After listening to thousands of kids in my pediatric practice, I’ve learned two very important things. First, every child wants a better relationship with his/her father (or a father surrogate: step dad, grandfather or uncle.) Second, mothers have enormous influence over that relationship. Here are five foolproof ways that you, Mom, can help your kids have a healthier and more positive connection with their Dad.
- Say one positive thing about the child’s father every day for a month in front of the child and father. If dad lives outside the home, you can either email him, text or tell him over the phone. The point is this: your child can’t have a good relationship with his father unless he feels respect for his dad. This is a powerful way you can foster that respect. Here’s the cool benefit for you: when you say positive things about your child’s dad, your relationship with your kids gets better.
- Let your kids’ father know how happy they are when they have a positive experience with him. Most fathers have no idea how big of an impact their time, attention and affection have on their kids. But mothers can teach fathers how important they are by letting them see inside their child’s heart. Let’s say dad is a workaholic or obsessive with his phone. In other words, he checks out on your kids. Find something that he does well with the kids and then describe how the children react after he does it. For instance, if he takes the kids on a bike ride, tell him how excited the kids were when they came home. If he’s a good listener, let him know that your son felt so much more confident after he listened to him.
- Give Dad space to parent. When it comes to parenting, let’s be honest. We moms can be control freaks. I was. We have a hard time letting anyone else influence our kids and that includes their dads. If you interrupt, disagree with, or criticize your husband frequently, you may be overpowering your husband and hurting his relationship with your kids. So relax a little. Figure out what dad brings to parenting that you don’t and let him do it. This gives you space to breath and it encourages him to engage more often.
- Encourage their Dad to spend one on one time with each child during the week. Most fathers don’t think about scheduling time with their kids because they don’t always think about what their kids need. Moms are typically more tuned into their kids’ emotional needs, so find a time when each of your kids can have a little alone time with their dad. He could take one to breakfast on a Saturday morning, another on a bike ride on a Sunday or even take one along on errands. The time doesn’t have to be long, intense or fun-packed. Kids just need to be alone with their fathers for short periods of time.Our children have longings in their hearts that stay for years when it comes to their fathers and one of those longings is to know that dad wants their company. You can facilitate this by making it happen. You may get push back from your husband at first because he may feel uncomfortable being alone with one or more of the kids. But keep encouraging him that he doesn’t need to perform, say the right thing or make sure the child has fun. He simply needs to communicate that he likes being with that child.
- Forgive Dad for his parenting mistakes. One of the most stressful things a woman can do is parent a child with another person. And when that person is a man who thinks, feels, talks and acts differently from her- sparks fly. My husband and I share a medical practice and get along beautifully at work but put us together under the same roof with our children and watch out!Parenting is emotionally charged because we want to be really good mothers. We are quick to see our husbands’ faults and this becomes a real problem for our kids. They feel the tension between their moms and dads and many children absorb that tension causing them to experience depression or anxiety. When a mother is chronically angry at her husband, her parenting is affected. One of the best gifts that mothers give their children is this: forgiveness of their husbands. Why? Because when you see your husband’s faults and decide to forgive him, anger no longer holds power in your parenting.
Every mother can help her children have a better relationship with their father and if dad is absent, then she can help her kids have a healthy relationship with their grandfather, uncle, or stepfather. The tricky part is taking a big breath, swallowing hard and making it happen. But just like anything else in life - getting started is the tough part. Once you see your kids happier and less stressed, the work of helping their father gets a whole lot easier. So go ahead and give these a try. You have nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain.
Meg Meeker, M.D. is a pediatrician and author of Hero: Being the Strong Father Your Children Need. For more parenting encouragement go to megmeekermd.com.
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