Daddy Dates: Fostering Bonding Between Daddy and Child

Parent-child relationships aren’t always easy – especially as your children get older. One way that we invest in our children is through Daddy dates and Mommy dates! Each of our children gets one “date” with each parent, every month. Do we do this perfectly consistently? I wish. Life gets busy, and we don’t always make it. BUT we sure do try our hardest, and our kids see that.

Though our children get both Mommy dates and Daddy dates each month, I want to take this opportunity to honor the daddies in our kiddos’ lives! Research shows that girls who have healthy relationships with their fathers have higher self-esteem, healthier romantic relationships, and have better decision-making skills. Guess what? Same with boys!

Even if mama takes on more of the child-rearing responsibilities in your home, the importance of dad’s role cannot be overstated. Not comfortable calling it daddy dates or mommy dates? Call it whatever you want – “Daddy-Son time”, “Father-Daughter outing”, “Father-Son trip” - the name doesn’t matter. The time does.

daddy and baby on a play mat playing

Photo Credit: @jemarqueshogue

Need help getting started? Let me share our basic framework for Daddy dates!

1. The child gets to choose the activity (within reason!)

If your child always suggests activities that are too expensive, time-consuming, etc., you can always offer three choices of doable activities, and THEN let your child choose. Bottom line? Parents and kids don’t always share the same interests.

We have to suck it up. Dad might not want to watch a rom-com with his teenage daughter, or play a sport he hates with his son. Do it anyway. Engaging in activities your child loves demonstrate a parent’s interest in who they are.

2. Use Parent-Child dates as an opportunity to demonstrate how a romantic interest should be treating them.

What does this look like? We show up on time, put our phones on silent, open doors for them, etc. If your child has been on several dates with you, as a respectful parent, they will immediately recognize when someone does NOT treat them the way they should be treated. Thus, they are less likely to tolerate it!

3. Use the opportunity to speak encouragement, ask questions, and really

What do you really appreciate about your child? Tell them and be specific. “I noticed how hard you worked on...” “I love how kind you were to...” “I was so proud of you when...” all have a deeper impact than generic compliments. Such statements let your child know that you see them. It’s the same with questions! Let your child know that you see them and are interested in what’s going on with them right now. A word to all the dads with good intentions: don’t jump in and “fix it”. Your kiddo doesn’t need you to solve their problems; they only need to know that you will sit with them in them! Your 9-year-old's fight with her best friend may not seem like a big deal to you, but it is to her. And if your kids can’t trust you to listen to their “little” problems, they will never trust you to hear them on the big ones.

daddy and daughter interacting in a play yard

Photo Credit: @themarysarge

Need some ideas for daddy dates or mommy dates?? Here’s a quick list of ideas for both sons and daughters

1. Go out for ice cream! Not everything has to be a big production – there are about 1000 different ice cream shops in our metro area. Pick one you haven’t been to (or one you have and love!) and go.

2. Go out for breakfast/lunch/dinner/picnic! Our kids think going out to breakfast is special because it’s something we don’t do often. Whatever your kids love – do that!

3. TV/Movie marathon – again, whatever your kids love is what you do. Romantic comedies? Sure. Star Wars? Check. I may have watched an entire season of Bluey with my youngest son last weekend – thank goodness it’s adorable.

4. Sports game – while buying tickets to a game isn’t going to be a monthly thing, it’s a great activity occasionally! Our oldest daughter doesn’t know a touchdown from a home run, but she always loves to watch our local basketball team play. There’s something about live sports that sucks you in.

5. Are you an outdoorsy family? Go for a bike ride, a hike, or a walk around the lake! Of course, this depends on where you live, but sometimes a nice long walk really gets the conversation flowing.

6. Go on a scavenger hunt! Some cities are well-equipped for a scavenger hunt; others may take some creativity. In our metro area, there are decorated bison hidden all over the city. We also live in an area that has some amazing murals – go find them! Whatever your city is known for, make a scavenger hunt out of it! Do you live in a smaller city? No problem. Make a list of things to take pictures of and make your own photo scavenger hunt!

7. Build or make something together! Make dinner for the family, bake a dessert, or build something out of Legos! Home Depot often has free classes for kids to build something with a parent, too. Whether a bird house or a toolbox, working together on a shared goal is always a good bonding experience.

8. Pool or water activity! It’s about 100 degrees every day where I live right now, so I’ve got summer on the brain! Beat the heat and take your kiddo to a local pool, splash pad, or waterpark!

Ultimately, every child is different, and the most important thing is the time you spend. Whether you buy tickets to the big show or grab a sno-cone and look at the stars, positive time together makes all the difference.

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