“Dad, come out and play with us!” The snow was piled high and deep, and the boys were in it and having the time of their lives.

I was busy, but if I didn’t drop what I was doing soon, they’d get cold and come back inside — and I’d miss the opportunity.

Therefore, I responded, “I’ll be out in five minutes,” I told them. “And you’d better watch out when I do!”

I stepped into an old, royal blue, one-piece snowsuit. Then I added a yellow bath towel for a cape, and donned a mask to complete the effect. I had transformed into “Blue Guy” — the superhero known only to my kids and a handful of their friends — and I was on the scene again.

From the moment Blue Guy stepped outside, he was all about chasing the kids, tossing them in “jail” and getting beat playing “king of the hill” on the pile the snowplow had left.

By the time we came back inside, we were wet, exhausted and totally happy. We’d connected — adding another layer of strength to our relationship.

It is important for fathers to give regular thought to how dads can connect with their children to encourage positive relationship building.

We want to be a positive influence to our kids and steer them onto healthy paths. And, t’s our job to protect them from dangerous friendships, habits and pressures. Ultimately, we want them to embrace our faith and make it their own.

To maintain that influence, we need to connect with them as often as we can. Life is more fun that way. We get a needed escape from the demands and stress of life. And as our kids get older, that connection will allow us to influence them and speak into their lives. And the more effectively we connect with our kids, the more powerful our influence will be on them.

How Dads Can Connect With Their Children: 0-3 Year Olds

To connect with 0-3 year old children, we need to get down on their level. Consider these options for doing that:

– Hold infants against your skin, give them lots of eye contact and talk to them so they will begin to become familiar with you and trust that you will provide them with comfort and safety.

– If they are on a blanket on the floor, lie down on the floor with them, talk to them and quietly stroke their cheeks and backs.

– Do what they’re doing. Sit on the floor with them and get involved in their activities.

– Stimulate their imagination. Kids have wonderful imaginations, so you can spark them — especially outside — by pointing out the wonders of God’s creation.

– Play with them. Teach them to catch, chase them around the house and lightly wrestle with them. They’ll love it and appreciate that you took time for them.

– Read picture books to them. Or just make up stories about a boy or girl “just about their size.” They’ll be mesmerised — and you’ll be connecting.

How Dads Can Connect With Their Children: 4-6 Year Olds

As a parent, sometimes we long to kick up our feet toward the end of the day and relax. But often we’ll miss the chance to connect and work on relationship building if we don’t get on our feet and get involved with our kids, at least once a week. Each of our kids is different, so we may need to do a little searching to find what they enjoy best.

– Some kids like to draw or colour. Keep the supply of crayons or markers handy and you have an instant opportunity to connect.

– Build a fort together. Couch cushions. Blankets or tarps. It doesn’t take much to make a fort — and your kids will love it. The clean up later is totally worth it.

– Take them with you when running errands. When you’re knocking off items on your to-do list, bring the kids along. You’ll be investing in your kids. Sure, it will slow you down, but it will also strengthen your bonds — and that will come in really handy as the kids hit their teen years.

– Read to them. They’ll be moving out of picture books and into early chapter books. Reading to the kids, especially at bedtime, or listening to them read can be a special time.

How Dads Can Connect With Their Children: 7-12 Year Olds

This is where the challenge to connect becomes tougher — and we have less available hours to connect with them. The older they get, our kids will spend more time doing homework and focusing on independent activities. However, friends and culture play an increasingly larger role in influencing them — and not always in good ways. Therefore, it’s critical that we stay connected. How can we do that?

– Help with homework. Not that you do the work, but just sitting with them — or working in the same room — can help them stay on task and finish so you can do things that are more fun for them and you.

– Be smart about sports. Sometimes you may feel that getting your kids involved in sports is the best thing to do for them at this stage. That isn’t always the case. Often it means less opportunity to connect with your kids. Between practices and weekend games, their coaches are connecting more with your kids than you are. My wife and I limited our kids to one sport per year. We didn’t go from one sport to the next. It was one of the smartest things we did as parents.

– Introduce them to your interests. Do you like to cook, bake or grill? Is working in the shop or under the hood one of your favourite past times? Are you interested in knitting or gardening? Likely one or more of your kids will enjoy that, too. As you draw your kids into your world, you’ll be working on relationship building and forming stronger bonds.

– Find what interests them and jump in. Your kids have different giftings, strengths and interests. When you find out what interests them you need to meet them where they are. That’s where you make the strongest connections. Sometimes parents bulldoze right over their kids’ interests and try to get them revved up about theirs instead. In the long run, that can be a strategic error that causes kids to not like hanging out with you.

More ideas…

– Create “ask me anything” moments. Maybe it’s at the dinner table. Or at bedtime. But if you establish regular times when the kids can ask you anything, you are subtly training them to come to you with their questions. More and more, your kids are going to Google and YouTube for answers instead of asking you or their grandparents. That may work for DIY projects, but it does nothing to give your kids wisdom. Establish a pattern of your kids coming to you with questions. And if you use the Bible as often as possible when giving them answers, they’ll gain wisdom that they’ll never get online.

– Make a list. What are some things you want your kids to know before they hit their teen years? Talk to your spouse, your parents and others you respect, so you can add to the list the things you may have overlooked. As you teach the kids and make it fun, you’ll be connecting.

– Read to your kids. I keep going back to this. Often in this stage, parents have the kids do some of the reading aloud to improve their reading skills. But if one of your kids struggles with reading — or with reading aloud — you’ll be taking a special time of connection and turning it into homework time. I’ve found that simply reading to the kids increases their vocabulary and comprehension, gives them a love for stories and helps them gain some of the deep truths that are best conveyed through fiction.

Focus on What’s Important

I bumped into a friend the day after playing with the kids out in the snow.

“I drove by your house yesterday,” he said. “Did I see you running around in the front yard wearing a cape?”

“Yes, you did,” I said. “And I was having the time of my life.”

I don’t remember what project I left unfinished that day. Whatever it was, it wasn’t all that important. But I’ll never forget the time I had playing with my kids and how we connected.

© 2019 Tim Shoemaker. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published at focusonthefamily.com.

Tim Shoemaker

Tim Shoemaker is the author of 14 books and speaks to parents around America about living the Christian life in a way that influences the next generation. Happily married for over 39 years, Tim has three married sons, grandchildren and is active in church leadership.

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