This past March, life threw us all a big curveball, and although probably no dads can say they were completely prepared, all of us changed our routines to a degree and it affected our fathering. Some dads appeared to adjust pretty seamlessly and naturally, while others have struggled. From a glass-half-full perspective, we can all see challenges and difficulties as opportunities to become better dads. And in this case, since many of us were practically locked in our homes with our children, these past months have shone a light on our relationships with our kids—revealing the good and bringing us face-to-face with some areas where we need to grow. 

This week we’re highlighting more results from our survey of dads during the COVID-19 pandemic. As with this entire survey, a wide variety of fathering stages and situations were represented. Responses from grandfathers painted a much different picture compared to dads with small children at home. And the issues faced by non-custodial dads during COVID-19 are nothing like the challenges of men who were working from home most days even before the pandemic.

All those various situations were represented in the responses, but we’re reporting on the most common patterns in the responses, which mostly represent dads who have been spending much more time at home with their kids over the past six months.

This week we’re looking at answers to this question:

“As a result of the pandemic, how have you grown in your fathering role?”

Here are some characteristic responses:

I have been able to spend more time with my kids, transitioning from human jungle gym to someone who can offer guidance and knowledge.

I’m learning my limitations and flaws and I’m inspired to grow to be more patient and gentle.

Appreciation for the blessing of being a father and the responsibility it is to not take the role for granted or lightly.

Listening to my daughter more and discussing matters with her on a more respectful way.

More communication with kids and, surprisingly, kids’ friends. More privy to kids online conversations. Everything [is] more public.

Quite a few dads reported that their fathering involvement hasn’t changed at all. Maybe their work situations stayed pretty much the same, or they had well-established routines with their kids that just continued. And some made it clear that the pandemic has had a negative effect on their fathering because their daily routine has become even more stressful or they seem more easily irritated with their kids, being around them so much of the day.

For those who did notice growth in their fathering, the most common responses fell into three categories:

Dads are more involved in everyday parenting and household responsibilities. They are doing more feeding, cooking and fixing lunches, helping with school-at-home routines and checking homework, changing diapers, arranging or giving rides, and on and on. They are part of day-to-day parenting decisions that they may not have even been aware of before. In many cases, that involves finding positive ways to deal with frustrations, work through issues with the kids, and communicate better with their children’s mom so they can be on the same page. Some guys mentioned gaining a new appreciation for the privilege of being a dad and being able to invest in their children on a daily basis.

More time with kids is resulting in stronger father-child connections. Dads have more time and opportunities to be involved in their kids’ lives than they have been previously, and since they’re under some level of quarantine, it’s usually simple activities: doing hobbies or practicing sports with their kids, going for walks, eating more meals as a family, cooking, playing, and just hanging out. A dad’s presence is the best present he can give, and his kids are loving it and surely benefitting from it.  

And that quantity time is leading to more quality time. Many dads commented that they’re having conversations with their children about deeper issues, whether about their concerns during the pandemic, politics and other situations in the news lately, spiritual matters, or other questions and issues that kids wonder about as they grow up.

Dads are growing in awareness of their kids. Quite a few of the dads mentioned that they’re growing in skills that help them learn more about their kids and affirm them for who they are. They said they’re becoming better listeners—a great goal for any dad—or they’re growing in patience and understanding. They’re learning to appreciate what makes each child unique.

Dads, as your situation allows, this could be a useful plan for becoming a better dad: more involvement in your children’s lives leads to stronger connections and more meaningful time with them, and in the process you gain a greater awareness of who they are and how you can invest in them to help them thrive. More involvement is often the starting place for growing fathers, and it usually isn’t complicated. Just spend more time with your kids. Add an hour a week or 15 minutes a day for your children, and it will lead you to something good.

What simple activities have you been doing with your kids during the pandemic? Share a positive example with other dads at our Facebook page.

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