The times may have changed, along with the dynamics of various relationships, but even today, in the majority of families, it is moms who do the active parenting. Whether they work in the home, from home or outside the home, moms usually tend to stay intimately connected to their kids on a daily basis. Dads, on the other hand, barring exceptions, generally play a more peripheral role—always there, forming a protective boundary for the family, but not intimately involved in the center of things.
It is high time this changed. Dads are increasingly waking up to the realization that they need to be more connected to their kids. A look around at the hands-on dads and their kids in your vicinity will give you irrefutable proof that even as a father’s brand of nurturing gives kids that extra glow of security and confidence, the experience also enriches the father’s life immeasurably.
Some check points for dads who want to join the Caring Dads’ Club:
1. Make An Effort To Understand Your Kids
The first thing to do is accept that your kids live in very different times from when you were a kid. Much of what was relevant to your childhood is not relevant for them. Try to zone into their wavelength. Observe them at work and at play, watch some TV programs they watch and acclimatize you for the roller coaster of Dadhood!
Also, understand that your kids aren’t you. So, don’t burden them with either unreasonable expectations or your own unfulfilled dreams. Leave them free to make their own choices and be there for them in a supportive frame of mind. The heavy-handed father doesn’t cut it any more. Tune in to their feelings and emotions. If they are going through a rough phase—be it studies, issues with friends or any other emotional issues, be their friend and confidante!
2. Be There For Them
Of course, you are always there for them—you are their dad, after all! But the point is, do your kids know it? If you are unable to make time for your kids, they have no way of knowing how much you care. So, if you are a workaholic father, it is time to restructure your priorities and your schedule.
Make time for your kids on a daily basis, even if it is fifteen minutes of family time, or individual quality time. If your work involves a lot of travel, make sure to talk to them on the phone or skype—just a ‘Hello! How was your day?’ is enough for the kids to know that they are important to you. Also, try to be there for their special days and milestones—birthdays, school functions, awards, convocation—as far as possible.
3. Communicate With Them
Years ago I read an article with the title ‘How Will I Know Unless You Tell Me?’ It brought home to me the importance of communication in solid relationships as nothing else ever had. I know, communication doesn’t come very easily to most dads, but keep trying till you get it.
For instance, if your kid brings home a bad test result, the closed expression or the frown on your face might simply be because you are disturbed at the child’s obvious disappointment and misery, but your kid is most likely to interpret it as anger or disapproval, and be even more miserable, or scared! You need to let him know clearly that you are feeling bad on his behalf and will love and support him, no matter what.
Effective and constant communication creates assurance and forges strong bonds of love and understanding. Give it a shot and see how your youngsters respond to you!
4. Set Aside Time For Fun Activities and Holidays
Changing times bring changing imperatives, and contemporary life is anything but relaxed. In such a scenario, bonding with your kids requires you to set aside ‘fun time’. On as many weekends a possible, make it a family ritual to play games, be it indoor or outdoor. In fine weather, go to the park and play cricket, or badminton, or just a simple catch or Frisbee—whatever you and your kids can enjoy together. Late evenings or bad weather can be the time to bring out board games—Ludo, or Monopoly, or Life, the popular kids’ board game. Simple card games like ‘market’ or ‘bluff’, which even toddlers can play are also a barrel of laughs! Yes, you have a million things to take care of, even over weekends, but surely, a couple of hours for your kids is do-able!
Plan fun trips with your kids as often as possible. The locations don’t have to be exotic or the stays very expensive. There are plenty of budget holidays to be had near your city. The change of scenery and getting away from the daily routine will rejuvenate you as a family. Remember, it is not the money you spend on trips, but the good energies your generate for each other that will make memories that your kids will cherish for life—and so will you!
5. Be A Good Role Model
As a dad, you want your kids to be the best persons they can be. For that, you need to step up and be a good role model for them. A dad who is professionally very successful and provides his kids with all the luxuries they can think of may not necessarily b a good role model or someone the kids look up to. A good role model is one who leads by example because kids will do what you do, not necessarily what you say!
Be controlled and courteous in your behavior if you want them to acquire those traits. Don’t smoke or drink excessively if you want them to embrace moderation. Be respectful to their mother and to other members of the family. Even if you need to be strict with them for some transgression, don’t lose your temper. Be firm and fair, and make sure they understand why they are being punished and that they need to take responsibility for their actions.
And above all, shower your kids with unconditional love. The love is already there in your heart—just go ahead and show them how much you care!