by Aarti Kapur Singh
Dads do spend little less time with their babies! However, quality of time spent really matters. So, check out 10 ways for dads to bond with their kids effectively
Toni Morrison once posed a question to all parents, “When your child walks in the room, does your face light up?” Be aware of your face when you see your child and make it light up like you’ve just won the lottery. Show him that he matters, more than anything.
At some point during my eight years as a mother, I realized that no matter what I say or do, my son will inevitably, may be even instinctively; look at how his father deals with life, and with situations. Actually, it is true for daughters too. Girls also look up to their fathers as exemplars. For instance, every father sets an example of how to behave when they interact with their child’s mother. A boy who sees his father treating the mother well will learn how to respect women. A girl whose father listens to and respects her will expect others to listen to her and treat her well. When fathers are true to their daughters and sons, the children gravitate to people who respect them. A daughter whose father has set high standards will turn away from men who threaten, violate and abuse.
Every father can make a huge difference in his child’s life. He may not make it problem free, because that’s impossible. But his involvement is important in more ways than we know or even realize. As an unknown author wrote, “Every father should remember that one day his son will follow his example instead of his advice.”
But it isn’t always easy for dads to know how to connect with their children. It can be a challenge for a dad to be really present for his children.
The following are suggestions that may help dads forge a strong bond with their children:
1. Express your love: Tell them you love them (even if you didn’t hear it growing up.) Tell them why you fell in love with their mother. Show them that love is a powerful thing and that it’s okay to feel such a strong emotion. And accept your children for who they are, not for who you think they should be or what you expect or want them to be. Get to know his likes, dislikes, habits, quirks – this enables them to know and to grow.
2. Play: Teach them about every sport you know. Go to a park and kick a soccer ball around. Teach them what playing in a team is like. Show them the fun side of the sport, not only the competitive and strategic side. Tell them it is okay to lose – only so you want to win.
3. Bond with the outdoors: Take them camping and sleep under the stars (even if it’s just in your backyard), go for nature hikes (find a walking stick along the way) and look for birds or trees you can identify. Go fishing!
4. Gift new experiences: Knowledge helps build confidence and seeing different ways of life and other points of view make us all a little more understanding. Show your children that you are open to trying new things. Go horse riding or visit a museum. Eat purple cabbage. Expose your children to various cultures.
5. Hug and hold: I remember as soon as my son was born, I insisted, in my groggy state that I wanted to cuddle him. My husband was not present immediately but as soon as he came in, I insisted he hold him too. Early pictures are proof of how nervous the Mister was, but once he was comfortable, he wanted to cradle my son all the time, even insisting baby sleep on his chest. Beyond being aww-worthy, it is important because like us, babies respond to touch. A simple way to soothe and relax them is with a baby massage. When your baby is quiet and happy (you won’t want to try it on a fussy baby) take 10 to 15 minutes to gently rub her legs, belly, arms, and neck.
6. Soothe and heal: Even though it may be tempting to hand a crying baby back to Mom, take a try at soothing her tears (unless she’s hungry, of course). Try singing to her, walking her around, gently rocking, or find the closest pacifier for her to suck on. She must learn that Mom isn’t the only one who can give her what she needs.
7. Read: The act of telling a story is the most basic expression of talking. Even if your child is small – tell her a story. With practice, perhaps you will also be able to add vocal special effects and intonations – babies LOVE this. You can definitely be the funny guy when you make silly faces to make your baby burst into peals of laughter. As your baby gets older try fun games like peekaboo. You will be surprised at the kind of responses children give you even when they cannot talk. And trust me, I have been told by the husband that it is deeply relaxing too.
8. Take baby for a walk: Babies love fresh air, so take your little bundle for a stroll around the block. Try using a sling or carrier or better still- a stroller. This will keep baby close to you throughout the walk. Just be sure baby is slathered in sunscreen if it’s hot outside and bundled up if it’s a little chilly.
9. Involve the child in your activities: Whether it is watering the plants or hoovering the house or cleaning the car, it is a great time to not just teach them how – but why. And therefore, to bond. This also gives older children the power to be able to take care of them because mastery builds self confidence. Start with the basics: how to do laundry, clean a bathroom and cook at least one meal. It doesn’t matter if all you can do is slap together a peanut butter sandwich. Teach them that and then learn together how to cook something new.
10. Be present: This can be biggest challenge for many fathers. You can be home but so distracted with other things, like technology, that you aren’t really present. As hard as it can be, build in some down time. It’s in those quieter moments when children are likely to open up and talk about what is going on in their lives, their hopes and dreams, and their ideas for the future. Listen to what they have to say. Make sure they know that what they say matters. Put the paper down, ignore the phone, and stop texting for a few minutes. Turn off the television and listen. Make eye contact. Let them know they are important, so they will feel confident that they matter.
If you have a new baby at home, volunteer for the night shifts to take care of her. If you aren’t home during the day to help soothe baby’s troubles, become the ‘nightly knight’ when baby cries. This will give you and baby precious alone time and give mom the chance to catch up on sleep. Be sure mom has left a few bottles in the fridge for late-night feedings.
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