different fun activity during that time.
post #3 of 3
I'm going to tell you something that I don't generally tell people. I was raised in a household like this. It was simplified by the fact that the "other" couple didn't have kids, so it was me and my brother and our four parental figures, but I think I have a clue about what your kids may be feeling.

Anyhow, Aricha's exactly right that "alone time" is better accomplished outside the house. You have four kids now, and none of them should be singled out for special treatment when you're all home together. The more confident you are that the big blended family is what YOU want and what makes YOU happy, the easier it will be for the kids to buy in to the new status quo.

But. You aren't going to be able to erase the pain of this adjustment, nor will you be able to protect them from another round of struggle at puberty. It's HARD when there's some guy who's not your dad living in your house and screwing your mom. No matter how healthy your internal dynamic is, your kids are still going to have to learn to straddle the vast divide between your home life and the professed values of the Western world. There are benefits. There are upsides. But all the adults in your house need to understand that the path they've put the kids on is not an easy one, and that the pain of it will manifest in different ways at all the different stages of childhood.

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