I think one of the biggest challenges for a single parent who has more than one child is finding time to spend time together one on one—so many things tend to be done in a group. When my kids were small, we did most of our recreation as a group and if I could get them on the same sports teams, I did—just to make things do-able in terms of time management. But having that parent-child time is so important; it’s just tough for a single parent to carve that out of a busy schedule.
As a parent of three children who are very close in age, it was always easier just to do things as a clan—but that wasn’t what my kids always needed. I do believe they have a right to expect that we can have one-on-one time together when they don’t have to share my attention with their siblings. Even as older teens, my kids still seek out time alone with me: we go to a movie or out to lunch, or even just a chat on the patio without interruption. When they were younger, it took a fair amount of orchestration on my part to make sure everyone got a slice of alone-mom-time, but it was worth it (I think that is part of the reason they still talk to me and want to spend some time with me in their late teens!)
Here are some suggestions: Take advantage of when one (or more) child has soccer practice or an after-school activity to do something special with the other. It doesn’t have to be expensive, even feeding the ducks in the city park is a great outing; if you’ve got back-up or child care coverage, let kids take turns going to the grocery store or running errands with you; make the most of different sleep and activity cycles—if one child is a night owl and one gets up early—make yourself available to do something individually during that time—one of my children STILL thinks of breakfast as “our time” since she was always up early to help me prepare it before anyone else got up; make a date to have lunch together at school—this is great for elementary-age kids.
Again, it spending time one-to-one doesn’t have to be grand or expensive (although the occasional grand adventure is good too), it just comes down to making it a focus to spend time with each child individually and finding a way to connect in a unique and meaningful way.