Fathering in a Pandemic

 

How have you been able to handle being a dad during the COVID-19 pandemic?

We’ve found that some dads have pretty much taken it in stride, some have really struggled, and of course many experienced varying degrees of both sides. One such dad is Eric.

He’s been frustrated because his son started high school in 2020—and Eric hoped he would settle into a positive peer group and make friends—but online classes and cancelled band performances have severely limited those opportunities. Eric is also a huge basketball fan, and his daughter made the middle school team, but the season was limited to a dozen games and he could only “cheer” for her from his living room, watching online.

In the fall, Eric’s wife told him that they were expecting a third child—surprise! But Eric couldn’t accompany her to her prenatal appointments, including the one when the ultrasound couldn’t find a heartbeat. He couldn’t be there to console and comfort his wife.

Eric and his family have done their best to stay positive. They will tell you that 2020 brought them closer because they have spent more time together at home and talked through all the challenges and adjustments. Still, he’s frustrated when he thinks about events and milestones he had looked forward to, and “what might have been.”

His experiences reflect some of the challenges dads have faced during the pandemic, although there are many others:

  • Many non-custodial dads have been able to see their kids even less than normal because their kids’ mom wants to be extra cautious and minimize the chances that they’ll catch or spread the virus.
  • Some dads have lost their jobs or dealt with major financial challenges, adding to the pressure they feel to provide adequately for their families.
  • Some struggled to handle the new work-from-home routine and trying to be productive while keeping the kids occupied all day with something other than their phones or gaming systems.
  • Some dads enjoyed spending more time at home with their kids, but they quickly ran out of fun activities to do together.
  • For some, the changes in 2020 were factors that led them toward greater marital tensions, physical health issues or emotional challenges.
  • And on and on …

How can we overcome these hurdles and move forward in this new normal that we’re experiencing?

In many cases, there are no easy solutions. Some of these issues may require outside help from a counselor, life coach, pastor, financial advisor, etc. But there are general principles you can adopt and apply that will make a difference—and our writers get more specific about many of these in the blogs archived below.

Develop calmness as a dad. Expect life to have some bumps along the way. Your kids will misbehave or be treated unfairly. Your job will have its share of frustrations. Maybe you won’t get the time you want with your kids. People around you and in leadership positions will do crazy things. There are senseless tragedies and pandemics and political unrest that can worry or frighten you or your children. There are legitimate concerns everywhere you look, but they don’t have to take you off course. You can move forward with an inner confidence that you’ll be able to get through any challenge in your fathering.

Keep communicating with family members. It’s a huge positive if you and your children can talk through life’s problems and uncertainties as a habit. Usually that will mean you checking in regularly with each of your kids about how they’re doing, what they need from you, and so on. Ideally, you want them to be able to easily approach you with anything that’s on their mind. (It may take time to get there, but it can be done.)

Determine to turn things positive. There are people who say, “That cancer diagnosis was the best thing that ever happened to me,” or, “I thought the world was ending when I lost my job, but it actually led to something much better.” Difficulties can bring out the best in you or force you to change in positive ways, and a lot of that is about your attitude. When life brings a challenge your way, ask questions like, “What can I learn from this?” “How can this make me a better father?” It may not be fun at the time, and it surely isn’t natural for most of us, but you may be surprised at the results when a few months or years have passed. Believe that will happen with the pandemic and any other challenge that comes your way.

Be resourceful. Being an encouraging, active, stimulating presence in your kids’ lives is a never-ending pursuit, and often it’s a moving target. Your kids’ interests and pursuits will change over time, and then you add a worldwide pandemic to the picture, and it makes a dad’s role challenging. But if affirming and bonding with our kids is important, then commit to doing whatever it takes to keep bringing fun and interesting experiences to their lives. And they don’t have to be extravagant; often simple activities are the best.

  • If you’ve played all your board games too many times in the past year, get a new game or two.
  • If you go for walks together but you’re tired of the same route, drive somewhere new and interesting.
  • Cook something together.
  • Watch videos from when they were younger.
  • Watch movies that were popular when you were young.
  • Talk about faith matters as a family.
  • Enlist your kids’ help with a household project. Learn a new skill together—let them choose which one.
  • Dream about the next family vacation you can take once it’s safer to travel.

Find things that your kids would likely enjoy and try it with them. Search for ideas online or look for nearby attractions that you’ve never visited. If one of your ideas falls flat, laugh together at how lame it was. If you aren’t able to see your kids very often, find creative ways to bring a smile to their faces or some new thoughts to their brains using FaceTime, texting, letters and packages, and so on. This is an unexpected and unique challenge for all dads, but it doesn’t have to shut down father-child togetherness and fun.

This page is just the start of what we have about fathering in the pandemic at fathers.com. We have a growing collection of practical suggestions and encouragement that you can find in the blogs archived below. We also have a special ebook, Fathering During a Pandemic, which you can download for free. It features a brief self-scoring profile for dads, results from our recent survey of dads, and insights to help you lead your family through challenging times like this. Scroll down to get it.

These are challenging times, dads, but hang in there like Eric and many other dads have. You and your children can come out the other side stronger and more connected than ever.

 

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