More Ways to Spend Time With Your Kids: Make Dad Time Deliberate
Being present and having a presence are two very different things. It’s true of your work and personal relationships — and it’s certainly true when you spend time with your kids.
If you read that sentence and cringed a little, don’t worry. Even the best dads think they aren’t doing enough to engage with their kiddos from time to time. Indeed, the fathers worth emulating are the ones who take that critical voice and use it to change the behaviors that make them feel like they aren’t doing their best. The first step is recognizing the opportunity for improvement; then, it’s time to act.
Engage and Include
One of the best ways to spend time with your kids doesn’t require you to take much more time from your already-busy schedule. When you make it a point to include your youngsters in every appropriate activity, pretty much anything you do can rack up quality time.
This is a tip from my personal bag of parenting tricks. If I had both my kids running around the office while I tried to write this article, my work would suffer — assuming I could get it done at all! Beyond that, I strive to include my 6-year-old (and increasingly, my toddler) in everything I do away from the keyboard. If I’m fixing a leaky sink, I’m pointing out what I’m doing, answering questions, and letting one or both kids help by handing me things I need. If I have to make a quick run to the grocery, I’m taking the booster and the car seat, because I’m guaranteed to have two tiny passengers.
It sounds simple, but it can leave you feeling a lot better about the amount of time you spend with your kids. It may turn mundane household tasks into a constant stream of questions, answers, and conversation, but you’ll be engaging — and in the end, that’s what really counts.
How many parks are in your immediate area? What about commercial and public family-fun areas, like arcades, museums, and even kid-friendly restaurants with games and ball pits? Probably a few (maybe more than you think!). Taking advantage of their proximity can make for quick, easy, affordable fun.
I live a few miles from what amounts to a miniature theme park for kids, but our busy schedules kept us from visiting often. Then, we purchased season passes to motivate ourselves. Suddenly, the effort and expense of attending became as easy as putting on play clothes, going up the road, and swiping our pass.
You may or may not have the same amenities available, but the point remains: If you search out fun and find ways to make it accessible, everyone in your family will benefit, and your attempts to spend quality time with your kids will get a lot easier.
Ask for Help — and Schedule Ahead
This one’s mostly for parents of two or more kids. Though it can be easy to think of your collective brood as just that, giving each kid individual doses of your time when possible can leave you both feeling great.
Here, having a spouse or partner (or other adult you can call upon to babysit) at your side can be a godsend. Our kids are far enough apart in age that common interests just aren’t possible yet. So when I get the sense that one kiddo or the other could use some one-on-one dad time, I get my wife involved to hang out with the other. This way, both kids are getting individual attention, and neither feels left out.
Of course, the further away you can plan this sort of stuff, the more fun you can squeeze into each encounter. While I have no compunction about dropping everything and heading to the ballpark with my oldest, asking my wife when would be a good time to take the toddler for an afternoon gives me more time to plan a full day of fun with the other kid.
If one of your 2017 goals is to improve how you spend time with your kids, don’t be afraid to ask for help!
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