by Jay Payleitner
Dads, all of us need to realize that our kids are watching. And how we respond during this crazy pandemic season is going to impact how they will respond to various crises in their own lives for decades to come.
No pressure, Dad. But you have a bit of a balancing act to do. You need to protect your family which means being firm and authoritarian. While at the same time, expressing optimism and hope. One strategy would be to see this season as a gift. Is that too hard to imagine?
Consider this: The coronavirus pandemic just might be a chance for you to open new doors of communication with your kids about how to handle disappointments and hardships. Help them see how taking a long-term optimistic view is a valuable skill.
Don’t be annoyingly cheerful or starry-eyed. That can backfire, especially with teenagers. But this is your chance to show your children that when life gives you lemons, with a little discipline and follow through, it really is possible to make lemonade.
One of my favorite questions to ask when I consider any significant life event is, “How is God going to use this?” If you’re a person of faith, you know He can and will eventually bring good out of all our experiences … as He defines “good,” of course.
We may not see God’s ultimate purpose for a long time. Still, in the midst of the global battle against COVID-19, let’s expect to find a glimmer of hope.
If your kids are older and you’re up for a serious theological debate, go ahead and tackle the ponderous question of why the coronavirus—or any natural disaster—sweeps across our land. But for most dads, simply taking advantage of this time to engage your kids in a new way should be considered a great victory.
With that in mind, here are ten unexpected ways to connect with your kids:
1. Pull out your old yearbook … and let them laugh at you.
2. Pull out your old albums (on vinyl, 8-track, cassette, or CD). Play your favorite classics and scrutinize the lyrics. If you concede that some lyrics are a little nasty, you may find yourself in an interesting discussion.
3. Play hopscotch. (If you step on a line with your giant feet, you lose!)
4. Teach some mad skill you learned decades ago. Consider ukulele, harmonica, juggling, spinning a basketball, twisting balloon animals, nunchucks, Rubik’s cubing, playing the spoons, hanging a spoon from your nose, drawing caricatures, whistling with your fingers, identifying some constellations, reciting the alphabet backwards, learning the ASL alphabet, shadow puppets, moonwalking, or anything else you mastered in your youth but your kids never knew you could do.
5. Commit to learning one or two of the above mad skills together!
6. Have them choose ANY color and let them paint their bedroom. (Giving you the chance to teach them all about the importance of prep, masking, patching, drop cloths, brush and roller technique, and cleanup.)
7. Let them teach you all the best tricks and strategies of their favorite video game.
8. Look for silly (or deep) poems online: “Casey at the Bat,” “Jabberwocky,” “My Shadow,” “Purple Cow,” “We Real Cool,” “In Flanders Field,” “The Road Not Taken,” or anything by Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutksy, Robert Frost, or Gwendolyn Brooks.
9. Make stilts. (When your fourth grader elevates ten inches they’ll be looking you in the eye!)
10. Brainstorm ideas for a family vacation for when this thing is over.
Dad, when you look back at 2020, it really is possible for you to remember a crazy season that brought your family closer than ever. But that won’t happen without you being intentional about engaging with your kids. You can do it, Dad. Be well.
Good news! Jay is offering a FREE DOWNLOAD for dads that just might be the cure for cabin fever. Get it here.
Jay Payleitner is the bestselling author of 52 Things Kids Need from a Dad, What If God Wrote Your Bucket List? and Day-by-Day Devotions for Dads. Jay and his high school sweetheart, Rita, live in St. Charles, Illinois where they raised five awesome kids, loved on ten foster babies, and are cherishing grandparenthood. Track him down at jaypayleitner.com.
Illustration by Rex Bohn