Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

Pediatric%20Health
The Best Father's Day Gift
Creating Meaningful Bonds Between Father and Child

June 01, 2010

Mugs, ties, golf balls and made-with-love cards and crafts are common Father’s Day gifts. But this Father’s Day, one of the best gifts a dad may receive is one he will give his children: a meaningful bond and relationship.

Kimble Richardson, a licensed mental health counselor with the St.Vincent Stress Center, says that it’s important – particularly as children age – to find ways to connect. It’s often in the “doing” that kids and parents communicate.

“Find something that interests your children and try to do it together as a family. Ask your children what they want to do and then do it together,” he advises.

A connection in the differences

But what if you and your child don’t have a lot in common?

You like sports. Your child is more interested in drawing and painting. You like reading. Your child will barely sit still for a story. You’ve long dreamed of playing catch with your child. Baseball is his least favorite sport.

“These are not uncommon scenarios,” Richardson shares. “Parents and children can have different interests, energy styles and personalities. The key is realizing that and then finding a middle ground and celebrating both.”

Richardson encourages dads to learn about what interests their children. As they get excited about their children’s interests, the children, in turn, may be more likely to learn about what interests their dads.

He cautions dads not to assume that children will never change their interests. A 5-year-old who doesn’t like books may change in a couple years, particularly as he learns to read.

Let’s get physical

Physical activity is a great – and healthy – way for dads to bond with kids.

“It’s been shown that when children see dads exercising, it will influence the role that exercise has in that child’s life,” says Chris Carr, Ph.D., sport psychologist at St.Vincent Sports Performance. “Not only will it help with dads being good role models, but it also gives children the opportunity to learn how to overcome difficulties and how to challenge themselves when they’re tired.”

Dads can use sports and physical activities to teach more than skill development. These activities are learning grounds for life skills.

“In sports, you can learn that you don’t always win, that you’re not always the best, and that you can overcome obstacles—these are all behaviors that can have a great influence over a child’s future in sports, health and life,” Dr. Carr shares.

Importance of quality time

Finding time to be together is difficult for many busy families, though. But Richardson says even 15 minutes – in the car, during dinner, at bedtime – is important. It is not the quantity of time together; it is the quality of time together that is most important to children.

“Focus on getting the most out of your time together. For example, routines can be an important way to establish relationships. It may even be little things, such as the way you greet your children each morning or evening. Consistently do things that say ‘I want to spend time with you,’” he says.

Richardson says the gift of connecting with children is one that dads will pass on to more than just their children. “Ultimately, what I’m doing with my kids is going to affect my grandchildren one day,” Richardson says. “I’m trying to set an example for my kids to be good parents one day as well.”

(Sidebar)

Daddy Boot Camp teaches expectant dads the ropes

Boot Camp for New Dads -- a class designed for men only -- provides expectant dads with concrete and practical advice about their upcoming role as fathers as well as some hands-on experience with real babies.

“Vet Dads” also discuss parenting from the male perspective, sharing the challenges and rewards of being a new dad. They give the "rookies" advice and ideas on how to bond with their new child and offer support to the new mom. As part of the course, men receive Crash Course for New Dads: Tools, Checklists & Cheat-Sheets.

St.Vincent Women’s Hospital offers Boot Camp for New Dads the third Saturday of each month. To register, call 317.338.4HER or visit womens.stvincent.org.