In some families, divorce can actually lead to parents becoming more involved in their kids’ lives. A divorced child’s parents can no longer split the child care responsibilities the same ways they did under a shared household, causing both parents to take on more roles as single parents. One of those is being involved in your children’s various interests and activities.
While parents and children don’t always share the same interests-and your kids may insist that they don’t want you involved-getting more involved in your kids’ lives almost always leads to better parenting and improved child-parent relationships. Kids want the kind of stability that comes with knowing their parents are there for them, and parents can learn new insights by gaining the perspectives of their children. And being involved in your kids’ lives means keeping an eye on them too, which helps prevents getting involved with groups or activities that can lead to concerning behaviors.
Many dads struggle with parental involvement more than moms. So when dad gets involved, it can make a big difference in a child’s life. If you’re recently divorced, start by taking a more active role in areas that mom used to cover, at least when the kids are in your care. In what ways was your own father present or absent in your life? How can you fill the same role for your own kids or make an effort to be present in ways your father was not? After all, the traditional roles of parents have changed a lot since we were kids ourselves, and today’s dad may take a very different approach to parenting than our father did.
Active versus passive parenting: Most parents want to spend more time with their kids, but many of them don’t know how. There’s a big difference between being around and being involved. Look for ways in which you can become a more active parent by transitioning from simply being there to being part of things, even if the activity is as simple as playtime.
Here are 5 ideas for different levels of involvement to help you get started.
1. Get more involved in their schooling.
Kids don’t all have the same activities, but nearly all of them go to school. This is the first place that dads can looks to be more involved in their kids’ lives. Whether it’s guiding them through difficult homework assignments, attending or scheduling conferences with teachers, or volunteering during class time, you’ll learn a lot about your child just by getting involved in their coursework, which you can continue to reinforce at home.
When children are struggling with subjects you’re unfamiliar with, learn the coursework along with them. If you specialize in a particular subject that your child is studying at school, take the opportunity to teach them some of what you know during homework sessions, and consider asking the teacher about opportunities to present your knowledge in their classes.
2. Participate in their extra-curricular activities.
It’s great if you have the time and knowledge to coach a soccer team or lead a scouting troop. But don’t feel bad if you’re one of the many parents that doesn’t. Instead, look for little ways to become involved on a level that you can commit to. Volunteer as coach’s assistant at sports practices or competitions. Drive the carpool to or from activities. Or offer to help your child practice a challenging skill or task with you one on one.
While there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in your kids’ group activities like team sports, kids’ activities range from music and art lessons to martial arts, dance, and intellectual activities like competitive chess and spelling. Have you always wanted to learn guitar, watercolor painting, or a foreign language? Sign up for father-daughter or father-son lessons with your kids and pursue your interests together.
3. Plan activities that you will lead.
You probably have your own interests and activities that your kids may or may not share. You can get them more involved in your own life and teach them new skills by planning some of your favorite activities with them and their friends on the weekends.
4. Play with them and read to them.
Even when parents get involved in their kids’ public activities, they may remain relatively uninvolved at home. Take some time out each day to play with your kids, or just to join them in whatever it is they’re doing around the house. There are many ways to spend time with your child, and a balance of active and quiet activities will bring you closer to different parts of their lives.
Reading with your kids is something meaningful that most parents can do with their kids every single day, even if it’s just for a few minutes at bedtime. Reading gives you one-on-one time with your child that can be difficult to get throughout the rest of the busy day. Reading is an opportunity to share infinite knowledge and creat lasitng memories with your child. And you can be the reader or be read to.
5. Take your kids to work for the day.
Getting more involved goes both ways. Kids generally have no idea what their parents do at work all day, and taking them to work can help demystify dad while growing the bond between you. If your work isn’t particularly conducive to children, try to taking them in for an hour or two on a slow afternoon, or take them in on the weekend to show them around your workplace.