A very busy dad who is a friend of our family contacted me some time ago. We were chatting about the many demands on his time and his desire to spend more time with his pre-teenaged son. But they both seemed to be running in different circles and their intersecting moments were few and far between. How could he strengthen his relationship with his son when there seemed to be so little they had in common and even less time together?
I suspect many dads feel the same way. We love our sons, we know that they need our influence in their lives, and we know that to become responsible men, we need to teach them how. But sometimes the time we spend isn't very productive in that way, and sometimes both we and our sons are so busy that it can be hard to fit in some good father-son bonding time.
These activities and thoughts about finding and making father-son bonding time should help any dad and son grow closer and develop a stronger connection which can help both of them.
Consider coaching his youth sports team. If you son enjoys soccer, baseball, football, lacrosse or any other popular youth sport, consider volunteering to serve as a coach for his team. Even if there is already a coach, you could ask to be an assistant coach or even just to help with practices. Granted, you may be sharing your time with a lot of other boys as well, but you will get to have a common interest with your son, you will be going to and from practices and games, and you will get to see him in social settings interacting with other boys and adults.
Coaching your son's team or helping in some way can give you a little more time together and help you get to know one another better.
Get involved in Scouting. Being involved with the Boy Scout troop or Cub Scout pack in your neighborhood can be really positive for a young man. Boy Scouts learn values, outdoor skills, and teamwork.
A dad who offers to help as an adult Scouter (den leader, Cubmaster, or assistant, scoutmaster or assistant or a member of the Scout Committee) can build some great bridges with his son. Go with the boys and other leaders on camping excursions or other events away from home and you will find some amazing bonding opportunities. And you will pick up some great outdoor skills along the way.
Find a video game you can both enjoy. If your son is into video games, consider asking him to teach you to play a game that you think you could both enjoy. While some games can be violent or addictive, many can be enjoyable for both a father and a son. On our Wii console, we have some great games where dads and sons can compete against each other in good-natured sporting event simulations or even fishing and hunting. But make sure that you still talk a lot before, during and after the game so that the time is well spent as well as being entertaining.
Key into his interests. When my son was in high school, he was part of the debate team. So I learned about speech and debate enough to be a debate tournament judge. So we went to lots of debate tournaments together and built some great memories in the process, including both of us going to the National High School Debate Tournament.
So, if you son is into skateboarding or skiing, go with him and participate (which may take a few falls before you get the gist of the activity). If he likes cars, take him to an auto show in your area.
Pick a project. Finding and working together on a big project can be a great activity for growing closer together. Maybe you will want to restore an old car or build a deck on the house. Maybe it is time to repaint the home, plant and grow a garden or work on a woodworking project together. A big, almost larger than life project can captivate a boy's time and attention and help him focus on a long-term objective. And the more time the boy and his dad spend on the project, the more they have in common and the more opportunities there are to talk along the way.
Try a road trip. A big road trip can be quite an adventure.
You can see some wonderful and memorable sites along the way. You might travel somewhere and then engage in an activity like hiking, white water rafting or exploring some great historical sites. But being together in the car, on a motorcycle or on planes, trains and automobiles also gives a dad and son lots of time to talk about things that are important to both.
Hit a sporting event. Kids often enjoy watching sporting events. If you have a local major league sports team or college team that you both like, get tickets occasionally and go to a game. Or you might combine the sporting event with the road trip and drive to a nearby big league city. Build up to the event by studying the teams involved and then talk about how you think the game will go. Sporting events are kind of quintessential father-son moments - and for good reason.
Whatever event or activity you choose, making quality time to spend with your son will be worth the investment.