Thinking About Dad on Father’s Day

Father’s Day is coming up fast!  Even during the craziness of school ending and summer starting, there is still time to make this an extra special day for the father or father figure in your child’s life. Not only is it an ideal time for dads and kids to come together for fun and connection, but there are many opportunities for teachable moments and practice. As the holiday approaches, help your child brainstorm (executive functioning), practice taking perspective (social thinking), and plan a special event, activities, or gift to create a memorable, joyful day for Dad.

Here are some ideas for planning and celebrating Father’s Day while also making social learning stick!

  1. Build a “Person File” for Dad: To help your child figure out Dad’s likes and interests, create a “Person File” that’s all about their father (or father figure). Michelle Garcia Winner coined this term to mean the information we store in our brain about another person. Talk with your child about Dad’s likes and dislikes, and try to pinpoint his favorite places, foods, books, and hobbies. If your child is uncertain about these, compile a list of questions and have your child interview Dad to get the answers. The information your child gathers can even be written down and put into an actual file. If you’re up for a more ambitious project, start a binder with sections for significant people in your child’s life and add to it when they are getting to know new people.
  2. Get into Dad’s Head: Using the “Dad file,” help  your child create a list of Dad’s favorite things or activities and plan a day around something he enjoys. For example, if he’s a cooking buff, sign up for a father/child cooking class or surprise him with a new pizza stone or omelet pan. If the beach is his favorite place, plan an outing on the coast, complete with surfboard, sand toys, and a picnic lunch.
  3. King for the Day: Encourage your child to draw or write a card telling Dad the reasons he’s loved and appreciated. Then brainstorm something special that the child can do for Dad, like baking cookies, singing a sing, or making an artistic creation for him.
  4. Help Out: Ask your child to think of ways to give Dad a hand around the house. Consider options like doing dishes, gardening, folding laundry, or taking out the garbage. Create a coupon listing chores the child will take responsibility for. Or, have an older child take care of a younger sibling so Dad can have some free time.
  5. Stepping into Dad’s Shoes:  Help your child imagine, visualize, and think about what a day in the life of their Dad would look like.  Maybe even take some photos of him in action (e.g., getting ready for his day/work, making meals, walking the dog, etc.) Try to inspire your child to write a story or put on  a skit that includes gratitude and appreciation for some of the things their Dad does behind the scenes or directly with them.

Father’s Day presents a wonderful opportunity to encourage your child to think about their father or father figure. In the process, you’ll help your child build empathy, gratitude, and perspective-taking skills that may even deepen the father-child bond. Remind your child that families come in many forms and that some kids don’t live with their father, while others have two Dads. Maybe it’s an uncle or neighbor that deserves to be celebrated. Discuss ways that celebrations could be tailored to fit any family or situation and how best to celebrate the “Dad” or “Dads” in your lives.

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