by Doug Spangler
Here are three things you can do today to build the father-child relationship you want and your child needs.
In the morning, touch physically. Make contact with a pat on the back, a soft hand on the shoulder, or a “good morning” hug or kiss. Help him make his lunch and secretly slip in a written “I love you” message. And look for an opportunity to give him a high-five for any accomplishment or good deed he did either this morning or the previous day.
At noon, touch intellectually. Think about each child—or maybe say a quick prayer if you’re so inclined. What is she going through that day? Pull out her picture from your wallet and think about her and her dreams. Without being overbearing, share with a co-worker your experience of being her dad and what she’s currently into. If it works with your child’s schedule, check in with a quick phone call, text, or a photo of something you two had a previous conversation about.
In the evening, touch emotionally. Ask how he or she is feeling about the day’s events. Were there any fears, joys, successes, frustrations, excitements, or disappointments? What was the best thing that happened today (and maybe the least favorite thing)? Listen with a compassionate heart. When appropriate, share your day as well.
Why these three? They basically have to do with feeding your child’s father-hunger. This is your child’s innate and very real need to have an emotional attachment to his or her father.
I hope it’s obvious that affirming your kids physically is a good thing at any time of the day, not just in the morning. Also you don’t have to reserve having all longer conversations only for the evening, and so on. I hope you touch your kids in all three ways whenever you get the chance, because these connections bring such great benefits to your child and your relationship with him or her.
Also, I realize that not all fathers get the chance to be with their children every day. If that’s your situation, I hope you’ll make the most of these “touch points” whenever you are able. Some can be done even though you’re apart, and I hope they give you some specific actions to keep in mind when you do get to see your kids.
Over the years, I’ve talked with lots of guys who had experienced an unmet father-hunger growing up. Most didn’t have a father who loved them, or they had one who was aloof and didn’t “touch” them with any real care and compassion. As a result, they told me they didn’t want their children to experience the same hunger. So they pledged to make that important emotional connection with their children.
You may have the same determination. If so, tap into your own father-hunger. As a child, where and when was your father-hunger not fed? What worked and what didn’t work for you? Then, be the father to your children that you wanted as a child. Using these three ways to “touch” each of your children will help you do just that.
Just connect every day. Just be DAD.
Doug Spangler is an author and fathering advocate who has appeared on radio and in numerous publications over the past 35-plus years. His blog is called FatherTalk, and his books include Meditations for the New Father (2013) and Fatherhood: An Owner’s Manual, For Fathers of Children From Birth to Age Five (1994). He is married and a father of two, grandfather of four, step-grandfather to two, and step-great grandfather to four and lives in the San Francisco Bay area.