Olympic “Undude” is Committed Dad: “Life is just beginning”

 

What does being a father mean to you?

As the Winter Olympics begin, I want to highlight some committed dads who will be competing there in Sochi, and some comments they made about their role as fathers.

Billy Demong (Nordic Combined Skiing) said, “Fatherhood has made me much better with time management. It’s about striking a balance and prioritizing and focusing on what’s important.”

And Heath Calhoun (Alpine Skiing – Paralympian) commented, “In my spare time, I like to spend every minute possible just being ‘dad’ to my three kids!”

Todd Lodwick (Nordic Combined), who is the first six-time Olympian, said this about his role: “I grew up [spending] all of my free time outside. I’m now sharing that tradition every chance I get with my kids, hiking, camping & fishing.”

Photo courtesy of David Wise.And I want to tell you more about David Wise (pictured at right), a competitor in Freeskiing – Halfpipe. David is 23 years old, married, with a 2-year-old daughter. A recent New York Times article dubbed him the “undude” because he stands out as very different from many others in the skiing and snowboarding culture. As the Times reporter said it, David is “surprisingly grounded for someone who makes a living flying through the air.”

Fatherhood is a big part of that. He says, “Being a dad is an amazing experience. It is an equal share of intimidating responsibility and overwhelming reward.”

He thinks it may also be an unfair advantage over his rivals. Being a family man has given him a different perspective on his life and his competitions, so he’s more relaxed and able to push himself when he’s skiing. And failing or losing wouldn’t be the crushing blow that it might otherwise be since he has other, higher priorities in his family.

Here’s another quote from David in the Times article: “People look at me and say: ‘Man, you’re married and have a kid? Your life is over.’ And I think, My life is just beginning.”

Now, let me ask again: What does fatherhood mean to you? How are you different or better because you’re a dad?

Maybe you’ve gradually become comfortable with the idea that making sacrifices is part of fatherhood; you’re giving up some things you enjoy because duty calls. You’re reigning in some career ambitions, hobbies or other pursuits because you’re a dad. Only you’re finding that these really aren’t sacrifices, but simply ways you’re living out your priorities.

For some, a life-threatening situation wakes you up to what’s most important in life, or what you’ve been taking for granted.

Or maybe you’ve been doing some reflecting about the good things you learned from your dad—or even the things you learned because of your dad’s influence. Now you want to figure out ways to pass those values and lessons on to your children.

A few years back, a study concluded that fathers are significantly more likely to be outward-focused and service-oriented compared to men who are not fathers. Fatherhood changes us; it helps to make us more selfless and empathetic, and more responsive to the needs of others in our neighborhoods and communities. (This is particularly true for highly involved fathers.)

Those are a few factors that might help some dads answer the question, but I’m also interested in how you would respond—what being a dad means to you. I hope you’ll leave feedback either below or on our Facebook page.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a committed dad. Let that role help define you more and more. Through the challenges of life—and especially when something seems too much to handle or determined to go against you—think of your kids, your love for them and your commitment to them. Being a dad gives great meaning and purpose to your life; it shouldn’t be your only purpose, but it’s a great one to have near the top of your list.

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • Enjoy the snow with your kids in some kind of backyard Olympic-like competition. (Let them come up with the “sport” you’ll try.)
  • Get online with your child and look up an athlete or two that you can learn about and then watch together when they compete. Check out NBCOlympics.com and TeamUSA.org for more information.
  • Set aside time every day to help your child develop a skill, whether you’re rolling a ball back and forth with your infant or helping your older child practice a sport or finish his homework.
  • Plan to spend a solid hour this next week with each of your children, one on one. Tell each one, “Let’s do something together. You choose.”
  • Arrange to bring pizza during your child’s lunchtime at school. (Bring enough for a few friends too.) Or volunteer to help with the Valentine’s party in your child’s class.

 

Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.

Photo courtesy of David Wise.

 

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Dad, Laugh with Your Kids—You Both Need It

 

I have always loved to laugh with my kids. Who doesn’t, right?

A dad named Richard tells about one night when he was reading books with his 4-year-old son. Little Matt wanted one more book, but Richard said it was time for bed.

Now, Richard and his wife typically offer their children choices to help shape their behavior; the two choices, both of which are agreeable to Richard and his wife, establish appropriate boundaries while giving the children a sense of power in day-to-day matters.

Well, on this night Richard found out that Matt was catching on to his system … sort of. When Richard said again, “Sorry, son, that’s enough for tonight,” Matt came back with, “Okay, Dad. Would you rather read me another book, or have me poke your eye?”

Fatherhood brings lots of those priceless moments of humor and joy to our lives—among many other benefits. But too often, the serious and sober realities of raising responsible children overwhelm our spontaneous, witty and playful sides.

Parents Reading to Laughing BoyBut we need to remember that humor and laughter promote health—physically, developmentally, and relationally. Physically, laughter relaxes muscles, releases stress hormones, reduces pain, and may even enhance our immune systems—according to Paul McGhee, Ph.D., who has done extensive research on humor.

As children grow, if they learn to appreciate humor, they will develop higher creative skills because humor and creativity both draw on divergent thinking—they bring new and unique insights to problems and situations. That capacity also helps children deal well with the unexpected, which is beneficial for coping in day-to-day situations.

Surely you’ve surely seen the power of laughter in relating to your children. In tense situations, a good dose of laughter can open doors and restore a sense of hope. When you’re having fun with your child, you both let your guard down and you’re likely to have better communication and just enjoy each other’s company. Laughter makes you more approachable—especially if you can laugh at your own shortcomings.

What are some ways to do this? From what I’ve seen, play and humor come natural for most dads. I’ve provided some suggestions in the Action Points below, but I’m really hoping you’ll provide me (and other dads) with a bunch more ideas by leaving a comment either below or on our Facebook page.

Please let us know: How do you and your kids have fun and laugh together most often?

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • Humor is a great strategy with children of any age, if you know how to get to their funny bone. Figure out how to have fun on your children’s level by immersing yourself in their world. Hang out together, read their books, play their games, listen to their stories, etc.
  • Play make-believe with your young child. Let yourself go! Shake hands with “imaginary friends”; use your silly voice; make the chair talk and the flowers sing.
  • When something funny happens, capture it on video, audio, in a photograph or in a journal. Re-live that memory when everyone is frustrated, depressed, or just needs to laugh.
  • What common interests do you have with your child when it comes to humor and what you enjoy? What causes laughter and silliness in your daughter? What brings that mischievous grin to your son’s face? Find out, and then capitalize on it for the benefit of your relationship.
  • Tell each child about the joy you felt at his or her birth. Recall other specific times since then when they have brought you joy.

 

Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.

 

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Daddy-Daughter Dates: Benefits and Ideas

 

It’s that season again… That’s right, Valentine’s Day is just a few weeks away.

I know some people boycott that “greeting card holiday,” and others see it as one more chance to show their love. To each his own, I suppose. But I also believe a lot of good things happen during February because there are father-daughter dances taking place all over the country. They are often fantastic events, and a lot of fun.

This week I heard about the annual Father-Daughter Dance in Valdosta, Georgia. It’s the biggest one in the country, and maybe the world. This is their 18th year holding the city-wide event, and they expect 5,200 to attend! They’ve had to offer four different sessions over two evenings just to accommodate all the dads and daughters.

How to Be a Daddy-Daughter Dates: Benefits and IdeasAnd it’s spreading; based on the popularity of the Valdosta event, similar things are happening in cities around that region—and they’ll share their insights if you’d like to start an event in your area.

Now, let me repeat: to each his own. Maybe the dancing thing isn’t for you and your daughter, or maybe the event in your area doesn’t work into your schedule. But I do want to reinforce the great value of taking your daughter on dates.

For one thing, it’s just fun to go out one-on-one with your daughter. Also, when you’re out together doing something she enjoys, chances are it will be easier for her to open up and share ideas or just talk about what’s going on in her life.

And one of the biggest reasons for these dates is modeling. Your girls will probably have to sift through a lot of questionable characters before she finds a good one to spend time with—and even the good ones sometimes have lapses as they mature and learn about relationships.

As a father, you need to prepare your daughter for that, and daddy-daughter dates can play an important role. Even if your daughter is still years away from a serious relationship, you can start setting an example for how she should expect to be treated by a man.

Every so often—at least once or twice a year—you need to dress up, buy flowers, book dinner reservations at someplace semi-fancy and make it a “date”—whether it’s a formal February event or something you arrange.

Some other ideas for daddy-daughter time:

  • Hang out together at the local bookstore coffeehouse.
  • Movies and sports events can work for dates, but make sure you go for ice cream afterward, or do something else that gives you plenty of time to talk.
  • Do something physical, like riding bikes, golf, rollerblading, or racquetball.
  • Go for a drive around town and see the sights and watch people.
  • Even shopping can be fun—and can bring up opportunities to talk about modesty.

If none of this sounds thrilling to you, please remember, dad: It’s not about you. This is an opportunity to invest yourself in your daughter, and remind her that she’s highly valued and loved. And if things are tense with her at home, then you both might need a reminder that you can laugh and have fun together.

What’s the best date you’ve had with your daughter? Tell us about it—and post a photo—either below or on our Facebook page.

A Few MORE Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • Make sure you take photos—either before you leave or while you’re doing something fun.
  • Be tourists in your own city.
  • Get 80+ more great date ideas in this book by Rob Teigen.
  • If you’re married, of course plan something romantic for your bride also. Having a daddy-daughter date if you haven’t gone out with your wife in six months would not be cool.

 

Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.

 

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How to Be a Dad Through Life’s Ups and Downs

 

I have a good friend who’s an assistant coach for an NFL team. Or, I should say, he was an assistant coach. He was let go a few weeks ago when the head coach for that team was fired.

He’s a sharp young man, and I know he’ll be fine. He told me, “It’s not fun, but change is part of life…. I’ve been blessed more than I deserve.”

It might seem difficult for everyday dads to identify with an NFL coach, but believe me, those guys go through real-life issues and face fathering challenges just like the rest of us.

Like my friend said, change is part of life for all of us, and in the coming year, your family will experience some large or small changes. Some of them are related to your career or an important relationship, but many of them happen simply because change is inevitable with kids. It’s part of being a parent.

How to Be a Dad Life Ups and DownsThere are first steps and the last day in diapers. Every year brings a first day of school with new teachers and a last day of school with an endless summer of opportunities ahead. Driver’s licenses, dating privileges, graduations, choosing a college, enlisting in the military, engagements, weddings, and babies are all life-altering transitions. I know a dad who recently adopted three children from overseas. For him and his wife, it has turned their world upside down.

So how do you stay on top of the ongoing changes of family life, and carry yourself in a way that will leave a positive legacy for your children?

You probably can’t stay ahead of the changes completely, but my first thought is that, as dads, transitions really should not take us by surprise. As our kids grow and change, we need to be thinking ahead about what’s coming down the road, and prepare as best we can. Our kids need stability even in turbulent times, and a father has the privilege to give that to his greatest team, his family.

Being prepared can include talking with others, like other dads who’ve walked the path ahead of you. Get their best insights. Proactively plan with your children’s mother and benefit from her experiences and perspective.

With your children, the best way to prepare them is to help them develop habits and skills that will serve them well when the changes do come. At the top of that list is communication.

Specifically, work to become a more sensitive listener. How are your children handling the changes, what are their concerns, and what do they need from you? Ask open-ended questions, and then listen and watch.

Also, explain why change is necessary sometimes, and you can even admit that change is sometimes beyond your control.

And then, of course, give them lots of affirmation through words and actions. Make sure they know—without a doubt—that though some things may change, your love for them and acceptance of them will not change.

The stresses of life can push family members apart, but with our sensitive leadership, uncertainties and challenges can draw our families closer and make them stronger.

More Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • During difficult transitions, help your children focus on something positive. Maybe plan a fun activity to help restore joy and a sense of continuity to the family.
  • Invest energy in helping someone else—a great way to take your family’s focus off of a current struggle or difficult adjustment.
  • Another positive, proactive step would be to volunteer as a WatchDOG at your kids’ school or a school in your neighborhood.
  • Allow each family member to talk through whatever they’re feeling through times of change.
  • Meet regularly with other dads in a small group. Through the ups and downs of life, they’ll keep you steady through encouragement, support, and accountability.

What other tips have you found valuable as a dad for life’s transitions? Help other guys by posting your thoughts either below or on our Facebook page.

 

Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.

 

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Being a Father Is a Great Privilege and Responsibility

 

Every child needs a dad.

That’s what keeps us going here at the National Center for Fathering. We want to help create a Championship Fathering culture where there’s an actively engaged father or father figure in the life of every child.

We’re not out just to build up men, and we are definitely not about starting a gender war; we’re out to improve the lives of children, and dads are an important part of that picture. Statistics shows that children thrive when they have involved fathers; many of the ills in our land can be addressed on some level by inspiring and equipping men to be the involved fathers their children need.

How to Be a Father Great Privilege ResponsibilityYou’re probably very aware of the importance of your role as a father. We hear about it convincingly from thousands of kids every year in our essay contests. We also hear it from dads.

Let me tell you about what one dad told me recently: At the end of the school semester, his 9-year-old son brought home a stack of papers and projects. One was an assignment to draw pictures representing different aspects and events in his life. On one page, under the heading “The Most Important Thing In My Life,” the boy had scribbled an image of his dad.

Just imagine how that dad felt! He actually said he wasn’t too flattered by how the drawing portrayed his receding hairline and pudgy mid-section, but most of all he savored that feeling of being appreciated.

He talked about the everyday investments he’d made in his son’s life up to that point—the evenings kicking a soccer ball at him so that he could sharpen his goalie skills, or their regular time going to get ice cream and talk about life together. Clearly, those investments were making a difference; he was connecting with his son and influencing him in positive ways.

This dad’s experience was actually rare, because usually we don’t get a chance to see that we’re making a difference in our kids’ lives until years later. Other than maybe on Father’s Day, there isn’t a lot of recognition or appreciation for what we do. (And we’re trying to change that!)

But this dad didn’t pull a muscle trying to pat his own back. After just a few moments those good feelings led to a renewed sense of commitment, as well as being awed and humbled by the great privilege and responsibility of fatherhood.

He thought of all the other great opportunities he has to invest in his kids—like helping with homework, being more purposeful in doing the bedtime routine, and teaching them skills around the house or wherever they were together.

What about you, dad? As you reflect on the past year of your fathering, you’ll probably recall some great times with your kids. Maybe you’ve even seen tangible evidence that you’re making a difference in their lives. Soak those in and enjoy them. And of course, for every dad there are also challenges here and there.

Whatever you think about and feel as you reflect, remember that you play a pivotal role in your child’s life. You do make a difference. You are tremendously important in the life of your child.

If you’re like me, when you read that statement, “Every child needs a dad,” you see even more ways to invest yourself in the New Year. So I say, look forward with hope and confidence, and follow through. Call it a resolution if you want to, but I challenge you to make it a new, positive fathering habit—and start it today.

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • Ask your kids, “What’s your favorite memory from last year that involved both of us?” Then start planning some similar activities for the coming months.
  • Have you saved cards from past Father’s Days, or other souvenirs where one of your kids expressed appreciation for what you do? Go get them and look through them—without dwelling on them for too long. It’s good to be reminded about the important role you play.
  • What opportunities do you see where you can have even more positive impact on your children? List a few possibilities, and keep them in front of you every day.
  • There are more great ways to make a difference for kids around you: encourage a child without a dad, and/or reach out to a father who may need your support in some way.
  • Thanks to everyone who gave to support our efforts to inspire and equip dads. If you’re interested in helping us continue and expand our work, just go to fathers.com/getinvolved or fathers.com/donate.

Guys, when have you seen evidence that you’re making a difference in your kids’ lives? I know a lot of other dads need to be reminded and encouraged. Please share about your experiences either below or on our Facebook page.

 

Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.

 

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A Mile Marker in Your Fathering Journey

 

We often say fathering isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. In that marathon, think of January 1 as a mile marker.

You’ve reached this point in the marathon and you’re still moving forward, and that’s good news. Maybe the hills and the heat on the course so far have you feeling pretty badly beaten up; maybe you thought you were well prepared for this, but the reality of the challenge has caught you completely off guard and you feel like giving up; or maybe you feel pretty good about how you’re doing so far, but you sure are looking for that next refreshment station.

I go through all of that myself, for sure.

Mile Marker in Your Fathering Journey How to Be a FatherAnd in the fathering marathon, the changing of a new year is a great time to pause a moment, survey the course, take your pulse, and gear up for another year of winning with your kids.

That’s important because in this marathon, success doesn’t just mean finishing the course or achieving your personal best time; at stake here are your children’s hearts and minds and futures. For their sake, you can’t afford to lag behind or give up.

So briefly today, I want to remind you about a great tool that will help you assess your progress—the Championship Fathering Profile (CFP).

The CFP will give you a good idea how you’re progressing as a dad in thirteen different areas of fathering, based on your responses to a series of questions.

If you have a strong emotional connection to your child, that will come out in the Profile, so you’ll be affirmed and challenged to make the most of that strength.

If you had a tough home life as a child or didn’t have a great relationship with your dad, that too will show up, and you’ll get some perspective on how that affects your fathering as well as some of the ways to address it, so you can leave a stronger legacy for your kids.

How well do you resolve conflicts? Or lead your family morally and spiritually? Or work as a team with your child’s mother? How involved are you in your child’s education? You can get feedback on all that and more.

Maybe best of all, you’ll get some insights and inspiration about how to improve in those areas during the next leg of the journey. I’d urge you to get started with your Profile right here.

Dad, we realize that this fatherhood course has some tough spots, and all dads need some help and encouragement along the way. That’s why we’re here!

So please take full advantage of whatever we have that can benefit you. Plug into our resources. Read our weekly email and blog, and carry out a few of the action points each week. Search through the practical articles and other information at fathers.com. If you’re so inclined, check into our training program where we equip you to give presentations on fathering and help other dads step up in their role.

We have more great things planned for next year with you in mind, and we’re all looking forward to it. I hope you are, too. (And your kids don’t know now, but they’re the ones who will really love it.)

What are your goals as a dad for next year? Share with other dads and encourage one another either below or on our Facebook page.

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • Take your Championship Fathering Profile results to your children’s mom or a close friend or family member and ask for their suggestions on how you can improve in specific areas.
  • The New Year is also a “mile marker” for your children. Talk about specific accomplishments and/or developments you’ve seen in them during the past year, and make sure you include, “I’m proud of you.”
  • Ask your kids about their resolutions for the next year—not to put pressure on them, but so you can help and encourage them along the way.
  • Need a simple way to improve as a dad in the New Year? Commit more time to them; build it into your schedule right from the beginning, and then protect that time fiercely.
  • Please consider a year-end gift of support to the National Center to help us continue and expand our outreach. Just go to fathers.com/donate.

 

Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.

 

Please leave a comment below.

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Dads, Hang in There Through Christmas Chaos

 

Does your family take a Christmas photo every year? Oh the memories!

And sometimes, oh the headache.

Last year, we managed to get all our kids and grandkids together in the same location, dressed just right for the perfect portrait. But you know how kids are…

Most of our grandkids are toddlers and preschoolers, so if I said it was chaos, that might be putting it mildly. What I remember was kids melting down, running off in the wrong direction, or just about falling asleep. Then a diaper change. And a mess on a sweater.

I mean, is it even worth the hassle for a photo?

Those thoughts did go through my mind that day. And I might be overstating it a bit, but for a while it was not fun. And as a granddad, I wasn’t even involved in most of it.

Dads, Hang in There Through Christmas Chaos Casey 2012But when I saw the photo, I never would have known there were all those challenges. Everyone looked great! And ten or twenty years from now when I look at that photo, I’m sure I won’t even remember what that day was like. I’ll just be thinking about my amazing grandkids and how they’ve grown and changed, and I’ll be wondering where those precious years went.

If your family is anything like mine, there are a lot of holiday events and activities like that. You anticipate the “perfect” meal or evening or outing, but things go wrong. The kids argue and fight. Or there’s a blizzard. Or you can’t get in to see the Christmas play. One thing builds on the last, and pretty soon you wonder if it’s even worth it.

Well, I’m here to tell you, it is.

In many ways, I think our kids’ memories are like that photo. What they remember in the years ahead is going to be better than what you may feel at the time as the dad. It might be hard for you to get past today’s challenges, but I urge you to “see the bigger picture” … so to speak.

So expect a little chaos. But also expect a great family time this Christmas. Invest yourself one-hundred percent in connecting with family members and bringing home genuine joy for them.

When things go wrong—and they will—you don’t have to worry so much or get stressed out. Just smile, keep rolling with it, and look forward to the next thing on your schedule.

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • Think proactively during the next week. How can you help your kids—and their mom—be well-rested, calm, and content during your family events?
  • Whether or not you take a formal family photo, get lots of candids. Have a contest with your kids for the silliest holiday-related shots.
  • Spend an evening going through old photos and/or videos—and talking about the memories—as a family.
  • Please consider a year-end gift of support to the National Center, to help us continue and expand our outreach. Just go to www.fathers.com/donate.

Guys, please share your experiences. What’s the most stressful family event for you? And how do you make the best of it? Give your feedback either below or on our Facebook page.

 

Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.

 

Please leave a comment below.

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  • If you aren’t a Facebook user (or you prefer not to use that form to make your comment), look further down the page to “Speak Your Mind.” That form is exclusive to this blog.

 

15 Ways to Connect with Your Kids During the Holidays

 

I’m always impressed at the ingenuity of dads (often with help from moms) when it comes to finding ways to stay connected with their kids, and I want to share some ideas I’ve heard from dads over the past few weeks.

I don’t know how the holidays go in your family, but in ours there are lots of activities and traditions, and they’re all great. But sometimes I have to remind myself about the real purpose behind all the activity: to celebrate as a family and build stronger bonds with each other.

And for dads, we can’t just go through the motions during this holiday season; we have to find ways to strengthen that bond with our kids. And in today’s world, there are complex family situations and a growing number of distractions that would get in the way of dads and kids making that connection.

how to be a father 15 Ways to Connect with Kids During HolidaysSo, this week, I simply want to pass along some practical ideas that you can use. They might not all work for you, but if you pick up a tip or two and they add some fun or a little more genuine connection to your time with your children, then I’ll consider this a success.

Here are some of the ideas we received from dads right here in our offices and from a request I put out on Facebook:

  • Bake cookies or prepare an entire meal together. (And Dad has to be more involved than just taste-testing.)
  • Go to the local rescue mission as a family to serve meals or offer whatever help might be needed.
  • Watch holiday movie classics with popcorn, hot chocolate, or whatever the kids enjoy.
  • One dad with older kids used to just give his kids cash as a gift, but it seemed a bit empty. Then he came up with a better idea. Now he gives them the cash, but they do a father-child outing to shop for things they want and spend the money. (He also adds an extra challenge: extra cash to the child who comes closest to spending all of it without going over.) A variation of this would also work with younger kids.
  • Three words: board game night! One dad said there are games that are competitive and some that are cooperative. Find one the family enjoys—and remember that the biggest “prize” is quality time with your kids.
  • A non-custodial dad bought his kids a computer and iPhone, so they can connect by FaceTime or Skype, text back and forth, read Christmas books at bedtime, and so on.
  • Try a craft with your kids—even if that isn’t your thing. Make Christmas tree ornaments, for example. One dad has many more ideas here.
  • Get your child out of school a little early one day and see a movie or do something else together that’s fun. (A great idea, but make sure you check with the school and it doesn’t interrupt plans in your child’s classroom.)
  • Can’t be with your kids for the holidays? One family I know makes new pajamas part of their Christmas Eve (like we do in our home). Since their young-adult daughter couldn’t be home for the celebration, they sent her pajamas and some other gifts in the mail, so they’ll all “be together” via Skype and still share the moments and memories. Non-custodial dads could surely come up with some great variations of this one.
  • Travel together—a great way to break everyone out of the normal holidays routine.
  • Brainstorm together and then play “secret Santa” by getting gifts or doing nice things for someone you know.
  • Be in a Christmas musical or pageant with your kids.
  • Go through the toys they already have and donate the ones in good condition.
  • Bundle up (if necessary) and get outside. Play in the snow, go for a walk or bike ride, etc.
  • Have each person share favorite memories or traditions related to Christmas, or best memories from the past year.

I have to add a few more that are more general principles than specific tips. These are too good not to pass along:

  • Just make the time to be there for and with them.
  • Don’t treat family traditions like ‘check the box’ obligations. Sometimes less is more. Quality over quantity.
  • If you’re divorced or in a blended family, stay positive. When it’s time for the kids to go to their mom’s, encourage them to go and enjoy the time.

Dad—this list isn’t done! Please add your own ideas or comments either below or on our Facebook page.

 

Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.

 

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One Great Holiday Idea for Fathers

 

Joshua is an active WATCH D.O.G.S. dad at his child’s school who came up with a great idea for the holiday season.

Like in many other families—especially those that put emphasis on their faith during the holidays—he and his wife use an Advent calendar to help them and their young sons count down the days in anticipation of Christmas. Maybe you do something similar—and there are all kinds of great resources to help if you wanted to start this.

Well, a few years back Joshua was working long hours and couldn’t always be there with his wife and his boys to go through the daily Advent readings and activities. So he started his own special calendar for the holidays. And you know what he called it?

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.DADvent—of course.

His DADvent calendar was all about simply having fun with his sons, holiday style. He used it as a reminder to do something special for his sons every day leading up to Christmas.

With his schedule, many times that meant doing things while the boys slept. One night he decorated their rooms with paper snowflakes which they saw first thing in the morning. Another night he strung lights from corner to corner. Then there was the night he put up a Christmas tree in each bedroom without waking them up.

Joshua knew it was worth all the late nights and lack of sleep when he heard his eleven-year-old say that DADvent activities were a “great memory” and a tradition he looks forward to every year.

And Joshua found that once he was in the habit, these special things spread into other parts of the year. And he started doing similar things for his bride as well.

If you wanted to really follow the Advent calendar, we’ve already missed the first week or so. But there’s no reason you can’t start right now. Joshua doesn’t mind if you use his idea. Go ahead and call it “DADvent.”

But whatever you call it, the important part is your attitude and your commitment to make the holidays fun for your kids this year. How cool would it be for them if, every day between now and December 25th, you came up with some kind of surprise, small gift, or even just spent a few minutes doing something they enjoy?

Maybe you can bake cookies, do a crazy craft project, make some paper angels, or whatever. You can find all kinds of ideas online. And the cost would likely be almost nothing.

Here’s an idea: on the way home from work today or sometime tomorrow, pick up four boxes of candy canes and hang them on every hook, ledge or doorknob in your home. Announce the “Official Beginning of DADvent” and watch the expressions on your kids’ faces.

Thanks, Joshua, for the great idea!

So, dad, how do you make the holidays special for your children? Share your ideas with other dads either below or on our Facebook page.

Action Points for Dads on the Fathering Journey

  • Tell your kids about a holiday tradition that was special for you as a child. Maybe surprise them by doing something similar this year.
  • Be purposeful this year about finding ways to have fun as a family—and avoid the common holiday stressors. Consider relaxing a household rule for a few weeks to give your kids the impression that it’s a “special” time.
  • Lead your family in spreading the true spirit of the holidays this season by helping someone else who has a need. And prepare to learn something! Often, kids can be more sensitive to people’s needs than we are.
  • Buy a gift for the whole family, that everyone can enjoy together, or invest in an activity you can all do together.
  • As you decide on gifts for your kids, start thinking about gifts of time that you can also give—like redeemable coupons or a commitment to enjoy a new toy or game with him or her.

 

Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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Meaningful Traditions: Be a Thanks-giving Father

Don’t you love Thanksgiving? Of course, the food is amazing, and I love the football. But it’s much more than that.

Thanksgiving is the one holiday that, for the most part, hasn’t been polluted by commercialism. You gather as a family and enjoy each other in a relaxed setting, without all the distractions of, “What gifts am I gonna get?” or, “Are you gonna like what I bought you?”

At the Casey home on Thanksgiving, we even dress a certain way—not formal, but very respectful. It’s a day to remember our many blessings and humbly show our gratitude.

father with children sunset 2Some of the most humorous times for our family are around the dinner table, because that’s everyone’s turn to gang up on Dad. They all chime in, saying, “All right, Dad’s gonna ask us, ‘What are you thankful for?’” Or, “What’s your most embarrassing moment?” But it’s all good, because I’ve learned how to take their jokes—and give a few back here and there.

Once we get past that, everyone gets a chance to recall the blessings from the past year.

Later, we’ll go out and look for the most colorful leaves, or rake the leaves into a big pile and let the grandkids go crazy.

Eventually, we’ll gather for a family photo. Over the years, those photos become a treasured visual record of our family, and some years they even become our Christmas card. (More on that in the coming weeks.)

These rituals are more than just a mindless routine we go through every November. Traditions instill meaning and build unity for our families.

I hope you’ll put a little extra thought into the matter of family traditions this year. Keep the old ones going, and maybe add some new ones. It might be raking leaves, a family photo, a touch football game, some prepared questions or a family history lesson. Make sure to involve everyone, from the youngest to the oldest.

And if you’re going through a difficult time or you can’t be with your children, make the most of whatever opportunities you do have, and remember to count your blessings. Even in tough situations, if we stop and think a minute, we still have a lot to be thankful for.

What unusual or special Thanksgiving traditions do you celebrate with your family? Are you adding or changing any this year? Join other dads in the discussion either below or on our Facebook page.

Action Points for Dads on the Fathering Journey

  • Brainstorm with your family about a new Thanksgiving tradition you could begin. For example, before or after dinner, the whole family walks to the park together. (Make sure it’s something the kids will enjoy.)
  • At the dinner table or at some other time this weekend, “interview” your child and other family members with interesting questions to spur discussion—like these from RJ Jaramillo at singledad.com.
  • Have each family member recall his/her earliest Thanksgiving memory—starting with the oldest person and moving to the youngest.
  • Enjoy an outdoor activity with your children, no matter what the weather is like.
  • Start making plans for the days after Thanksgiving—how you’ll make this holiday season as meaningful as it can be for your family.

 

Carey web smallCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.

 

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