5 Tips: Social Distance Can Mean More Father Involvement

by Dr. Ken Canfield

Dads, I trust you’re doing everything you can to protect yourself, your family and others around you during this time when most of us have totally different routines and there’s an overriding uncertainty about the future. I hear about many families struggling to adjust to having kids home all day, as everyone comes to a better appreciation for what teachers and at-home moms and dads do on a daily basis.

Despite the legitimate reasons for concern, we have to stay positive. You may know that the Chinese character for the word “crisis” is a combination of two words: “dangerous” and “opportunity.” As our lives have been altered and somewhat put on hold because of the danger, let’s view this as an opportunity to grow, bless others, and find new ways to keep strong bonds with our children.

Although there are plenty of ideas going around about how to make the most of this time, here are five I would suggest for fathers:

Stay calm. As a father, you’re a key role model for your kids, and they draw strength from seeing you maintaining your poise and living with the same confidence that you always demonstrate. Yes, it’s an uncertain time, but they need to rely on you to be consistent in your character and emotions.

Honor your elders. One of my favorite statements during this COVID-19 situation talked about a “silver lining”:

Our entire country is taking great social and economic sacrifice in order to protect the most vulnerable, particularly the elderly. We are saying that older folks have dignity worth protecting.

That’s powerful, and it’s another way we set an example for our children. When they see us checking in on our parents and in-laws, as well as elderly neighbors and other acquaintances, it reinforces for them that grandparents and elders are important—plus it’s just good for us to honor our elders. (We will be in that position sooner than we realize.)

Be helpers. Mister Rogers used to talk about what his mother would say during times of crisis or uncertainty. She’d say, “Look for the helpers.” There is good in just about every bad situation if you look for it, and it’s a good reminder for our children and ourselves. Desperate times often bring out the best in people, and it can be true for us and our children as well. Tell them to watch for people who need assistance of some kind, and when you discover someone whom you can help, find ways to involve the entire family in brainstorming and carrying out a positive response—even if you’re somewhat limited by the need to keep social distance.

Demonstrate resourcefulness. If you’re limited in what you can do with your kids, it will require creativity to keep things interesting and engaging. Maybe it’s a good time for more active, outdoor adventures with your kids; give them a problem to solve and let them work on it; or give them a simple household item and see what they can figure out to do with it. Dad, set your mind to bringing something fun and challenging to your children’s lives. You’ll probably be surprised at how many interesting places and activities are right around you but you’ve never taken the time to check them out.

Teach something. Your kids may be out of school for the next few months, but it doesn’t have to be wasted time educationally. You can be part of continuing their education. For some, that will mean setting up desks and having math, science and reading lessons. This may be a great opportunity to get acquainted with how your children are progressing in key educational skills.

Whether or not you try to continue that kind of formal teaching program, remember the broader perspective on and goals for their education: raising well-rounded people with awareness and skills in a wide range of areas. Maybe you can use the coming weeks and months to teach your kids about car or home maintenance, cooking, social skills, faith, or a hobby or interest of yours. Or, your teaching could be more personal, focusing on your family heritage—the people, events and values that have shaped your family’s character and legacy.

Make the most of this time and these opportunities.

How have you been engaging your kids during the past few weeks? Share your ideas and see what else we’re up to at our Facebook page.

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There may be no more important work than turning the hearts of fathers to their children, and that’s what this is all about. We’re seeking to repair, rebuild and restore effective fathering for the benefit of children and families everywhere.