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Your bride gives you the news: This Friday night I’m having a girls night out, so you’re on dad duty. Good luck! Great. Now what?!?

First of all, CHILL! This is your chance to be the hero, to show the full potential of your dad skills, and to give both your kids and your partner a memorable night.

Here are three dad-hacks for when Mom’s at girls night out and Dad’s in charge:

1. Make memories!

Dads have a special way of giving their children memories that will stay with them well into adulthood. I still remember the fun I had playing laser tag in the house with my dad one evening with all the lights off – something I’m sure Mom wouldn’t be caught dead in the middle of.

Give your kids an experience that’s not part of their typical routine.

  • Have a Nerf gun war.
  • Heat up some pizza rolls, turn the lights out and watch a (kid-appropriate) scary movie (the Goosebumps movies are a favorite in my house).
  • Go for a night walk around the neighborhood. Or better yet, if there are woods nearby, take a night hike.
  • Roast hot dogs or marshmallows in the backyard. (Marshmallows over the stove are good if there’s no backyard.)
  • Have a talent show.
  • Let your kiddos dress you up and have a fashion show.
  • Set up a WWE wrestling ring in the living room with couch pillows and… well, you know the rest.

This is your chance to be the dad-hero to your kids for turning what could be a boring night (without Mom) into an amazing memory!

2. …But, don’t step outside what you and your partner value as parents.

What I mean here is, don’t violate the boundaries of what you’ve established together as important to your family just because Mom is gone. If weekend bedtimes are important because there’s an early morning soccer game, be sure to wrap up the fashion show or wrestling match on time. If you don’t normally allow scary movies in the house, opt for a Disney movie – or even better, one that you grew up with – which the kids haven’t seen (think Old Yeller, Labyrinth, The Princess Bride, Hook, etc.,).

The idea is to avoid compromising what you’ve both decided is important to your family just because Mom is not there to say no. It may make Dad look like the hero, but if it makes Mom out to be the bad guy (now or later), it’s not worth the risk. Trust me on this one.

3. Celebrate Mom coming home.

Making memories with Dad while Mom is away can have the potential to dishonor Mom.

Think about it: Mom finally gets a night out with the girls to unwind, comes home and finds half-eaten pizza rolls on the coffee table, couch cushions scattered on the floor and Nerf darts in every corner and cranny of the room – not to mention it’s midnight and the kids are still up watching Interview With a Vampire while Dad is asleep on the couch. So much for unwinding.

Instead, teach your children how to honor Mom while she’s away. Try to clean the house better than before she left. Print out pictures of your fashion show (yes, even the one of you with your new hair-do) and have the kids put them in cards they make for Mom telling her how special she is. Have the kids pick some flowers on your night hike to give to Mom when she comes come. Just one simple gesture like that can let Mom know you missed her while she was out.

If Mom comes home early before your festivities are over, prep the kids to greet her with hugs and kisses at the door. And if she’s up to it, bring her into the mix – invite her to watch the rest of the movie on the couch, fix her a s’more, or have her be the guest of honor at a special encore presentation of the talent show.

And then let her relax and go to bed while you and the kids clean up!

Allowing your partner to relax and unwind at home after she’s gone out with friends makes you a hero to the kids, AND to her, too!

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Image from Unsplash.com

Oh, Valentine’s Day – the one day a year it’s okay to wear pink and red together, tell total strangers you love them, and spend way too much money on chocolate.

And don’t forget about celebrating your overwhelming, joyous love for your partner! Right?

For so many couples, Valentine’s Day is more of a routine than a holiday. Get the flowers? Check. Go out for dinner? Check. Eat (all) the chocolate? Check. Then… go back to the norm the next day. But why has the “day of love” turned into one day of over-the-top, mushy-gushy effort to prove our love to our partner?

It doesn’t have to be that way. You may have heard that couples should “treat every day like it’s Valentine’s Day,” and this is not a bad idea! Now, it doesn’t have to mean that you get flowers for your spouse every day or have a fancy meal each night. It does mean that you and your partner choose to express and celebrate your love for each other every day of the year.

It will look a little different for each couple. But here are a few great ways you and your spouse can celebrate Valentine’s Day every day!

  • COMMIT TO SERVE. The humility it takes to serve one another is a great foundation in any relationship. Commit to serving your partner in their needs and wants. Maybe they need some alone time, or they want to try out a new restaurant. Be aware of ways that you can give to your partner and go for it!
  • ALWAYS FORGIVE. This is easier said than done, of course! But try letting go of previous pains or arguments and focusing on the conflict as the problem. It’s a great way to start the process of forgiveness!
  • CELEBRATE THE GOOD. Every couple is guilty of forgetting to do this. Even something as simple as writing a thank-you note to your partner is a great way to bond!
  • BE GENEROUS. This is not financial generosity, but generosity with who you are, the energy you have, and what you give to your love. A balanced relationship is not where each is giving 50%, but where both are giving 100%.
  • ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER. This may not happen as frequently as most couples wish, but a “thank you,” “I’m proud of you,” or “You were great when…” can totally transform a relationship.

Don’t let Valentine’s Day be the one day a year you think through how you can love your spouse the best. Choose to do at least one thing every day to put a smile on your partner’s face, and see just how far it will take you!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

When was the last time you and your mate played together? Seriously… can you remember the last time you did something crazy fun together?

In far too many marriages, couples throw play out the window and replace it with serious adult responsibilities like careers, raising children, taking care of elderly parents, household chores and community commitments.

The University of Denver’s Center for Marital and Family Studies research finds that the amount of fun couples have together is the strongest factor in understanding overall marital happiness.

The more you invest in fun, friendship and being there for your partner, the happier the relationship will be over time. The correlation between fun and marital happiness is high and significant.

TAKE THE CHALLENGE!

For the next four weeks, intentionally set aside time every other day to do something fun together. It doesn’t have to be something that will take hours; it could be a 30-minute activity. Watching television together or sitting next to each other while online does not count as play.

In an informal survey, couples say they do these things:

  • Play games like Scrabble, Dominoes, Rook, Wii, Uno, Quiddler, Frisbee or Catchphrase.
  • Take a walk or run together.
  • Play a practical joke on each other.
  • Cook together, try new recipes and enjoy a great meal together.
  • List activities for each letter of the alphabet that cost less than $10, then work your way through the list.
  • Work a jigsaw puzzle.
  • Do an activity together like horseback riding, bowling, fishing or canoeing.

Play isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. So don’t just sit around reminiscing about how playful and adventurous you used to be or lamenting the fact that you never do anything fun anymore. Take the challenge and remember—playful people are a lot of fun to be around!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***