Two parents rarely have exactly the same perspective on parenting. Toss into the mix different backgrounds and experiences, and each parent assumes a vital role in helping to raise each child. Here are tips for being an involved father to your kids.
1. Try never to forget what you felt like and what was important to you when you were a child — go back as young as you can. The insight to imagine walking in your children’s shoes can be a great place to start understanding and appreciating them. Their brains are constantly developing, as are their interests, priorities and character. Understanding and respecting that can open many doors to your relationship.
2. Make the effort to listen, including the nonverbal (or preverbal) cues. This is not always easy after a long day, especially when the topic is hard to relate to, but it is the only way to engage in meaningful interaction or conversation, and being able to talk to each other may be what you eventually value most.
3. Eat meals together. Better yet, plan and cook them together. Rather than just asking what they feel like eating, let kids be part of the process — whether it’s looking up a recipe, getting out ingredients, making a side dish or salad, or flipping the burgers on the grill.
4. Foster your children’s self-esteem — everyone is good at something.
5. Get outdoors together — go fishing, hiking, camping, golfing, toss a Frisbee, collect shells on the beach, plant something, practice the lost art of catching fireflies, build a snowman, go sledding, get dirty, get wet, respect nature and have fun. This can be the great equalizer to their world of technology.
6. Build or fix something together — a block tower, a project for school, a flat tire, a wall that needs to be painted or a squeaky door. Every little skill you pass along can be something they pass along. There is no app on their phones that can turn a screw or hammer a nail.
7. Support and attend their extracurricular activities: sports, concerts, dance recitals, science fairs, art shows and more. Along the way, you can help teach sportsmanship and perseverance, while being a part of their successes and shortcomings. Be part of the process — tossing the ball with them after dinner can be more important than being the coach.
8. If you can’t answer your phone when they call, send a text message so they know you’re there if (and when) they really need you.
9. Be approachable. When your kids make a mistake — big or small — you want them to not be afraid to come to you for advice, help or to confess. Being involved in their problems may be the best way to teach them how to think about options, consequences, solutions and not repeating the same mistakes.
10. Try to embrace what you loved most about your dad, and let go of what didn’t work, whether it’s a matter of discipline, work ethic or lifestyle choices.
Add or subtract to make your own list, because in the end your ability to be a role model for your kids may be your most precious gift. Your children may seem like they’re not paying attention, until one day you hear them say or do something you can be proud of — and staying involved is the foundation to foster that potential.
Michael Corjulo, MSN, APRN, CPNP-AE-C, has been a PNP since 1998 and a certified asthma educator since 2003. He is a primary care provider with Children’s Medical Group in Hamden, the Health Coordinator for the ACES school system in the greater New Haven, CT, area, and the Site Director of a CMS Health Care Innovations Award community asthma program.