When a family splits up, dads are often the ones to get less custodial time with the kids. That can result in damaged relationships or a distance that seems hard to close. If you're the father of a son, you may find it hard to come up with activities that you and your son can enjoy together. But while planned activities are important, so are stability and routine -- so don't forget to plan a mix of healthy activities, as well as some relaxation time.
Every father has different interests -- and they may be the complete opposite of your son's interests. Some fathers may love football and baseball, while others may love going to the symphony. Even if you have very different interests from your son, chances are you'll be able to come up with some activities you both enjoy. Try coming up with a father-son "bucket list" of things you can do, including sports games, attending community events, bicycling or anything you've always wanted to do but haven't yet tried. Come up with a list of fun activities together -- or ask your son to come up with 10 ideas, and you come up with 10 of your own. Then combine the list and choose to do one of the activities each time you have parenting time.
Parenting is not all about doing fun activities -- though those times will help you foster a good relationship with your son. Parenting is also about leading by example and teaching your son some valuable life skills. So after you've crossed off an item on your bucket list, include your son in the activities or chores around the house. He may be mad at you while you're forcing him to help fix the kitchen sink, but you'll be teaching him something that will benefit him for years to come.
If your son is spending a whole day with you, that's going to include meal times. If you weren't the cook during your marriage, you'll have to learn to prepare even some basic meals -- and your son can learn right alongside you. Eating meals together is not just a way to talk to your son about things happening in his life -- it can also benefit him in other ways. According to a 2010 study from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, teens who eat frequent family meals together are less likely to be substance abusers and tend to get better grades. Getting your son to take on some of the tasks of cooking and cleaning up also fosters a sense of responsibility.
Your parenting time doesn't have to be chock-full of planned activities. You probably didn't schedule all of your kids' time when you were married -- and you don't need to do so now, reminds the Ohio State University Extension. Most kids benefit from a little bit of downtime -- and your home should be set up to allow for some mellow, home-bound activities. TV and video games are fine in small doses -- and having a few fun games may make your son look forward to coming to your house. Have some age-appropriate toys, board games, card games or books around the house. While you don't need to make your home exactly like his mom's, it is beneficial to keep to a similar routine; if your son reads books at bedtime at mom's, do the same at your house. If he has to go play outside before he can watch TV, follow a similar policy.