I know. It sounds obvious. But children thrive when their parents have a loving relationship. It makes sense. For the couple, research shows sharing life with a long-term loving partner has many benefits, like a longer lifespan, less incidences of heart disease, greater financial well-being, and greater life satisfaction. All of this benefits the children living with happily married parents as well. Even more, children living with happily married parents experience benefits beyond parents that live longer, healthier, and wealthier!
In fact, kids thrive when their parents are in love. A study completed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2009 suggests that the quality of the parents’ marriage contributed as much to their children’s future mental and physical health as the children’s relationship with the either individual parent. Other studies have shown that children who live with parents who love each other stay in school longer and exhibit fewer challenging behaviors. Living with happily married parents simply creates an environment more conducive to happiness than parents who argue, fight, and threaten. Happily married parents provide children with a sense of security. In other words, your healthy marriage is important to your children’s physical and mental health.
So, how do you keep your marriage strong and loving? One way to keep your marriage strong is to spend time together. Time spent together and attention are the currencies of strong relationships, even in marriage. Here are some hints to spend time together.
Go for a walk together.
Schedule a time to talk everyday over coffee.
Try a new activity together.
Put a movie on, snuggle up on the couch, and watch it together. You can even use the movie as a starting point to talk about your Love Story.
Find a babysitter and have a date night. If you can’t afford a babysitter maybe you can make a deal with a family friend. You can watch their children one night and they can watch your children another day.
Have a picnic in the back yard. Stay out late enough to enjoy the stars.
Go to the park.
Spending time with your spouse is a gift you give to your spouse, your children, and yourself. It strengthens your marriage and creates a happier home in which your children can thrive. What are your favorite ways to spend time with your spouse?
Schools continue to struggle to determine exactly how to start this school year. Parents and school districts struggle to determine how to balance safety, economic needs, and educational needs during this time. Sports remain an issue of debate. Will school sports’ teams compete or wait until the pandemic is resolved to enjoy competition? While all these decisions remain unresolved, life has become unpredictable for our families and our children. A lack of predictability will create a sense of insecurity in our children; and, insecurity contributes to negative behaviors and even health issues in our children’s lives. So, we need to find ways to help our children feel safe and secure even during the unpredictable nature of our world right now. How can parents do this? Here are 5 things you can do every day to get you started.
Listen. Give your children the opportunity to be heard. Get curious about their emotions, challenges, grievances, and fears. Strive to understand what lies under their misbehaviors (Read Misbehavior: A Call for Love? to learn more) rather than lecture and reprimand. As we listen and understand, our children will feel more secure. They will become calmer and more able to problem-solve as well.
Establish daily rituals. Rituals help to build daily predictability that will contribute to our children’s sense of security. They also provide opportunities to talk and build deeper, more intimate relationships (Is Your Family Like a Scene from RV? Try Rituals). Rituals don’t have to be complicated. You can build them into your daily life. For instance, rituals might include eating a meal together, reading together at bedtime, establishing a 20-minute conversation time each day, having a puzzle you work on each day.
Invest in your relationship with your children’s other parent. A strong, healthy marriage contributes to a child’s sense of security. Let your children bear witness to your love for one another.
Spend time with your children. Children spell love “T.I.M.E.” Time is the currency of love and security for your children. When they know you will put down your cell phone, postpone a job for a moment to talk, or make time to engage with them, your children learn you value them and care enough to keep them safe. Make time for your children. (How to Spend Quality Time with Your Children.)
Share healthy physical affection. Give a hug. Put your arm around your children. Wrestle. Healthy physical affection increases our sense of connection and an increased sense of connection makes us feel secure. Give your children a hug! (Six Reasons to Hug Your Family.)
I’m sure there are more ways to help your children feel secure during this time of unpredictability. But, these five will give a great start. What ways would you add?
Parenting is like trying to balance
a multi-dimensional see-saw. On one end of the see-saw sits discipline and
structure. On the other end is warmth and affection. How we balance these two
ingredients contributes to four possible types of parenting:
Neglectful parenting, which is low
in both discipline and warmth,
Permissive parenting, which is high
in warmth but low in discipline,
Authoritarian parenting, which is high
in discipline but low in warmth, and
Authoritative parenting, which is high
in both discipline and warmth.
The Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University published two studies in early 2019 that explored these parenting styles and their impact on flourishing later in life. Not surprisingly, parenting high in both warmth and discipline (authoritative parenting) proved most beneficial in promoting a flourishing life, even as a person matured into adulthood. Somewhat surprising, permissive parenting—low in discipline but high in warmth—proved the second most beneficial parenting style for promoting a flourishing life. Falling to a distant third was authoritarian (low in warmth but high in discipline). Of course, a neglectful style of parenting was least effective.
With further study, it appears that
warmth (which authoritative and permissive parenting exhibit) is the most important
aspect of parenting when it comes to helping our children flourish later in
life. Specifically, parental warmth and affection was associated with the
following benefits in later life:
A 46% reduction in depression
A 39% reduction in anxiety
A 68% reduction in eating disorders
Higher levels of emotional
processing and expression
Lower levels of cigarette and
Providing warmth and affection
to our children tops the list of important ingredients in parenting. When we provide
an environment of warmth and affection to our children, they have a
better chance of flourishing later in life. With that in mind, here are six
simple ways to show your children warmth and affection…and promote their
ability to flourish.
If you play video games, you know
the value of a good “cheat code.” They help the player advance to a
new level or gain a special power. Other “cheat codes” help the gamer
obtain a special tool or weapon needed in the game.
If you’re a Dad of daughters, you
may feel as though you need a “cheat code.” You may want inside
information to help you move toward an advanced level of understanding in
relation to your daughter. You likely desire a “cheat code” that will
open a gateway to a special power of influencing your daughter toward
maturity. If so, I have just what you’re
looking for: “cheat codes” for dads raising daughters.
Rituals will also help your daughter pursue goals and have a greater sense of purpose in life. (Routines & rituals Add Meaning To Life.)
Your daughter will gain a greater sense of independence and mastery with appropriate routines in place.
Value: Creating shared rituals with your daughter has two great
values. First, your shared rituals will guarantee that you spend time with your
daughter. Spending time with your daughter in a shared ritual deepens your
relationship with her and increases her sense of security. Second, shared
rituals build predictability into your relationship and your home. This
predictability will increase your daughter’s sense of security. With the
knowledge of her close relationship to you and the predictability of her
environment, your daughter will feel safer to explore her world and herself.
She will pursue greater goals. All in all, routines will deepen your
relationship with your daughter, empower your daughter to explore her world,
and increase your daughter’s sense of competence. Who doesn’t want that?
Instructions: ThreeShared Rituals to create…
“Daddy-Daughter Time.” Set aside one time a week (an evening, an afternoon, a day…whatever time works best) as time dedicated to your daughter. This will become known as “Daddy-Daughter Time.” Let nothing interfere with that time.
Find out what your daughter enjoys doing. If you don’t know, ask her. If she’s not sure, ask her what kind of activities and foods she would like to try or places she would like to visit. Each week during “Daddy-Daughter Time,” do one of one of those activities with your daughter. Or, go to one of the places you have agreed upon. You might play Barbies, go to a movie, get ice cream, or go rock climbing. Your options are as broad as your daughter’s potential interests and creativity. These first three steps represent what I believe to be one of the most powerful shared rituals you can do with your daughter. You will never regret having engaged her in this way.
Become involved in your daughter’s bedtime routine. This may include reading with her, talking about the day, sharing things for which you are grateful, and giving her a simple hug and kiss goodnight. Bedtime is an amazing time to bond with your daughter.
Create a shared mealtime ritual with your daughter and your whole family. Strive to eat one meal a day together. If you can’t do one meal a day, do at least 3-5 meals a week. Establish the nights and keep the “meal date.” The shared ritual of eating together offers a wonderful opportunity to talk, share, and bond. (Learn the benefits of eating as a family in The Lost Art of Family Meals.)
We often get caught up in the seemingly
urgent needs in life and so neglect our true priorities. We become overwhelmed
by the crises—like broken water heaters, sudden car repairs—and pressing
problems—like paying bills or caring for our home. We also become distracted by
the daily activities that become all-consuming when we haven’t prepared for
them. For instance, our children’s bedtime can become an ordeal when we haven’t
developed a healthy bedtime routine. Without a menu, mealtime become a pressing
need that requires us to devote thought, time, & energy to it every day…time
& energy we could devote to other priorities like our marriages.
Or, we get carried away with
distractions, those things we really don’t care about but “suck up our
time” nonetheless. You know what I mean…things like video games, phone
games, videos, or binge-watching Netflix. We start off with the goal of relaxing
for 5 minutes in front of a screen and suddenly realize we have neglected our
families and marriages for the whole evening.
Or, we let lesser priorities squeeze
out our most important priorities. For instance, we let work or self-care
squeeze out our family time.
You get the idea. Amidst our crises and distractions, our marriages often get neglected. Arguments over crises and pressing problems begin to form a wedge between us and our spouse. Distractions drive that wedge deeper. We grow distance as more distractions come between us and our spouse. The arguments grow as the distance increases. Lesser priorities push our marriages further out of focus and replace them in our lives. Why does this happen? Because we failed to make our marriages a “daily lived priority.” We did not think to make our marriages a daily lived priority amidst the crises, pressing problems, distractions, and lesser priorities that flood our lives. Healthy marriages require action, intention, investment…even amid life’s distractions.
So, what can you do to make your
marriage a “daily lived priority” rather than a “believed
Put your marriage on your calendar. You can tell a lot about a person’s “daily lived priorities” by what makes the calendar. Wherever we invest our time is a “daily lived priority.” So, put your marriage on the calendar. Invest time. Go on a date. In fact, whether it’s a weekend trip or a quiet night snuggling on the couch after the kids go to be, enjoy a date night every week.
Hug every day when you go your separate ways. Yes, physical affection is crucial investment in your marriage. Don’t limit your hug to a simple “bro-hug” type. Give one another a big hug, a bear hug, an oxytocin hug. Hug it out big!
Kiss and hug every night before you go to bed. I think it important to enjoy physical affection at the end of the day. No matter your mood. No matter your energy. Take time to wish each other a good night’s rest with a sincere hug and kiss.
Find a way to eat at least one meal a day together. My wife and I enjoy lunch together because we work evenings. Perhaps you and your spouse will enjoy supper or breakfast or even a “brunch.” Whatever meal you can schedule together, do so as often as you can.
Put the kids to bed. In fact, put them to bed early. Get your children on a schedule that allows them to have a good night’s rest and allows you and your spouse alone after they go to bed and before your bedtime. This will be a great time to talk and catch up. (Even your teen needs sleep!)
Spend at least 20 minutes every day talking to one another about your day. Healthy marriages thrive on open communication, the sharing of ideas and plans and the “what-happened-today” interactions. Set aside at least 20 minutes every day to enjoy this conversation with your spouse. Your children will get used to you having this conversation and will “entertain themselves” while you do it. They will also enjoy the security of seeing their parents enjoying conversation with one another. Take 20 minutes and savor your spouse.
Find a hobby to share together. After all, families that play together stay together. Get out there an enjoy a hobby together.
If you play video games, you know
the value of a good “cheat code.” “Cheat codes” help the player
advance to a new level or gain a special power. Other “cheat codes”
help the gamer obtain a special tool or weapon they need to succeed in the
If you’re a Dad of daughters, you
probably feel like you need a “cheat code.” You want some inside information to
help you move up to an advanced level of understanding or win points to deepen
your relationship your daughter. You likely desire a “cheat code” for
obtaining the special power needed to influence your daughter toward
maturity. If so, I have just what you’re
looking for: “cheat codes” for dads raising daughters.
The Cheat Code:Spend Time With Your Daughter.
Purpose:Spending Time With Your Daughter will…
deepen your relationship with her,
increase your understanding of her,
strengthen your influence with her.
Value: Why is spending time with your daughter important? Your
daughter does not spell “love” with the letter “L.” She
spells it with the letter “T” for T.I.M.E. Spending time with your
daughter communicates your love for her. It increases her sense of value and
Instructions: In order to communicate love effectively through time, you
have to make some adjustments.
Put down your cell phone.
Turn off the TV. Quit reading the
paper. Stop watching the game.
Spend 20-30 minutes simply
interacting with your daughter. You can do this by going for a walk with her or
simply sitting down with her and talking. You could take a ride to the ice
cream shop and talk over an ice cream cone. Let your creativity and your
daughter’s interests guide the where and when of the conversation.
Use your time to time to listen
“twice as much as you talk.” Let her set the topic of conversation.
If she does not initiate a topic, ask about her interests, her activities, her
friends, or her dreams. Compliment some aspect of her that you admire.
When she does bring up a topic, show
interest. You may not really be interested in the “best color skirt”
to wear to the dance or the ongoing saga of girl life in middle school. Show
interest anyway. Ask a few questions. Be excited with her and mourn with her.
Learn about how she thinks about everything.
As you spend time with your
daughter, she will learn of her value. She will learn she is valuable enough to
have your undivided attention for a period of time every day. You will also
develop a stronger relationship with her…one that will last a lifetime.
I love cheesecake, especially my
wife’s cheesecake. However, it is a process to make…and very rich. So, I eat it
slowly. I savor each bite to make it last as long as I can. As I linger in the
moment of enjoying the creamy taste of the cheesecake, I learn to appreciate
and enjoy it even more.
I also love to savor a sunset…to sit
quietly and watch the sun slowly sink into the horizon as it casts hues of
reds, yellows, and oranges across the sky. To recognize and soak in as much
beauty as I can relaxes me and fills me with peace.
I also love to savor my spouse and our times together.
I savor the moments when we have an
engaged conversation in which we open our lives and honestly share our
innermost selves with one another.
I savor the moments when we reaffirm
our love through words, actions, touches, or a simple smile. Those moments when
the glint in her eye communicates the joy she takes in our shared love.
I savor those times when she
appreciates me in front of our children or publicly acknowledges her affection
and love for me.
I savor the times when we experience
and share something unique and special, like driving through the vastness of
Iceland or watching the beauty of a sunset together or walking down a street
filled with color and vendors after a nice dinner or…the list goes on.
Each of these moments helps me
recognize and appreciate my wife and the life we have together. Each one helps
me slow down, relax, and savor the joy of our marriage. Each moment of savoring
builds a stronger love and nurtures a greater intimacy. And, each one builds
anticipation for the next moment of savoring.
Yes, I love to savor my wife. In fact, I’m going to make some time this week to sit down with my wife and recall some of these wonderful moments. As we share our memories, we can savor them all over again. Won’t you take the time this week to do the same with your spouse? Believe me, you won’t regret it!
I read an article that began by stating “A new paper in the journal Pediatrics summarizes the evidence for letting kids let loose.” I thought, “Interesting.” The authors of this article went on to encourage pediatricians to write a “prescription for play” for their youngest patients. Why would they write a “prescription for play”? Because play, intrinsically motivated and unstructured fun, is disappearing from the lives of our children…and with it the benefits of play are disappearing from their lives. What are the benefits of play? Here are five benefits discussed in the article.
Play promotes brain development. Specifically, play promotes the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is important for learning and growing healthy connections between neurons in the brain. In other words, play primes the brain for learning.
Play reduces obesity and diseases associated with obesity. Running, jumping, and climbing helps children build confidence in their physical ability. It helps them learn the limits of their body as well. Knowing the limits helps them remain safe (Let Them Take a Risk). The physical activity of play helps them develop into physically active and healthy adults. In fact, children who got the most outdoor time were 42% less likely to be overweight.
Play contributes to improved behavior and reduced stress. Children resolve traumatic events through play, working through the troubling aspects of the trauma so they can learn to “put it behind them” rather than let it intrude into their present lives. Obviously, this will reduce stress in the child’s life. Moreover, a study in which teachers engaged children in one-on-one play led to improved behavior in the children who engaged in play compared to a control group. (Investing Time & Attention in Your Children)
Play helps families to bond. Play brings people together. It helps us learn to listen and it teaches us to compromise. Play helps us attune to our children emotionally, mentally, and physically. This attunement allows us to help our children learn to manage their emotions in an effective manner. (Make Your Child a Head Taller Than Himself)
Play contributes to academic success. Play encourages language development, the exploration of ideas, the ability to delay gratification, and spatial relationships. Each of these skills contribute to academic success. Blocks encourage increased knowledge in putting words, ideas, or architectural materials together. Playing store promotes social skills, math, and negotiation skills. Imaginative play promotes storytelling and self-regulation. Physics, social skills, language development, storytelling, arithmetic, geometry, emotional regulation…it can all be found in play. And children learn it faster and better while playing. (Learn more in Have Fun AND Reduce Childhood Aggression.)
We could expand on this list of the benefits of play, but you get the idea. Let the children play. I’m not a pediatrician, but I am a “doctor” of psychology. So, if you need a prescription, here it is: “Your child is to engage in imaginative, unstructured play for at least one hour per day.”
Follow that prescription and your children will flourish…and you could find yourself rejoicing in their growth and maturity!
I love to eat. So, I wish I had been a participant in this study. (Read about it in Not
Enjoying Your Dinner Out?). The researchers of this study invited participants to go out for dinner…in a restaurant…with their friends or family! I definitely would have volunteered for this one. I would have gone to a nice restaurant with my wife. Alas, there was a catch. The people involved in the study were randomly assigned to one of two groups. In one group, participants kept their phones on the table. In the other group, participants put their phones away. The researchers found that those who kept their phones on the tablefelt more distracted and experienced less enjoyment with their dinner companions than those who put their cell phones away. (I hope I was assigned to the “cell-phones-away group.” Wait, what am I saying? I can make a decision to do whatever I want because I’m not in the study. I’ll definitely put my phone away and enjoy dinner with my wife without phone distraction. No “phubbing” here! Read Don’t Phub Up Your Marriage to learn more.)
In a second study, 100 participants received a survey on their smartphones (ironically) five times a day for one week. The surveys asked about their mood and what they had been doing over the last 15 minutes. Guess who reported the greatest feelings of enjoyment. You guessed it. In-person social interactions produced more enjoyment and feelings of happiness. Guess what times produced the greatest feelings of enjoyments. That’s right, times in which the participant engaged in more face-to-face interactions and less phone use led to greater enjoyment. (Perhaps because My Cell Phone is Ripping Me Off and yours is ripping you off too!)
Want to enjoy time with your spouse? Want to make family time more enjoyable and fun? Try putting the phone away and enjoying face-to-face, in-person interactions with your family. As this study’s senior author noted, “there is a real and detectable benefit from putting your phone away when you’re spending time with friends and family.” Take advantage of that benefit. Put your phone away.
Social skills are foundational to the human experience. They bring us into relationship with others. They give us the opportunity to experience community as well as the joy of intimacy. They enable us to communicate our needs and clarify our desires. They empower us to work together and accomplish greater things. They help us develop friendships. In other words, social skills serve as a foundation to our relationships, our values, and our growth. Let that foundation weaken and the whole house starts to crumble. I mean, the whole house starts to crumble. In fact, poor social skills contribute to poorer mental and physical health (the whole house). One researcher actually notes that poor social skills increase loneliness and chronic loneliness is “as serious of a risk [factor] as smoking, obesity, or eating a high-fat diet with lack of exercise (Read Poor Social Skills May be Harmful to Your Health for more). In brief, our children fair better physically and mentally when they have good social skills. Fortunately, social skills are learned over time and that learning begins in the family. Parents are their children’s first and most significant social skills coach, their friendship coach. How can a parent become a great friendship coach to their children? Here are 6 tips to help you get started.
Enjoy time with your children. One of the best ways to coach social skills is by modeling and practicing them yourself. Interact with your children and practice good social skills in the process. Treat them politely. Show them how friends treat one another. Share. Laugh. Play. Set boundaries. Express emotions. Negotiate disagreements. There is no better coach than one who can play the game well and engages his trainees in the process. Enjoy time with your children. (I love the time of Enjoying Your Child–Priceless!)
Talk about thoughts and feelings with your children. When you watch a movie, talk about the subtext of thoughts and feelings that motivate a character’s actions. When a friend interacts with your children in a way they don’t understand, talk about the subtext of thoughts or feelings that may contribute to that interaction. Explain how your own thoughts and feelings contribute to your actions. Label feelings you and your children experience. The broader a child’s emotional vocabulary, the more understanding they become…the better friend they become. (More tips @ Teaching Your Child to Handle Emotions)
Allow for individual style. Not everyone is an extravert. Not everyone jumps into social settings. Some people are more introverted. Some slowly warm up to activities and interactions. Allow for those differences in style. Let the introvert enjoy interacting with small groups and the extrovert enjoy the loud social settings. Allow time for your children to slowly warm up to an activity if that is what they need. Allow your children to move quickly into an activity if they are comfortable doing so. Allow for those individual styles and don’t force your children into a style that does not fit their personality. (Read Honoring Variety)
Create opportunities for social interactions. When your children are young you do this by scheduling play dates. As your children get older, they can become involved in various groups like scouting, church youth groups, choirs, musical groups, sports’ teams, or volunteer groups. You might also consider family games nights with various board games that encourage social interactions. Invite other families over for game night. Play a few games together then let the children go off to play together while the adults chat for a time.
Turn off the technology and “go face-to-face.” Technology has a way of limiting social skills. Twitter does not allow children to learn the art of reading facial cues or hearing voice tones. Facebook does not let us see the ups & downs of life since people tend to post the happy days. “Face-to-face” interactions, on the other hand, teach us to understand facial expressions and interpret voice cues. They help us learn how and when to ask for clarifications that can deepen our understanding of one another. With this in mind, limit technology. Encourage face-to-face interactions. (More @ Welcome to the Dead Zone for more)
Give your children space. It may sound contradictory to give our children space, but they need time to practice the skills they are learning without our intervention. They need the opportunities to resolve conflicts, negotiate difference, and enjoy age expected interactions with peers. After all, practice makes perfect. So, take a breath, step back, and let them go. Give them space to practice on their own. (Good Parents Do Nothing!! tells more)
Well “Coach,” follow these tips and you are well on your way to “Coach of the Year.” And your children will develop the social skills necessary to navigate their world independently and successfully!