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August, 2010 | Journal of a Dad - Part 2
Archive | August, 2010

Four Ways to Get Quality One-on-One Time With Kids

Several weeks ago, I posted a list of ways we can get involved in our kids’ lives – no matter how busy we are – by including them in some of the tasks we do every day. Now, let’s see if we can take that a step further, again being sensitive to our schedules, by adding quality one-on-one time to the quantity of time we are spending with our kids.

So, how in the world can we do that?

1)      Relax. Don’t think you have to have quality one-on-one time with one or more of your kids every day. Hey, that probably goes against a lot of what you’ve read out there, but as I’ve said before, Journal of a Dad is about what has worked in our family, and I’ve found that with my busy work schedule in the past, if I scheduled quality time with even one of my kids every day and couldn’t follow through, I wound up beating myself up for it and, no matter how much I love my kids, I need to be a realist when it comes to the amount of time I have available and how I prioritize it, for the good of all of us. Notice, however, that this whole post is about scheduling quality time with your kids, already recognizing that you should always have some “quantity” time to spend with them.

2)      Quantify “Quality.” What we’re talking about here is one-on-one time with one kid. Although there are many stipulations you can attach as to what is quality and what is quantity, I’ve found the easiest way to differentiate the two is that quality time is strictly time focused on the kid – no tasks or errands attached. If you’re going out to dinner or a movie or sports event, make sure there’s extra time for talking, and not just the distance to and from the activity in the car. Be creative and keep it light and fun.

3)      Schedule It. There are some that are taken aback when the idea of scheduling time with kids is brought up. My kids actually like it, and by having it on my day planner I keep that time clear of any other tasks or appointments. We actually post a calendar on the fridge with all the family activities planned for the month. Included, of course, is that quality one-on-one time. How? Well, every month each kid knows that on the day of their birthday, they get their “Date with Dad.” In addition, on the other two days per month that end in the same number as their birthday, they get to choose what to have for dinner on one and a cost-free family activity on the other. For instance, my son Casey’s birthday is on the 10th, so his date with dad is on the 10th of each month and his dinner and activity days are on the 20th and 30th. Again, be creative and flexible and find a formula that works for your family.

4)      Be Spontaneous. What? Didn’t you just say to schedule it? Sure, but should you wind up with some extra time on your hands, why not surprise one of your kids and just take them out somewhere to do something they enjoy. While scheduling them in makes them feel important, so does doing things spontaneously. My boys love unplanned adventures!

However you decide to spend that one-on-one quality time, you will find it to be extremely beneficial. Coming up Sunday, we’ll list some of those benefits. Come back to visit then. Have a great weekend!

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Dads, are we Teaching Our Kids to be Stressed?

Stressed Out? Can you trace back to your childhood how you developed your coping mechanism for stressful situations? According to a new study, if that mechanism has something to do with your dad, you are in good company.

This particular study, presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, examined relationships between fathers and their children and how those relationships affected how those children dealt with stress as adults.

For men, especially, there seems to be a strong connection. Those who had positive relationships with their dads became better equipped to deal with the stress of everyday life than those who did not remember their dads in a positive way – either through a negative relationship or no relationship at all.

The study also revealed that it is not enough that the father simply be present in the child’s life, but that he needs to be actively involved. In other words, if dad is taking time to play games with and have heart-to-heart talks with the kids, the comfort level that results seems to carry over to a more stable approach for the kids later in life.

The study did not see the same connection with girls and their dads. With girls having specifically female issues growing up, they naturally seek out other females and learn more of their coping skills from them and their mother than from dad.

Men, however, learn almost all of their coping skills from their father. When dad is not around, the child is at a severe disadvantage.

For those dads who grew up without a dad, there’s a chance to reverse the trend. For those with a situation like mine, it’s also an opportunity for positive change.

I grew up with a great dad. He really loved and cared about me and was proud I was his son. He loved showing me off, even though we really didn’t share a lot of the same interests. He also wanted the very best for me, or certainly better than he had it. Those are all good things. But in the process, I felt a constant pressure that I wasn’t good enough. He’d point out my mistakes for the purpose of having me learn, but I felt that if I wasn’t perfect at anything and everything I’d get yelled at, or, worse yet, would be letting him down.

I still feel that pressure decades later, and although I think it’s good to have drive and a competitive spirit, I think the stress caused by the impossible quest to be perfect has also taken its toll on me. I don’t enjoy life as much as I should. And while I am trying to correct that approach within myself, I also have to check myself often when I begin to put that same old pressure on my sons.

The study added that the majority had a better relationship with mom than with dad growing up, and definitively more men than women fit into that category. That makes sense, too. I had far more heart-to-heart talks with mom than with dad simply because I was afraid I would say something wrong to my dad.

And, of course, those of the nearly one thousand surveyed who had a good relationship with both parents tended to have fewer stressful incidents in life. The presence of positive male influences or mentors where fathers were absent made a difference as well.

We dads are very lucky to own that title. No matter what has happened in our past, we need to raise up our sons to be leaders of their generation, and, if we have the opportunity, we need to seek out the fatherless and grant them the opportunity to thrive as well.

A mentor of mine once told me I’d be a lot less stressed and more fulfilled if instead of pursuing perfection I would simply pursue excellence.

SOURCES: Melanie Mallers, assistant professor, Ph.D., California State University at Fullerton; Louise Silverstein, Ph.D., psychology professor, Yeshiva University, Bronx, N.Y.; American Psychological Association, annual convention, San Diego, Aug. 12, 2010

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