As a single Dad who travels nearly 20 days a month for work, quality time with my kids is everything.
When I tell people how much I am on the road and away from my kids, they wonder how I maintain such a strong relationship with them.
The answer is always simple: quality time.
I’m no parenting expert—and I’m definitely not the perfect parent—but if people were to ask my two daughters, ages nine and 12, if they know how much their Dad loves them, they would be able to tell you affirmatively.
Here are some things that I have done over the years to ensure that our time is of the highest quality. This has helped me to maintain deep, loving and well-rooted relationships with them.
Leave your phone alone.
Our biggest challenge in this era of readily-available-digital-everything isn’t usually time itself— it’s freeing ourselves from distraction. This is really hard for me, as it may be for you, especially if your work requires you to be “readily available.”
Our kids feel it deeply when we’re distracted and not paying attention to them. One thing that has been helpful for me has been to leave my phone home if we are say, going out, or else I just turn it off for a full hour. When I did this, I found out something amazing: the world didn’t end! All the messages are there waiting for us still. One hour of focused attention with our kids is likely more valuable to that relationship than a full day (OF) together time if we’re not truly present.
Plan well ahead.
True professionals and effective people are good at being able to block out their calendars for things that are important. We block out workouts, key business meetings, lunches, and more. Yet do we actually block out uninterrupted time with our kids?
For me every Tuesday night is my night with my kids as a single Dad. We make veggie tacos together. We dance. We have a dinner table discussion, even if it’s only for 10 minutes. Since it’s up to me 100 percent to make sure we make it fun and memorable, I block it out, and don’t let anything else or anyone else mess it up. Sometimes I start with 15 minutes of uninterrupted time to play-wrestle with them or take a walk.
This can be a great start to some seriously fun bonding time!
I love camping because it’s very low cost and creates such incredible moments. I remember nearly every camping trip we’ve done together and my kids can too because it has created such an indelible impression upon us all. Nothing replaces the conversations around the fire, looking at the stars together, watching my girls burn marshmallows for their s’mores, and the stories that we tell in the tent while trying to fall asleep. Sometimes we just go for one night, but that one night of camping creates more lasting memories than five days of just hanging out at home watching Netflix.
Turn off the radio.
While I love music and my girls and I spend plenty of time singing and dancing (often while driving), some of the most organic conversations develop out of silence. This quiet time allows my daughters to keep calm minds and talk about anything they like at the time of their choosing. If I’m dropping them off and picking them up from school on a particular day, I try to make sure that at least one of those trips is music-free to encourage conversation. We have had some awesome talks, and you will too if you just leave that quiet space.
I’m not an amazing cook by any means, but I have a couple of plant-based dishes that my daughters love. Their mom isn’t vegan, which means at my house I have to try extra hard to cook extra delicious plant-based meals that they can get excited about. Involving my kids in the process has created amazing quality time and bonds. My kids love Dad’s famous vegan tacos that we nicknamed “Brocko’s Tacos, as well as kale bowls. Having them chop up veggies, or even just stir a dish while it cooks is fun for them, and then we enjoy the meal together as a family.
Gift memories instead of “stuff.”
When we ask ourselves what we received for the holidays last year, chances are that we don’t even remember—but when we get asked what the last vacation or trip we took was, we’re likely to offer an enthusiastic recap!
For the past several years, I’ve completely stopped getting my kids material gifts (stuff). “Stuff” would include clothes, gadgets, toys, games and electronics. While there is certainly nothing wrong with giving our kids things that they really need, I’ve found that being a professional memory creator as a parent is far more awesome. Time is the most valuable gift we can give our kids. We can take our kids hiking, paddle boarding, skiing, sledding, or on a mini vacation or even stay-cation that they will remember far long after the date is done.
Implementing even one or two of these ideas will greatly enhance quality time with our kids. There are certainly dozens of ideas to put into play. Just ask the question, “How can I be a professional experience creator with my kids?”
Even with a busy schedule, it is entirely possible for us to create exceptional relationships with our kids!
Author: Brock Cannon
Image: Steven Van Loy/Unsplash
Editor: Renée Picard; Nicole Cameron