Fathers: How To Be An Active Part of Your Kids’ Lives
One time I was watching a TV talk show featuring a father who decided to completely overhaul his life because he felt completely out of the loop when it came to his daughters. One incident really brought it home to him. His youngest daughter was trying to reach for a glass in the cupboards, but she was too short to grasp it. She turned around and called out: “Mom, would you help me get this glass please?”. He was standing in the kitchen with her, and she didn’t even register for him.
Now I know that more and more dads these days take an active part in their kids lives. They change diapers, they go to play dates, they feed, they bathe. They are present. But studies still show an inequity between Moms and Dads. Moms still spend more time with the kids and do more kid management than Dads – even in dual-income families. I’m not necessarily saying that that is a bad thing. Parents have individual strengths, and sometimes the kid management may come naturally to one parent more than the other. But surely it couldn’t hurt for Dads everywhere to be more involved in their kids lives. This is even more crucial in divorced households in my opinion. And it’s never too late to be more present for your kids, to really show you care.
Here are some tips inspired by those Fathers who do it all already:
- Be there for the little things. Not just for the big things like recitals and soccer tournaments, or school functions, but for all the daily grind. The morning rush to school, homework help, meals, baths and bedtime stories. The little things count. For divorced dads: when your kids are little and you get them every other weekend or for however long, put them first. Always make them feel like they’re the most important thing to you. Be there for them throughout the day.
- Spend one on one time with each kid. When you’ve got 2 or 3 or more kids in the family, it’s natural to do everything together. But kids, especially the ones who come after the eldest, get shorted on the one-on-one time. Schedule a day with each kid even for once a month. If each child’s personalities are different, let them pick the activity that reflects their interest. This bonding time is something they’ll treasure.
- Spend time away from Mom. One day a week, or every other week, give Mom a break and have a Dad and Kids day. Take them to breakfast or to the playground, or to the zoo. This promotes camaraderie between you and the kids, and shows them that a day with Dad can be fun, successful, and guess what, things don’t have to fall apart without Mom!
- If you’re the breadwinner, be “on” for the kids for a little longer, then take your breather. When you get home from work, you’re understandably tired and maybe all you want to do is vegetate in front of the TV, eat and sleep. But guess what, if you work 5 days a week, that makes you a weekend parent, and you’ve just missed out on 5 days that you could have spent with them. Give yourself 30 minutes to breathe and relax, then give your family some attention. If you and your spouse both work, split the tasks. She cooks, you entertain the kids or help with homework. You clean up, and she puts the kids in the bath and to bed. Have a schedule of the window of time this is supposed to happen, and once the kids are in bed, then you can relax.
- Regularly eat as a family. Around a dining room table, with the TV off. This not only usually promotes healthier eating habits, but prompts conversation and allows the family members to reconnect with each other.
- There’s a time for play and a time for work. Playing with the kids is important. It’s important to be there for the laughter and the games and the fun memories. It’s equally important to be there for the heartbreaks and the tough times. Be there to uplift your kids when they’re down. Even if they say they prefer Mommy, just be present. There will come a time when you’ll be a big help. Your opinions count too, your experience can be of great service to them. Don’t just let Mom take over because she’s considered the nurturing one. Your partner, if she’s smart, will not feel threatened but be grateful that you’re there.
- Treat their mom well. If you have sons, your son will learn how to treat women from you. If you have daughters, she will learn how she should be treated by watching you. You have a great responsibility to treat their mother well, because it sets them up for later relationships in life.
- Tell them that you’re proud of them. This is self-explanatory. Kids want nothing but to be loved, to feel that their parents find them worthwhile.
The list is both simple and complex. So many ways to get it right, and yet so many things can go wrong. Just do your best. Above all, your kids just want you to be around, and for you to care. When you’re in doubt, just do a self-check. Am I present enough? Have I shown them and told them enough that I care? Raising kids can be a daunting task, but the reward is a warm and loving relationship with your kids to last a lifetime.