“Hi, Elena!” a girl said to my daughter. “Who’s that?” I asked. “That’s my friend Julie.” I had never met Julie nor had I even heard about her. So, I asked my daughter a ton of questions about their friendship. For the last several years, I’ve been a team captain of an All Pro Dad chapter. The conversation I had with my daughter happened because I was at her school setting up for our chapter meeting in the cafeteria. I learned a lot about Julie, their friendship, and, most importantly, my daughter—all the things I never would have known had I not been there.
Leading and attending our All Pro Dad chapter is a natural way to grow closer to my daughter, talk about character, and tell her why I’m proud of her. All of these are great reasons to attend or start a local chapter of your own. But more than anything, it put me in a place where I could get to know her more. Sometimes, putting ourselves in certain places gives us the best opportunities with our kids—opportunities to create memories, have enlightening conversations, or maybe even just give them the security that only their dad can provide. Here are 5 places kids need their dad to be.
1. At School
Think of your kids like they’re from a foreign country and you are an ambassador. What would you do first as an ambassador? You’d move into that country and get to know the culture. School is your child’s world (well, school and probably online gaming—I’ll get to that later). In order to know our kids, we need to step into their world as much as possible. Drop them off and pick them up from school as often as you can. If your kids are in middle and high school, go to Friday night football games. If you are brave enough, sit near the student section. Start or attend an All Pro Dad chapter. Do what you can to get into their world.
2. In the Doorframe of Their Rooms
A kid’s room is his or her safe space, especially as kids become teenagers. Stopping by their rooms and standing in the doorframe is a great way to have a conversation. They tend to be relaxed in their rooms, especially if it feels casual. Take advantage of the opportunity because kids will probably start sharing things you never expected.
3. At the Kitchen Table
You can get a lot of connection while eating together. Make sure to schedule dinner as a family. Your time together around the kitchen table does a lot for your kids’ growth and sense of belonging. But beyond that, the kitchen is the center of the house. My dad used to sit at the kitchen table all the time and a lot of impromptu conversations would pop up when I was grabbing a snack. The kitchen table is another strategic position for us.Kids need to know that their dad is interested in what they do and supports them.
4. At Their Events
Kids need to know that their dad is interested in what they do and supports them. There will be plenty of times when work or other commitments will take us away. However, we need to make our presence at their events a priority. It communicates how important they are to you.
5. At the Front Door
I went to summer camp when I was 16. When I exited the bus, the first things I noticed were the workers at camp all cheering for us. It made me feel special that even though they were strangers, they seemed happy to see me. How we greet our kids when they come home or when we return communicates a lot to them. Show excitement. Let them know how much you missed them. Give them a hug and a kind word.
Bonus: Online Gaming
When I played Sega, Atari, and Pong (yes, I go that far back), it was just me alone or a friend in the room. Now, gaming is like sending our kids out into Times Square by themselves. There’s a whole world for them to explore. There are things to purchase, raging emotions, and toxic people everywhere. They are also building friendships. Do you know who their gaming friends are and what they are saying to your kids? Play with your kids or at least watch them play. Get to know that world and the community in it.
Sound off: Where are some other places kids need dads to be?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “If you could ask me one question, what would it be?”