by Len Stauffenger
Being a single dad isn’t all work. In fact, sometimes it’s great fun. So with Father’s Day coming up, here are five ideas to keep in mind that will be good for you, and your kids. Some of these ideas pertain to this Father’s Day, and others will have an impact for years to come. So here’s wishing you and your kids a Happy Father’s Day, and a great summer.
1. HAVE FUN (START A TRADITION)
As a single dad (or any dad for that matter) we can get overwhelmed by the thought of all of our responsibilities toward our kids. Financial support, emotional support, good education etc., etc. But don’t forget it is important to have fun with your kids. Think about when you were a kid. What are the things your mom or dad did with you that were fun, and it’s now a fond memory. You are creating those memories for your kids right now.
You may want to do something for your kids that your dad did for you, or something you wished your dad had done with you. Here’s an example: When my kids were young we always cooked out on Father’s Day. Well cooking out is not that usual but we made it a little bit different, because we always put brown sugar in the hamburgers. Simple but the kids loved it. They loved making the burgers and they loved the way it tasted and it was something they looked forward to every Father’s Day. Sometimes we would cook out in the backyard, and sometimes it would be at the local pool that had barbecue grills. It didn’t matter; they always look forward to the “special hamburgers.”
Here are some other ideas: Fly kites. Buy a cheap bow and arrow with a target and get a couple bales of hay (be sure you are always supervising that one). Go canoeing, or fishing, or hiking in a park, or how about this, go to an amusement park, like Six Flags or Cedar Point, or a waterslide park. Include the grandparents or an uncle, or an aunt. The only rule is; everybody participates and no electronics. That means no computers, no video games, and no cell phones.
2. GIVE YOUR KIDS A GIFT
You do not have to be wealthy to give your children an extremely valuable gift. That gift is to be fully present with them. This is not always easy, but you can start by committing to do it on Father’s Day. Don’t think about what you have to do at work; don’t think about how you’re going to pay for college; just spend one day relating to your children.
Giving that gift to my daughters was one of the best things I ever did as a parent. Everything else flows from that, because the truth is, none of us has any control over the future. You know the old saying; if you want to make God laugh, show him your plan. So don’t spend Father’s Day thinking about the future, or your plans for the future, just be with your children. Listen to them, relate to them, interact with them, and tell them stories about when you were young, or when your parents were young, or where your grandparents came from, or what life was like for your grandparents. Strengthen the bonds between you and your children. Kids love to listen to stories. Keep it all positive.
3. LISTEN TO THEM (YOU MIGHT BE AMAZED)
When you spend the day with your kids on Father’s Day, see what you can learn from them. I am always talking about what you might want to teach them, but a big part of teaching is timing. They can’t learn everything you know all at once. Most of the things we’ve learned in life we’ve learned when we’re “ready.”
So on Father’s Day, whether you’re sitting in your backyard, eating the burgers you just grilled, or hiking in a park with your kids, pay attention to what’s going on with them. Listen to them. Watch them. They are really interesting. They will let you know what they are interested in and when they are ready to learn something. More importantly, they’ll know you’re actually listening, which will bring them closer to you and make them more willing to learn from you. In other words, don’t spend any time planning what you are going to teach them on Father’s Day, just plan something to do where you can interact with each other and then wing it.
Every time you interact with your children, you’re teaching them, and if you really listen and pay attention to what is important to them, you are teaching them that they are valuable.
4. KEEP THE END IN MIND
I sometimes think I live in the twilight zone, because the time goes by so fast. How much do you remember about being 10 years old? Probably not much. But there are certain things in your childhood that stand out. What will stand out in your children’s memories? You are creating those memories now.
My children are now in their earlier twenties. Your children will be there sooner then you think. So this Father’s Day, create a memory. It’s simple really; pretend you have gone in the future and your kids are now in their early twenties. You’re all sitting around on the patio and talking about what you used to do on Father’s Day. What kind of things will you remember then? Do those things now.
You can create great memories for your kids, and it has nothing to do with money. Some of my fondest memories came from sitting around the kitchen table listening to my dad and grandpa tell stories about their youth. I loved hearing about how my dad grew up on a farm, and when he was only 10 years old, he had the job of stuffing the sausage into the pigs’ intestine (yes, they were poor and they had to survive by making their own food). I loved the story my grandfather told about how nobody in his poor, Italian, immigrant, neighborhood, had enough money to buy a sled in the winter. The kids all pooled their money from several families in order to buy one sled. The very first time, all six kids piled onto that poor sled, the runners went splat. No more sled. But mostly, I just loved the fact that they would take the time to tell me their stories.
5. KEEP IT POSITIVE
The other thing I remember about growing up is that things were very peaceful. My parents never had any problems. Of course, that was my perception. My parents were real people, so of course they had problems. My dad worked in a factory, and more than once he would be laid off from work. I know at one point, he was out of work and he had to paint houses to try and pay the bills. Not having work, when you have a wife and three small boys at home, is a problem. So there had to be times when they were worried about how they would pay the bills, but that never trickled down to me and my brothers. They never put adult burdens on us kids.
So this Father’s Day, spend the whole day with your kids. Don’t expect fireworks or anything spectacular, do the little things that really matter. Listen to them, interact with them, be with them and keep it all positive. Most of all have fun.
Len Stauffenger’s parents taught him life’s simple wisdom. As a divorced dad, he wanted to share that simple wisdom with his girls. His book, Getting Over It: Wisdom for Divorced Parents is the solution. Len is an author, success Coach and an Attorney.