Dad: A Little Word With a Big Meaning

Believe it or not, there was once a time when fathers gave very little thought to their relationships with their kids. Relationships, and the emotional attachments involved, were seen as the mother’s territory. Fortunately, those days are over and today’s father wants to build a close relationship with his children. The question is: how?

The good news is that building a relationship with your children is somewhat similar to building a relationship with anyone else. The first step is to find common ground. Then you can spend time together exploring that common ground together. Finally, you expand on the initial common ground to find a basis to communicate on less common topics.

Some dads may be looking at this and wondering how they can find common ground with their toddler or daughter or teenager. Ironically, the answer is the same in all three cases. Just find out what their interests are and join them in it. This may mean looking at that bug with your toddler or watching your daughter practice her ballet. It may even mean learning to play video games so you can provide your teen someone to shoot at online. The important thing in finding common ground is joining in with their interests.

But you can also invite your child to join you in your interests. If you like to read, take them to the library with you. If you love sports, invite them watch the game. If you have a hobby, introduce them to it as soon as you can.

Once you have established common ground, the next step is to explore it together. So you have looked at a bug with your toddler. Take time to help him find more bugs to look at. Talk to him about bugs and how many legs they have. Ask him what he likes best about bugs and why. The same holds true for the ballet dancer. Even if you know nothing about the dance, become a good student. Ask her what the positions are called and which one she likes best. Make sure to attend all her recitals, even the little ones, and bring her a few flowers from time to time. And while your teen may not talk much while he is shooting at you, it is a pretty good bet that he is glad you are there. And knowing that you are there in the game reassures him you will be there in his life.

Once you have established some common ground with your kids, and built on the ground together, your are in a great position to further your relationship by expanding on what you already have in common. Back to the toddler, looking at bugs can be a wonderful time to talk to him about how they grow and change and how he is growing a changing. Tell him about when you were a boy and how much it means to you to have a son to watch grow up. Remind him that you enjoy being with him and that you are always available to watch bugs or do anything else he enjoys doing.

And though it may feel strange, you can have a similar conversation with the little ballerina. Remind her how her dancing has improved with practice and encourage her to take the lessons she has learned and apply them to other areas of her life. Thank her for answering your questions and let her know that you are always available to answer hers. Most of all, remind her that you love her and are proud of her. She so needs to hear that, especially from her Daddy.

Finally, remember to tread softly when building a relationship with a teen. The less said, the better. Just be there, even when he does not want you to be. He may claim to hate it, but he really likes knowing you have his back.