For children, having an engaged dad makes a huge difference — fathers play a critical role, and research tells us just how important that role is. In fact, studies show that children who feel close to their fathers are two times more likely to go to college or find a job after high school.
Despite all the evidence that shows the benefits of an involved father, whether children live with their fathers or not, 63% of fathers say they spend too little time with their kids.
How can you spend more meaningful time with your children? Here are some simple ideas from the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse and the Ad Council that can help you make a moment with your children:
1. Read to your children.
A bedtime story is a meaningful bonding activity that is not only fun and comforting for children, but dramatically increases their ability and interest in reading over the years. Even children who can read chapter books on their own still enjoy being read to. For older children, take turns reading chapters or pages aloud to each other, and enjoy making up funny voices for the characters.
2. Stay connected.
Whether you have long work days, travel frequently, or if you live apart, find ways to stay connected when you’re unable to see your child in person. Text often, video chat or call. Find creative ways to connect, like playing an online game together. Lastly, don’t forget the power of something you can hold in your hand — send an occasional handwritten letter or postcard your child can treasure, even if you just live across town.
3. Use errands as an opportunity to bond.
Fathers are less likely to take children to necessary appointments, such as dental and medical checkups. Making the effort to be the comforting presence during a possibly stressful appointment can really strengthen the bond with your child. You can also enjoy making conversation while you’re going to and from appointments. Other types of necessary errands to share include going for a haircut together or going to soccer practice. All these crucial activities are ways to strengthen that connection with your child.
4. Be a positive role model.
Share something that you love to do or care about with your children. Introduce them to a hobby you enjoy, take them to a park or other location you have an attachment to and share your memories with them. Volunteer together for a cause that’s important to you. Show your children what you are passionate about in life, and they will learn a lot about you. They’ll also feel more comfortable sharing what they love and care about with you.
5. Dance like a dad.
Let yourself play and be silly together sometimes. Turn on your child’s favorite upbeat music and #DanceLikeADad with your kids. Teach your kids your favorite dance moves and let them show off their own.
“Fathers are important to their children’s lives and well-being. Research shows children who feel close to their fathers do better in school and show higher self-esteem and empathy. Whether you live with your children or not, it’s the time you spend together and the memories you create that have made the biggest difference,” adds Kenneth Braswell, Project Director for the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse and Chief Executive Officer for Fathers Incorporated.
For more information and ideas about how to be a more active dad, visit fatherhood.gov.