As dads, it’s great having more time with the kids during the holidays, but it can get really challenging trying to keep them occupied and at the same time, feel like the time is really meaningful.
Now that most schools are on the annual winter break for the holidays, the words from the well-known Christmas song start to take on fresh meaning, “And mom and dad can hardly wait for school to start again!”
You may find yourself wondering what kinds of things kept them so occupied at school all day?
The truth is, schools have changed a lot in the past five years, just to keep up with the unmistakable habits and interests of tech savvy kids and teens.
Schools are adding more and more technology to their daily routine. Teachers have more and more computers, tablets and interactive smart boards for the kids to engage with in the classroom.
Kids come to school already smart phone and tablet savvy.
Their attention spans demand lots of activity and variety.
The days of expecting kids to just sit down in front of the teacher and passively take in information are long, long gone.
Today’s kids are spending an average of seven hours a day in front of some kind of screen; whether it’s a smart phone, tablet, computer, or television.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, studies have shown that “excessive screen time can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders and obesity.”
In no way are these forms of media bad, but in mega doses, they can start to become somewhat of a liability.
Realistically, it’s not about villainizing their techy world, but rather, being intentional about inserting some other very powerful activities that are so easy for dads to do.
In the article, Reading to Your Kids: As a Dad This is the Most Important Thing You can Do Before 8 PM, author Simon Kuper, makes a great point that our kids’ brains need to hear spoken words and imagine stories to help them form more synapses and grow well.
One of the greatest things you can do as a dad is to read to your kids, with them, and even encourage and participate in the art of storytelling.
Kids are mesmerized by hearing a great story told. That story becomes even more powerful when you sit down and intentionally take the time to do nothing but focus on them and draw them in.
If you need some help getting started, a great website resource is Best Stories to Tell to Children. You can find some oldies but goodies there like the Three Little Pigs and The Three Bears and Goldilocks, but you’ll also discover a great collection of some wonderful stories you may never have read before.
If you’re not too fond of those kinds of stories, I have great news.
One of the most interesting to understand is kids are often curious about your own stories. The stories about your own childhood and growing up.
In the article, What Kids Learn From Hearing Family Stories, the virtues of reading to your kids is underscored, but the author says that “what most parents don’t know is that everyday family stories confer many of the same benefits of reading and even some new ones.”
Research on family storytelling shows that sharing these stories with our kids and using lots of details, has many benefits. Telling these kind of stories exposes them to the pastime of reminiscing while using details.
It might not seem so at first, but when you model this by getting specific and colorful with your reminiscing, you are also helping your kids to develop a skill.
Experimental studies have shown when the parents of preschool kids reminisced about everyday events, their children told richer, more complete narratives to other adults one to two years later, as compared to children whose parents didn’t learn, or use reminiscing techniques through family storytelling.
These same kids who experienced family story telling also demonstrated a better understanding of other people’s thoughts and emotions.
And this learned skill was found to serve kids well in school as they adapted to interpreting more complex reading passages as well as to learning to get along well with others.
During the adolescent years, according to What Kids Learn From Hearing Family Stories, “having more detailed knowledge of their family history and identities due to family storytelling, helped these teens have more robust identities, better coping skills and lower rates of depression and anxiety.”
In short, it helped the teens to feel more connected and a higher sense of belonging.
That’s an impressive payoff for being willing to tell stories about growing up, failures and successes, busted knuckles and skinned knees.
So, the good news is during this holiday season, you can never be caught short having a meaningful and highly valuable story to tell the kiddos as the day comes to a close.
You don’t have to be an expert at storytelling.
You just have to be yourself.
You are an expert at that!
Photo credit: Getty Images