Need a gift idea for Father’s Day? Last year I wrote about the greatest Father’s Day gift idea ever.
If you have time, I encourage you to read about how to experience the “joyful moments” that connect us with our children.
That post was written shortly after my dad received the news that his heart was failing. Reflecting back on the past year—seven major surgeries and three heart pumps later—I believe more than ever that being emotionally present with our kids matters—because we have no idea what tomorrow holds.
On the other hand, like most dads, I try my best to find time to earn a living, keep the house in working order, love my wife, maybe eat, sometimes sleep, and still find time to be emotionally present with one full-blown, and one soon-to-be, toddler. And don’t forget the phone’s constant expectations.
As dads, we have a lot on our plates, and we certainly don't always get it right either. Some of us need to give ourselves a little grace.
Some think this “emotional presence” thing is pie-in-the-sky, too idealistic, or not “manly” enough. Believe what you may, but research consistently shows our emotional presence is critical to our kids’ success.
Maybe your dad wasn’t around or didn’t teach you how to be present. If this is you, I’m sorry. The silver lining here is that being emotionally present is doable for all dads.
That’s why this year I decided to list 15 ideas to help dads be emotionally present with their kids.
If you know a dad who could use some ideas for connecting with his kids, please share this list with him. Perhaps just one of the ideas below could unite a child’s heart with her father in a “joyful moment” they’ll never forget.
1. If your kids ask you to do something, instead of immediately saying “no,” ask yourself “why not?” If you can’t come up with a legitimate reason, let the memory unfold.
2. 20 minutes of command free playtime per day per child does wonders for their cognitive and emotional development. If your daughter wants to have a tea party, take it on the chin—with cream and two sugars. If your son wants to build a fort, be sure it has windows but not cell service. During this time, keep your phone completely out of sight—and sound.
3. Lay in the grass together after dark and look at the stars.
4. Have pillow fights.
5. Tuck them in bed as frequently as you can.
6. Begin a weekly date individually with your kids. I have a buddy who takes his son out every Friday morning for a “coffee” (i.e. milk) date and another friend who takes his daughter every Saturday on a “pancake date.”
7. Start a tradition with them. My dad and I go to a Phillies game for Father’s Day every year. My stepdad built a model train table, which we add to every Christmas or birthday. The time spent on it is priceless.
8. Use feeling words to describe your day to them. For instance, “I felt happy when…” or “I felt sad when…” Help them use words to describe their feelings as well.
9. Love their mom really well. They’re learning how to treat their spouse by watching how you treat yours.
10. Serve others in your community and invite the kids to come with you. Whether you’re helping a next-door neighbor, serving at a soup kitchen, or greeting at church, invite your kids to join you.
11. Get your kids to help you with tasks around the house, especially when it doesn’t matter how much longer it takes.
12. Take them on challenging adventures—white water rafting, fishing, go-kart racing, or on a roller coaster. Whatever the activity, increase their level of risk, balanced by the loving support of showing them they can do it.
13. Write prayers in a Bible for each of your kids. Give it to them when they’re older.
14. Watch funny movies together.
15. Live the life you would want them to live.
Happy Father’s Day!