According to British researchers, individuals who regularly speak with their father lead significantly happier lives than those who do not (Speak to your father -- secret to happiness. (2010). Therapy Today, 21(6), 6.). Based on this research parents, especially fathers, should be striving to develop relationships with their children where their children not only feel comfortable speaking with them but are inclined to do so.How can we do this?Here are three ideas to accomplish this.
First, listen to your children.Begin listening right from the start. My 9 month old “talks” all the time. Of course I can’t really understand what he is trying to communicate but I listen intently anyway and respond as if what he is telling me is really interesting. Often he will get so excited that I am listening to him that he’ll fall over. My four year old accosts me when I come home from work and if I let him will talk to me for half an hour straight telling me all about his day. I try to listen intently so that they know that I love them and that what they say is important to me. I once heard someone say “if you listen to them when they’re young, they’ll listen to you when they are old.” I think this means that if you listen when your children are little then you can talk with them as they grow older.
Second, develop shared interests. I have a friend who manages resort hotels. Because of this he has access to golf courses for relatively little cost. When his oldest son was still very young they began golfing together. They still do nearly two decades later. Another friend of mine took his daughters to a father-daughter ball each year around Valentine’s Day put on by the local Parks and Recreation Department. His daughters, though now grown and married, still go with him when they can. My mother-in-law took karate with four of her children. It doesn’t really matter what it is, just find something that you can do with your children (the key, however, is to do something that they actually want to do).
Third, make time to spend with your children. The amount of time spent with children is directly proportionate to the number of opportunities to talk with them. My father always took me to do service for others. We would work together in the yard. I remember many times crawling under our house to install insulation or make repairs to electrical or plumbing work together. He would take me to our family’s cabin, a two hour drive, so that we would be “stuck” in the car together. He would use the time together to try to start conversations by asking me how I was doing and what was going on in my life. Sometimes I would talk to him. Sometimes I wouldn’t, but he never gave up and I always knew that he cared and would listen.
The best conversations we have with our children will occur when we least expect it. They cannot be forced. Our children will initiate the conversation and we need to be ready when they do. If we practice the ideas discussed here we will be ready and our children, not mention ourselves, will be happier.