Importance of Fathers
**24 million children in America grow up without their fathers at home (U.S. Census Bureau)
What does the research show?
- Some evidence has shown that boys are more strongly influenced by father involvement than girls in the area of cognitive (brain) development.
- Other studies have shown that father involvement has a stronger influence on the behavioral outcomes of male than female children. For example, the quality of the father-child relationship can help protect against risky and anti-social behaviors (such as delinquency or substance abuse) for males than females.
- Father involvement has also been found to have a stronger influence on the quality of a child's peer relationships for boys than girls.
- Fathers may also be more influential for boys than for girls when it comes to intimacy and the development of attitudes towards marriage during a child's adolescence.
- High levels of father involvement have been found to increase academic achievement among school-aged and adolescent girls but not among their male counterparts.
- Research also shows that levels of caring and closeness by fathers are strongly associated with higher self-esteem for adolescent boys.
When a child is raised in a father-absent home, he or she is:
- 4 times more likely to live in poverty
- More likely to have behavioral problems
- 2 times at greater risk of infant mortality
- More likely to go to prison (1 in 5 prison inmates had a father in prison)
- More likely to commit crime
- 7 times more likely to become pregnant as a teen
- More likely to face abuse and neglect (Children whose single parent had a live-in partner had more than 8 times the rate of maltreatment overall, over 10 times the rate of abuse and more than 6 times the rate of neglect)
- More likely to abuse drugs and alcohol
- 2 times more likely to suffer obesity
- 2 times more likely to drop out of high school (Father involvement in schools is associated with the higher likelihood of their children getting mostly As)
Why Father's Should Spend Time with their Kids
In addition to the numerous ways that having an absent father can negatively impact a child, there are also many positive ways that fathers can influence their children's lives, especially between the ages of birth-5 years.
- The more time a father spends with his child, the more aware of and attuned he will be to the child's developing abilities. When a parent knows what his child is capable of, he can plan activities that best meet his/her needs and make the most of time shared.
- Either underestimating or overestimating a child's competence may lead to time spent together that is frustrating for the parent, the child or both, and make a father less motivated to interact with the child in the future.
- Spending time together allows a father more opportunity to get to know his child's interests. Thus, this enables the father to plan activities that will be of most enjoyment to the child and allow the father to see the child doing something that makes him/her happy and in a positive light, rather than forcing an activity that the child might not enjoy.
- By taking the time to spend with his child, the father sends the message that the child is important, loved, and respected.
- When fathers devote time to their children, it promotes the development of healthy self-esteem.
- Fathers who take an active role in their children's upbringing have the opportunity to provide a positive influence on their children's future actions, peer-groups, etc. Fathers have the chance to instill their own set of values and beliefs on their children and by spending time together increase the likelihood that those values will be heard and considered as the child grows and makes decisions for himself/herself.
- The more distanced a child is from his/her father, the more likely it becomes that he or she will take on the ideals of others or his/her peer-group, which may not always be for the best.
Ways to Be a Great Dad
- Don't worry about being a great dad. There's no specific right or wrong way to be a dad, just be there, be present and make an effort with your children and with their mother.
- Show your child affection from birth, especially as they get older. Words aren't always as meaningful as actions, especially when kids are little. Show them how you feel, hug them regularly, snuggle them, kiss them, put your arm around them. Kids need to feel loved, always, and through your actions you can make them feel this incredibly powerful emotion. Even if you are uncomfortable with these gestures or weren't shown them as a child, it is never too late to start new traditions within your own family.
- Treat your kid the way you wanted to be treated when you were a kid. Reflect on how your dad showed or didn't show love, how he disciplined you, encouraged you, criticized you, shaped your character and beliefs. Demonstrate the compassion, concern, patience, affection, and love that you did or didn't receive growing up.
- Be present with your kids, right now. The years of your child's youth go by far too quickly. Put down the phone, the computer, etc. and be with your child in the moment. All they want is your attention. They don't care what job you have or how much money you make. They want you to hear them when they speak; they want you to answer their questions, to participate in their activities. When parents don't provide that much needed attention, kids will look elsewhere to get it. Children, whose dads spend a lot of time with them, generally stay out of trouble.
- Create small moments that bring big rewards. Making memories doesn't have to cost a lot or require special skills. Make the time to go for a walk, read a story, cook dinner, watch the stars, or play a game. Sharing conversation and laughter will be the memories your child will cherish for many years.
- Start interacting with your child from the start. Research shows that dads who play and interact with their child from birth give their children advantages in developing mental and physical abilities as they grow and in managing stress better during their school years.
- Teach your child how to care. When you visit an ill relative or friend, or do something helpful for a neighbor, take your child along with you. By showing compassion for others, you will teach your child to do the same and help earn his/her respect as well. These are more opportunities to spend time with your child and make indelible impressions about what is really important that will carry with your child throughout his/her lives.
- Let your child know that you enjoy spending time with him/her. Rather than offering advice or criticism after an activity, tell your child that you simply enjoyed spending the time together. If his/her team loses a game, let your child know that you liked being there to watch him/her play. This will mean more to your child than any tips you can give. Knowing that you love your child simply for being your child, not for what he/she can accomplish, is invaluable.
- Become a Mr. Fix-It. When something breaks from your car to the freezer, show your children how to handle the problem in a positive manner. This will help teach your child positive problem solving strategies that they can carry with them as they grow.
- Make time for family meals. Whichever meal your schedule allows, make it a point to have that meal with your family. Sitting down and taking the time to talk to your kids, whether at breakfast or dinner, helps reinforce the value of family time and gives your kids a chance to share with you the things that are going on in their life that you might not find out otherwise.
- Be honest with your kids. Everyone does things they aren't proud of, but keeping things from your kids can lead to a lack of trust that can develop into problems in your relationship with them. Also, kids value being told the truth as it will help them make better decisions in their own lives. Being honest with your kids also lets them know it is ok to be honest with you, regardless of the situation. Of course, it is acceptable to limit your statements to those that are age appropriate for your children.
- Communicate. While many men have been taught to suppress their feelings, this often leads to negative outcomes. Share your emotions with your kids in order to prevent them from building up and exploding into a bigger problem. If you are frustrated or disappointed, tell your children in a constructive way. Let your children know that you want them to share their feelings and that their feelings will be accepted. This shows that you care enough about your loved ones to tell them how you feel and listen to how they feel.
(Sources: fatherhood.gov, parents.com)