So, you’re a new dad (or an ‘old’ one). And you want to try your best for your family.
Perhaps you had a great father and want to replicate that bond.
Or maybe it’s the opposite – you missed out on a positive father-child relationship and don’t want that for your kids.
Well, we want to help you. Below, we cover some practical tips for building the healthiest relationship between you and your child.
But first, let’s discuss WHY it matters by acknowledging the impact your parenting can have on one of the most important aspects of a successful, happy life – your child’s mental health.
The Mental Health of Your Children
It’s hard to overstate the importance of childhood for creating future healthy adults.
How children relate to the world and see themselves are crucial developmental factors for every human.
And these early lessons are learned primarily in the family unit.
Family is everything for a child, and for those who miss out, it can make their life journey that much more difficult.
Without a solid foundation, children (who eventually become adults) are left to discover basics like interaction, social skills, healthy relationships, communication, and self-worth, all on their own.
Family bonds form through shared experiences involving both good times and not-so-good times.
As we learn more about human health, mental health has surfaced as a critical part of life, often misunderstood or ignored.
As a father, what impact can you have on ensuring the best chance for your child?
One way is to understand and prioritise the mental health of your children (not forgetting yourself and your other family members).
Check out our handpicked collection of more than 150 useful resources specifically for men.
Children can flourish if they feel connected and safe with their caregivers.
Your kids have the chance of fewer behavioural issues, perform better in school and mix well with friends and family.
Don’t underestimate those family dinners as pivotal moments for kids (there is a link between teens who have fewer family dinners and an increased likelihood of tobacco and alcohol use).
So how, as a father, can you be the very best dad and give your kids the best chance in life? Check out our practical guide with easy tips if you don’t know where to start.
Practical Guide for Healthy Father-Child Relationships
1. Spend Quality Time Together
All types of relationships have one thing in common – they are all built on spending time together – this is no different for the farther-child dynamic.
Indeed, the quality of the time you spend together matters as much as the frequency.
For example, sitting on your phone while they play independently is nowhere near as good as engaging and doing a fun activity together.
You don’t always need to do a full-on activity like crafting something or cooking with your child.
Instead, you can do something restful for you both, like finding their favourite TV show or movie and watching together.
💡👨🍼TIP FOR DADS – To avoid any unnecessary disappointment when you can’t find the movie the kids want, it’s a good idea to ensure you have access to that show or film before you begin!
The best place to find movies and shows for the kids is usually online, but if you find that your IP has been temporarily blocked, you can use a VPN to get around this.
Indeed, there are many benefits to using a VPN, including being able to access shows and movies from around the world.
So, no matter what your kids love, you’ll be able to find it and make spending time together memorable.
2. Tell Them That You Love Them
Depending on how we were brought up, saying those three little words – ‘I love you’ can feel tricky.
However, no matter how hard it can be sometimes, it’s always worth telling your kids that you love them, as this can help them feel much more secure in your child-parent relationship.
Of course, you must tell them that you love them at the right time.
For example, if you only tell them you love them when they have been good (or accomplished something), they may think your love is conditional on their behaviour or achievement.
Instead, a great way to show your kids that you love them unconditionally is to remind them even when they are being difficult.
3. Treat Your Kids With Respect
Are you a parent who demands respect without showing it yourself?
If so, your relationship with your children may not be as strong as you think.
Respect is a two-way street, and people are much less likely to show it to you if you do not give it to them.
With that in mind, as a parent, you must model respectful behaviour for your children with any interaction.
This includes talking to them kindly and having empathy for their experience.
It also means setting clear boundaries along with consequences for mistakes.
However, enacting these consequences needs to be done in a very neutral way that shows the child that their behaviour is the issue (and not who they are, as a person).
4. Eat Together as a Family Every Day
Another great way to build a healthy father-child relationship is to make sure you eat at least one meal together as a family every day (where possible).
As mentioned earlier, eating fewer family dinners has been linked in a study to some unhealthy substance abuse outcomes for teens.
If nothing else, having a regular family meal can act as a touch point when you know you will all be spending time together and can catch up on what has been happening in each other’s lives.
Indeed, by fostering a positive atmosphere of conversation during family meals, kids and parents alike can learn effective communication, listening and asking questions.
And because you will have built up the habit of good communication over time, it may be easier to discuss more challenging issues.
(Maybe get the kids to help with meal prep, too!).
5. Focus on the Positives
Last of all, if you want a healthy father-child relationship, it’s a good idea to focus on the positive things your kids do and minimise the bad.
That’s not to say that you don’t deal with the negative things when they arise.
But it’s best to assign a consequence and then not go on about them or bring them up so your child feels unnecessarily guilty.
Instead, look for genuine positive things they do and praise them authentically.
For example, they may have shown kindness by sharing their toys with another sibling or getting up in the morning even though tired.
In such cases, you can help to develop resilience in your child, because by praising their behaviour and acknowledging any challenges they overcame, they will learn to have faith in their abilities and realise they can do hard things.
No one said being a father was going to be easy. It happens to be one of the most vital roles in society. Yet men get little training or instruction (unless their family life was idyllic).
With a few small steps, you can be the dad you had (or the one you always wanted).
You Might Also Like –
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- Home-Alone Dad? Here’s a New, Three-Step Parenting Approach To Make Life Easier
Jennifer is the co-founder of menPsyche. She holds an Applied Science degree in Public Health & Health Promotion and authored the ‘Personal Disaster’ book series.
Jennifer has a vast range of experience across many domains, including extensive international exposure.