Connecting with your kids isn’t rocket science. That’s far easier. Sure, you may need a degree in astrophysics, but it’s nothing compared to trying to coax your 5-year-old into telling you how their school day went. That takes real genius and true commitment.
Forming a connection with your child is one of the most important things you can do for their development. When you have a connection, they’re more likely to listen, co-operate and open up to you. They’ll have better relationships with friends and siblings. And your mutual connection increases the chances that they’ll grow up to be healthy and happy and have a positive sense of identity.
Now, we all want to be the best dads we can be and find that real connection with our children. But where to begin? You can start by making a concerted effort to understand their world and be emotionally involved in it. Acknowledge their feelings and try to put yourself in their shoes. Their little minds are going through a sensory overload of new stimulus and experiences: different schools, new friends, hormone surges, emotional rides, endless tears and general confusion. They need someone to look up to, to understand what they’re going through and to pull their fingers out of their noses. And that person is you… their dad.
It’s awesome being a dad because we have the distinct opportunity to parent our kids in different ways from our significant others (outside of the traditional good cop/bad cop and buying ice cream roles). For instance, one of the best ways a dad can bond with his kid is through play. It does wonders to promote their intellectual development and social competence, and it gets you off the couch. From these seemingly simple interactions, children learn how to regulate their feelings and behaviour. Fathers also tend to be more energetic in their play (dads are just big kids, after all).
The good thing is, most children enjoy play because it’s a special and meaningful experience they can share with you. It’s a particularly positive experience for four and five-year-olds because they like games that test their physical abilities (e.g., running, climbing, jumping and exploring, throwing things at dad’s head and groin, etc.). These help children feel a sense of achievement which is valuable for building confidence and giving them the tools to face life’s future challenges.
Good for kids. Good for dads.
Spending time being involved with your child gives you the opportunity to show affection and nurture them. Before you know it, you’ll be having a lot more fun interacting with your little one, making you more attentive to their development. And you’ll find that you are better able to understand and be more accepting of them, so you can enjoy closer, richer father-child relationships.
As for you, you’ll have a newfound satisfaction with your life. You’ll feel less psychological distress, enjoy a stronger sense of self, greater general wellbeing, marital stability and relationship happiness. This is because being involved increases a sense of connectedness and inclusion. Involved fathers also have a stronger sense of how important they are to their children. Everybody wins.
Give them the best of you.
This is crucial to connecting with your child. If your child feels valued as a person based on your interactions with them, they will naturally learn to value others and have the confidence to make good choices. And it’s so simple to do. Tell your child “I love you” even if you do get angry with them sometimes. Say how much you enjoyed making robots out of plastic bottles and sticky tape with them. Tell them where grandpa came from. Wax nostalgic at how squeezable their cheeks were when they were babies. Pretend to eat their toes. Start stories and let them make up endings. Encourage them go off on tangents and explore their own crazy ideas. Play lots of games. Make time. Take time. Create Halloween slime. The more you give, the more you will get back. And the stronger your connection will be.