Studies show that there is strong evidence that the absence of a paternal figure negatively impacts children’s social and emotional development (source NCBI). But the thing is that we don’t even need to look at the science. There are so many stories of people who felt like they missed out on so much because they grew up without a dad, with some even ending up with major mental and emotional issues that eventually cause them to use unhealthy means to cope says Psychology Today.
If you’re a father and you want to do the best job for your children, this is a noble task and one that is sorely needed. Here are some tips and ideas for dads to strengthen their bond with their children based on their age.
Infancy to toddler years (0-3 years)
It’s a hard pill to swallow, but dads need more work in terms of creating a bond because evolution has caused babies to have a more natural attachment to their moms (source Psychology Today). But this isn’t a reason to be dejected because there are plenty of things fathers can do to create a special bond with their children from birth, and maybe even before then.
Here are some of those steps dads can take during their babies’ infant to toddler years:
- Don’t neglect the first hours of their existence. Don’t miss out on their birth, and hold them for the first few hours of their life.
- Make eye-to-eye contact and talk to them. You can even sing lullabies to them.
- Implement skin-to-skin contact.
- Don’t leave the bathing and changing to their moms; do it as much as you can, too.
- Be the first to encourage them to do some physical activity -at least ones that are safe for their age.
- Establish returning-home-from-work rituals as early as now. Your child needs to be excited whenever you come home.
Preschool to primary school (4-9 years)
- Help them with their homework. Remind them that they are loved no matter what and that you also believe in their ability to be the best they can be at school.
- This is the age when they gain more control over their motor skills. Teach them new skills like sports, baking, or balancing in the playground.
- Teach them what it means to be a good person: How to make friends and maintain them, self-esteem and self-confidence, and identify their feelings and communicate them.
- Establish bonding routines with them, maybe 15 minutes a day just to spend time and talk about how their day went.
Middle school (10-13 years)
This is where it gets interesting since this is the age when your kids start approaching puberty. Here are some ways to build a strong bond with them as they navigate this strange time:
- Resolve to carve out at least two hours of special and uninterrupted bonding time with them every weekend, no matter how busy you are. This will send the message that your time with them is non-negotiable. Encourage them to choose what they want to do as a bonding activity.
- When it’s your turn to choose, suggest activities that are healthy and productive. One example is fishing, which experts at Ontario Parks suggest has a lot of mental and physical benefits. You can also shop for the equipment together, and you can teach them the best fishing rods for the job like the Daiwa electric reel suggests Jandh.com.
Teens (14-18 years)
Don’t miss out on this crucial fact: You can be physically present and still be mentally and emotionally absent for your children. The best part is that if you have laid out the groundwork from when they were babies, then your kids will most likely know how sincere you are in wanting a relationship with them. During this time, your kids are training to become adults, so they may want to spend more time with their friends than their parents. Don’t take it personally. Let them become the people they want to be while you support and guide them from the background. You can just take advantage of your built-in time together, like when you’re taking them to school or when you’re driving them around. Keep these moments light and fun instead of constantly lecturing them.
Love Takes Work
They say that it’s easier to build girls and boys than repair women and men, and parenting healthy adults starts from their infancy. It feels like a daunting task because it is, but one that is incredibly worth it. A healthy relationship with your kids won’t just happen-it will take commitment and a lot of hard work, but it’s ultimately worth it because love is worth it.