When my parents were first married my dad worked outside the home and my mother took care of everything at home. Dad was a very hard worker and at one point had 3 jobs to ensure that his family was provided for. Eventually my mother convinced Dad to let her go to work. She had a teaching credential and she began by substitute teaching then getting a full time teaching job at a local elementary school. It was a hard decision for my dad because his frame of reference was that it was his responsibility to provide for his family.
My parents learned to be true partners in having a family and raising their 6 children. Today’s parents have different challenges but the need for both parents to be involved is even more important now. Fathers bring a unique perspective to their children’s lives. For daughters as they grow into their teen years fathers bring a male understanding to help guide and nurture healthy relationships. For sons fathers can model appropriate affection and respect for others. Many fathers are coaches for their children’s sports teams, while others help with homework and taking kids to school or getting household chores done.
It is a very different role than what was considered a traditional family like my family started out to be. I am fortunate that my parents were willing to grow with the times. Although they were born and raised during the Great Depression they could see through raising children and through the challenging times of the 1960’s that the world was changing and they needed to change with it.
My father was very influential in my life. He had many sayings that I can recall quickly in a given situation. For example, after teaching us to drive and we asked to use the family car he would agree and then as we set off to whatever adventure we had planned he would say “Safety before schedule.” Reminding us to not drive to fast even if it made us late for where we were going.
Each parent has their own imprint on their child, whether they are two moms, two dads or a traditional pairing of one mom and one dad, that imprint is a heart print on your child’s heart. It is the part of the parent that remains in your child no matter where they are.
Although my father died a few years ago he is never far from my thoughts. Throughout my life I knew that my father loved me. After I moved out on my own when I would say good-bye whether in person or on the phone he would say “Put a smile on your face and love in your heart.” Words to live by.
Here are 8 tips for enhancing the father / child relationship.
- Listen with curiosity to your child. Your child wants connection with you by making opportunities to really listen your child will want to talk.
- Set aside a special time each week for Dad and Me time. It can be an hour, a few hours, etc. but it is just for you and your child. If you have more than one child write it down on the calendar so that your child knows when their special time will be.
- Have a family dinner every night – without electronics – play a guessing game to engage the kids as you eat dinner. Like, “I Spy” or “I’m thinking of something blue.” Or “20 Questions.”
- Remember to notice all the little things your child does that show their greatness. Point it out and take notice so that your child feels seen by you.
- Plan to come home early every once in a while so that you can play outside with your kids on warm summer evenings.
- Create a good-night routine that helps you and your child wind down before going to sleep like reading stories, naming 3 things that were special that day.
- Discipline is about teaching, punishment is about hurting. Think about ways to teach your child how to make the right choices in life. One way is to model making the right choices and by showing your child humility by admitting when you get something wrong. This is a powerful tool in helping kids be real, honest and understanding.
- Be sure to take care of your feelings; expressing feelings appropriately and admitting when you need help shows your kids how to be authentic.
Being a father today has many joys and challenges. We at Treehouse Family Counseling Services are here to help you be the best dad you can be. Give us a call if you have any questions or need support. Check out our website at www.tcservices.org for other blog topics.
Mary Ruth Cross, MFT, NCC, RPT-S
CEO/Owner Treehouse Family Counseling Services