Sometimes I watch my husband with my children in complete awe. They just adore him and he is so taken with them. He’s hilarious and goofy, stern yet gentle, physical yet affectionate and kind. I consider our family so blessed to have him as my children’s Dad. What a Dad he is.
If anyone believes that a father’s influence is any less important that a mother’s, they are certainly mistaken. The presence of involved, engaged fathers in their children’s lives can have enormous social, cognitive, and emotional benefits- whether a father is an everyday fixture in a child’s life or only sees them once in a while.
Benefits of Dads (who are involved and engaged in their children’s lives)
- Increased self-confidence, self reliance. Empathy, self control, overall well being and assertiveness
- Higher academic achievement
- Lower delinquency rates, lower rates of teen violence, failing/dropping out, legal issues
- Better career advancement (most notably in fields of science, math and tech for girls is increased)
- Score higher on cognitive tests
- Improved cognitive ability
- More likely to avoid teen pregnancy, early marriage, physical/emotional abuse
- Positive risk taking increased, willing to try new things.
- More equipped to resist peer pressure—premature sex, smoking, eating disorders (for girls)
- Better sociability and better able to work with people in authority (teachers and employers)
(So it’s important for mothers to allow and encourage fathers and children to spend time together)
Are fathers more important in a boy’s life than a girl’s life?
Fathers are vital in both the lives of their sons and their daughters. However, Sometimes Dads forget just how important they are: a Roper Poll commissioned in 2004 by the nonprofit advocacy group Dads and Daughters reported that two-thirds of fathers surveyed didn’t think their active involvement in their daughters’ lives was vital to the daughters’ health and well-being.
Some fathers don’t live with their children full time. Some are in a divorce situation while others must live away do to work needs. How would you tell a father to best stay in touch and connect with their children in these circumstances?
(1) Make parenting a priority: Even when you are away, you are still their Dad. Make sure that you make time to let your children know that you are thinking of them, love them, and are there for them in any way you can be.
(2) Take an interest in what they care about: Make sure you know the names of their best friends, their favorite activities and their current struggles. Open conversation about things that matter to them.
(3) Listen and ask specific questions: If you have limited time, make sure you listen more than you talk. Ask questions about their lives– and make them specific. Instead of asking; “what’s new?” or “How are things?” Ask; “What was something fun that you did with your best friend, Dena, this week?” “What new skill did you learn in martial arts class?” or “What was something that made you smile since we talked on Tuesday?”
(4) Know that the little things count: If you can’t talk for long, call, email, or skype anyway. Even a few minutes to show your children you care is better than nothing at all. Make a little video of yourself telling them how important they are to you or of you wishing them luck on their next big game– even though you can’t be there yourself. If you don’t have phone or internet access, write little notes about things you are thinking or doing or wondering about them– and then send them snail mail so they can always know you are thinking of them.
(5) Spend alone time with your children: When you don’t see your children a great deal, the typical temptation is to lump them together and spend time with everyone at once. However, once in a while, even spending short, focused interactions with one at a time can give them the undivided attention that they need to know you care and to share with you what’s going on in their lives. This time should be scheduled, reliable and predictable, if possible, such that a child knows that every Sunday at 10am s/he has brunch with Dad or every Saturday afternoon, they go for a walk/drive/run/bike ride/martial arts class. As you may have seen in my Today Show segment yesterday, even a little silly rough-housing and “horseplay” with Dad can have great benefits. * A new study tells us that children’s perception of how much time they spent with their fathers had the most impact on bullying behavior. (Vanderbilt U, 2011).
Happy Father’s Day to all you Dads out there. You matter so much– thank you for all that you do.
Note: Dr. Robyn quoted in Fox News Father’s Day article on Fathers keeping in touch through technology here.