Many of the fathers in the ReadyKids REAL Dads program face an uphill battle when it comes to building a relationship with their kids.  They’re often coming out of jail, they’ve missed important milestones in their child’s life, they have to pay child support, and they’re struggling to find employment and housing because they have a felony on their record.

“It can beat you down,” said Eddie Harris, REAL Dads Fatherhood Specialist.  “It’s easy to give up.”

With so many obstacles, why not give up? 

“Children need their fathers,” said Harris.  “Something we don’t recognize as a culture is that fathers also need their children.  It’s a connection deeper and stronger than any relationship they’ll ever have.  Their children are a part of them.”

Three fatherhood experts weigh in on how to keep engaged with your kids, even when things are stressful.

  1. Be an Example of Resilience

Whether or not you had a good dad, your child needs a great dad.  You can be that for them, no matter what your history is.

“Never give up,” said Harris.  “You have to be persistence and patient and willing to evolve into someone responsible and loving.  Regardless of the situation or the circumstances, you have to fight for your relationship. This has to be more important to you than anything else.  Own the relationship you have with your kids, and make it better.”

  1. Meet the Child Where They Are

Remember the wonder and the innocence of childhood?  It’s a magical time with fewer worries and clearer priorities.  Allow yourself to see the world through their eyes, it’ll help you feel a little lighter.

“If your son or daughter asks you to play, build with blocks or draw – stop and do it,” said Jon Elliot, organizer of the Charlottesville Fathers Eve event.  “Those moments go miles in building and strengthening your relationships.  It’s more important than anything you are in the process of doing, and way more fun.  When they are older, those moments will be fewer and farther in between, so enjoy them while you can.”

  1. Do Something

If you’ve been fighting with your kids, this is an especially important one.  Nothing generates conflict faster than boredom, and it’s important to remember that his goes for Dad too.  If Dad is bored, he’ll be far less fun to be with and far less patient with kids being kids.  Here’s a few suggestions of activities kids enjoy – read a book together, play a board game together, play ball, go to a park, see a movie, grab a piece of paper and a pencil and play tic-tac-toe or hangman. 

“Don’t wait for the kid to take the lead, they’re looking to you as the adult,” said Alex Jarboe, an experienced Boy Scout Den Leader.  “Have a plan and multiple backup plans.  What you think will take 30 minutes might take 10, or it might not be as fun as you thought.  Always have options to fall back on.”

During this Father's Day month, thank you to all of the hard working dads building relationships with their kids.  You make a difference every day.  If you are interested in learning more about the REAL Dads program, contact Eddie Harris.

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