As you celebrate the summer and enjoy your family, here are some “top tips” for fathers. (We’re letting the “Action Points” take over.) If you haven’t yet thought through your summer plans — or if there’s room for a few more — these ideas should help.
- Allow for plenty of “planned unstructured time” with your kids, where you can discover a new favorite activity.
- Get the whole neighborhood involved in a game of whiffle ball, a water fight, backyard Olympics, etc.
- Plan a special weekend getaway for you and your child — just the two of you.
- Rediscover your favorite board games with your kids — and try their favorites too.
- Are finances a bit tight? Instead of going into debt to take a family vacation, consider a “staycation,” where you stay at home, but you make plans like you’re visiting an exotic and unknown place.
- A reminder: be extra aware of where your children are and what they’re doing. Summer months are often when unmonitored kids try risky activities for the first time.
- Set up a reward system or find other ways to make reading a fun pursuit for your children.
- Be ready when your kids say, “There’s nothing to do.” Our friend Jay Payleitner has 101 suggestions for you to offer them other than, “Read a book.” Watch the video.
- Challenge your child to try a new hobby or develop a new skill — painting, magic, yoyo tricks, or something sports related.
- Try a day or two with no TV or other media entertainment. Find other things to do together.
- During your summer vacation and other outings, offer a reward to the child who helps the most people somehow along the way.
- Give your kids access to various “raw materials” so they can be creative: markers and paper, an audio recorder, building supplies, string or rope, etc.
- On vacation, try the “hi/lo/funny” exercise each evening, where every member of the family tells that day’s high moment, low point, and funniest thing that happened.
- While you’re driving across the state, relaxing at the lake, grilling burgers or whatever, throw out a “discussion starter” question and see where it leads:
- What do you want to be doing in ten years?
- If you could re-live one day of your life, what day would it be?
- What makes our family great?
- What would you change about our family — and why?
- If you could have one talent that you don’t have now, what would it be?
If you want a sobering exercise, calculate how many summers you have left with your children before they leave home. If they’re in college, the answer might be none. In high school, it’s less than a handful. Even a 12-year-old might just have five or six summers left. Make the most of these great opportunities to be a dad and invest in your children! Do you have any extra vacation days coming? During the next 7-8 weeks find ways to generate a whole picnic basket full of memories.
Keeping the right perspective is a daily battle, but we can’t let our families drift apart because of jam-packed sports schedules, because the golf course or swimming pool is beckoning, or because a friend calls and wants to hang out. There’s plenty of room for those things, but we also have to protect our family time. Once we start allowing distractions in, keeping them out becomes much more difficult.