The expression “you never know” fits fatherhood like a glove—or in Kelly Hrudey’s case, like a goalie glove. 

In Episode 2 of the Don’t Change Much Podcast hosted by Dan Murphy, former NHL goaltender and sports broadcaster Kelly Hrudey join University of British Columbia professor Dr. David Kuhl. They discuss the impact their dads had on them, how to be a great role model, and the traits they’d like to pass down to their kids. For anyone who’s ever wondered whether they’re doing enough, doing it right, or don’t know what to do, this is for you.

Where to start?

Dr. Kuhl suggests you start by asking yourself some important questions, “What impact did my dad have on me? You have to ask that same question even if (the impact) was a positive one. What parts of that do I want to cultivate and bring into the home, and how do I want to be different? Because if we don’t actually make a conscious effort to be different, we will, one day, sound exactly the way our fathers did.”

Dr. Kuhl adds, “What impact did (my relationship with my father) have on me? When my father wasn’t available (it showed me that), I do want to be available.” Dr. Kuhl says that this may mean making a commitment to ask for help, to listen or perhaps work with a therapist. “It’s not easy. It’s hard work. It’s hard work for all of us.”

Another suggestion that Dr. Kuhl offers is to talk with other men who had a positive relationship with their fathers.

What traits do you want to carry forward?

Did you hear “that’s my boy,” “ great job,” or other types of encouragement from your dad, and it made you feel good? Or did your dad patiently help you with your school projects? Thinking about the things your dad did that you liked can help you build a better relationship with your kids. By pinpointing a few of those traits, you can make an effort to do more of those things.

Kelly Hrudey credits his dad for some of the positive traits he has. “I had a remarkable relationship with my dad, and the way in which my dad treated me is very similar to the relationship that I have with my three daughters. And I would say I carry a lot of traits from my father, including being a very patient person, including being somebody that I believe is a very good listener.”

Dr. Kuhl shares, “What’s important is that I can allow (my kids) to become who they are and encourage them to (be comfortable with) who they are. I will always be their dad, even if we’re different. I will always be a safe place to come to.” 

What do you want to change?

If you had a challenging relationship with your father, “it’s really important to consider what impact your dad had on you,” Dr. Kuhl says. “My father had a lot of struggles with depression, and I realized I needed help coping with the impact this had on me as a kid and as a dad.”

Dr. Kuhl realized the similarity between his father being absent and him working too much. Making work a priority resulted in him being absent from his kids’ lives, so he decided to change. “I was emotionally absent because I was too busy being a physician. I wanted my two daughters to know what it meant to be loved by a man and that it would be me….My take is that it’s never too late.”

The benefits of this transformation go both ways, he adds. “While fathers can change their children’s lives for the better, there’s no doubt that they will change ours as well.”

What did your dad do that you didn’t like? Figuring this out is a great first step. When you remember what your dad did to upset you, it’s easier to change things for your own children. It’s not always easy to think about, and many people do their best to forget. But it’s important to remember so you can do things differently.

How long does it take to build a connection?

“It takes approximately one month of devotion and commitment to a child to make up for each year of physical or emotional absence,” Dr. Kuhl added that it personally took him twice as long to win back his daughters after eight years of being a busy physician. 

It can start with the realization that you’re not as close to your kids as you want to be. You can make a commitment to do what you need to do to be present in your kids’ lives in whatever way is meaningful to them.

Show up for your kids always

The fact is, “your kids don’t really care whether you play in the NHL or how many degrees you have,” says Dr. Kuhl, who co-founded Blueprint, a non-profit working to enhance men’s wellbeing and their positive contributions to communities. Kids just want your time, especially when they have your undivided attention. It’s about quality AND quantity.

One way to show up for your kids is by letting them know that you care about them so that they never have to doubt it. 

Kelly Hrudey credits his close relationship with his own father for the love and support his family shows for one another. “We tell each other very often about how much we love each other. There’s no second-guessing, no wondering…we make sure that there is so much love evident, especially showing our grandchildren that this is what a family should look like.”

Not an overly touchy-feely kind of family yet? Here’s a tip from Dr. Kuhl. “Every kid needs to hear their dad say that they love them and that they’re proud of them. Start with that, and then give them a big hug and hug them as long as the kid hugs back.”

4 minutes a day can have an impact

Dan Murphy makes a point to walk his daughter to school as often as he can. Even though the walk is short, it’s still time to connect and talk. “As long as she wants to hold my hand on the way to school, I’m holding her hand, and I’m picking her up. It’s literally a four-minute walk to the school. She could do it easily with her friends, but she still wants to do it with me. So I will always do it.”

If half an hour isn’t manageable, even a few minutes a day can have a positive impact on your relationship with your kids. “A simple four-minute walk together might be really important because you never know when your child will ask you something that is really important to them,” Dr. Kuhl says.

Ways to make time for your kids

Dr. Kuhl recalls meeting a firefighter who overcame his demanding work schedule by devoting 30 minutes a day, a few days a week, to doing whatever each of his kids wanted to do (within reason). 

Simple ways to make time for your kids include things like…

Road hockey: Do you have a driveway or live in a cul-de-sac? Is there a schoolyard or park nearby? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re a few hockey sticks and a tennis ball away from hosting your own Stanley Cup Finals. 

Teaching your kids new skills and watching them improve is incredibly rewarding and is one of the easiest ways to connect with your child. Plus, you never know; you might end up with the next Sidney Crosby or Hayley Wickenheiser.

Shooting hoops: Whether you’ve bolted a net to your garage or there’s a court in a nearby park, a game of 21 with your son or daughter lets everyone channel their inner Raptor.

Tag: No child under the age of 12 can resist joining in when you simply tag them and holler, “You’re it!” You better run fast, though; those kids can move!

Charades: Google “charades clues” on your computer or smartphone, and you’ll get dozens of lists you can use to stage a super-fun game. If your teen claims charades are “lame,” get the ball rolling yourself. If they guess correctly, they’ll get into it. If not, at least you’ve shown them that dad is less lame than they think.

Some things you never know, but when it comes to being there for your kids, you ALWAYS know it’s for the best.

How was your relationship with your father? What would you do (or have done) differently? Share with us in the comments below.