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Dadvice: 8 ways to step up your dad game


What does it take to be a wonderful dad?

That’s a question you might find yourself asking a lot—whether your kids are brand-new, almost grown or somewhere in between. After all, children don’t arrive with manuals explaining how to raise them. So here’s a bit of “dadvice”—and it boils down to two words: Be involved.

Children do best when dads are there for them. Compared with kids who have hands-off dads, kids with involved dads are less likely to have mental health problems, act out or experiment with risky behaviors as teens, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Simple secrets of great dads

Here are eight everyday ways for dads to get more involved in their kids’ lives.

  1. Get a head start. Moms-to-be with supportive partners during pregnancy have a reduced risk of premature delivery. And they’re more likely to give up harmful habits like smoking. So go with your partner to as many pregnancy checkups as possible. And join her in making healthy choices, such as eating well.
  2. Show you care. Look for chances to connect at every stage of your child’s life. Snuggle skin-to-skin with your newborn. Send your toddler off to sleep with a bedtime story. Chaperone a grade schooler’s outing. Train for a 5K with your teen. Or surprise your college freshman with a care package.
  3. Just hang out. Over time, small moments can have a big impact on your child. Spend time together in low-key, no-fuss ways—like family meals and game nights.
  4. Step up for story time. Every page you read together is bonding time. Plus, reading out loud to children boosts their language skills. It’s never too soon to start. Babies may not understand words. But they love to look at pictures with bright colors. And they will respond to the emotion in your voice as you read out loud.
  5. Help your child succeed at school. Ask how the school day went and what your child learned. Specific questions—such as “What did you talk about in math today?”—will give you the most insights. Help with homework too. And see that it’s turned in. When kids feel accountable to their parents, they’re more likely to shine academically.
  6. Be generous with affection. Every day, take a moment to tell your child, “I love you.” Give hugs and kisses. And be quick with praise when your child learns something new or behaves well.
  7. Listen when your child talks. Yes, you may be busy or preoccupied. But when your child has something to say, try to give your youngster your full attention. You’re showing that what matters to your child matters to you.
  8. Help your child have a healthy future. Be sure your child has regular well-child visits—and that you go along as often as you can. And teach good safety habits, like always wearing a bike helmet. Perhaps most important, be a good role model. Make smart food choices, embrace an active lifestyle and make good calls when it comes to your own safety. Children copy what they see. Plus, healthy habits like these may help you be around for your child for a long time to come.