Encouraging news for dads of teens … and dads of future teens!
According to results released this week from a seven-year research study, “The more time [teens] spent alone with their fathers, the higher their self-esteem; the more time with their dads in a group setting, the better their social skills.”
You can read more about the study and some further insights from experts. But I believe this should be a big encouragement to dads.
The average teenager would never admit that he actually benefits from hanging out with his dad—or that he even enjoys it. Also, we know that a father’s satisfaction level dips to its lowest when his children are teens. So you might not get much positive feedback for being a good dad; it might seem like you aren’t making a difference by loving, coaching, and being a model for your children. But you are! Don’t forget that you’re still a powerful figure in your teenager’s life. Your presence and your influence are benefits to him or her.
If you have a teen right now, this should give you more confidence and optimism as a dad. And if your children haven’t reached those years yet, this can be a reminder to start good habits with them now, so you have strong connections with them as they move into that often-chaotic time.
The study’s conclusions provide two good areas for us to apply ourselves:
Be intentional about one-on-one time with each of your kids. I’d challenge you to schedule regular alone time with your child. Treat him to frozen yogurt, practice volleyball with her, or just go for a walk. Mix in a daddy-daughter date or an overnight trip every now and then. If there’s no activity you often do together, let your child take the lead. Make sure it happens regularly, and when it does happen, make sure you’re focused on your child and nothing else. Protect that time and value it as though you may never have another chance to do this with your child.
When my son Chance was ten, I started a one-on-one habit with him that has been a good thing through the years: every morning we read a proverb and then just talk for a minute. It’s a great way to start the day. For a while, he would crawl into my lap in his pajamas for that morning routine, but now that he’s fifteen, he’s all dressed and ready to head out the door. For me, it’s enough that he’s in the room. But this has become a special thing for me, and I can tell it’s become important to him, too.
Don’t forget that you’re always modeling. Even in a group setting with your kids, you’re still influencing them because they’re always watching you. Your good (and bad) character rubs off on them during the everyday events of life.
That makes it even more important that you get involved in positive activities—because they are the right things to do, and because you know you’re influencing your children. That could mean more Saturday mornings helping at the local homeless shelter, or more evenings playing kickball with neighborhood kids who may not have a dad. There are many everyday ways to set a good example.
Also, learn from this study and keep including your kids in group events. Once again, with teens it won’t be easy. Your teen will likely complain when you drag him to the cookout with your co-workers or to the party for his sister’s soccer team. But once you all get there, you’ll very likely notice him interacting with someone or enjoying the food or some activity. He’ll also learn how to carry himself by watching and listening to you.
There are many great ways to build stronger connections with our kids while having a positive influence. Use the action points below or share what has worked for you—either below or on our Facebook page.
Action Points for Connecting with Your Teen (or Future Teen):
- Schedule that one-on-one time together … today! It’s amazing how kids often open up about what’s going on in their lives when we invest the time.
- Make mealtimes a priority, and protect that time by turning off phones and other gadgets. Ask your kids specific (but not heavy) questions, and tell them about your day.
- Get tickets to a concert or sporting event that your teen will be sure to enjoy.
- Let your child plan an afternoon or an entire day with you. Give her a budget and let her do the rest.
- Ask your child where he sees himself ten years from now. What will he do for a living? Where will he live? Will he be married? How will he spend his spare time?
Carey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers who to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who loves, coaches, mentors, and inspires my children.