Father’s Day is just around the corner and you —as many people— may be thinking of what the perfect gift for him will be. But have you ever stopped to think about the importance of a father’s role for a child? For decades, the mother-child bond was considered the most important one, and as a result, several studies have been done about this relationship exclusively. The problem is, however a child turned out, Mom often got the credit—or the blame.
The truth, though? We now know that involved moms AND dads raise successful children! More recent studies show that Fathers play an equally important role in the life of their children. Here are some examples:
Vanderbilt University Research shows that daughters with close, positive relationships with their fathers during their first 5 years of life often reach puberty later and are less likely to suffer mental health issues later in life. Girls get used to how Dad “feels,” and in turn choose males who “feel” the same. So, girls relationship with their father influences their relationship with future men, and with their emotional well-being.
For sons, University of Oxford studies indicate that the greater involvement with Dad, the less likely the boy will have trouble with the police and other authorities. They also develop healthier gender identity and are more in touch with their feelings and emotions. Boys tend to see Dad as a role model and look for his approval in everything they do.
Even if the parents don't live in the same household—for example, in divorce situations—in the end, the crucial factor seems to be how involved Dad is and not where he lives.
And this is why Father’s Day is a great opportunity to honor the very important role they play in raising children. Let’s see Fathers’ effect of fatherhood by age group…
HOW FATHERS INFLUENCE KIDS AT DIFFERENT AGES:
1. DADDY & HIS BABY:
When the baby arrives home, Dads aren’t relegated to only protecting the mother-baby bond—things like fielding phone calls and visitors come to call, taking pictures and videos, and helping Mom with feeding, bathing and changing.
Mommy’s role is obvious, but Daddy’s body also responds to parenthood which can leave him feeling a little clueless, not knowing quite what else to do except to “help Mom.”
Fathers have the unique opportunity to establish and nurture their own bonds with their children. They can also take over one special task like singing a particular song or playing with one special toy, or always being the last to kiss the baby goodnight.
Talking to your baby, cuddling and playing, and being an involved dad will reap benefits like these, often right away:
Baby is more likely to be emotionally secure
May be more confident in new situations
May be more eager to explore their surroundings
May be more social
May be better problem solvers as toddlers
May have higher IQs by age 3
May be more ready to start school
May better deal with the stress of being away from home all day
It all boils down to the fact that fathers’ parenting style affects their kids just as much as mom's.
2. DAD & HIS SCHOOL KID
The more involved Dad is, the more successful his child will be. A father can determine a child's social life and grades at school, but also his kids’ future achievements. It is interesting to note that school delinquency is less frequent among boys whose dads actively participate in their care.
As kids get older, Dad’s involvement helps them live more satisfied lives with less depression, emotional distress, and negative feelings like fear and guilt. Kids with involved fathers also say they’re happier and less anxious and they have better relationships with their siblings and peers. Dads are role models and are truly irreplaceable. Loving, engaged dads have a tremendous impact.
Play with Dad may also be more important because, unlike Mom, Dad tends to bond with his kids by encouraging exploration and offering challenges through play and physical activity. A basketball tossed into a hoop above the garage, a baseball thrown around the back yard or fixing together something around the house has far more influence than we might think.
3. FATHER & HIS TEEN
The transition through puberty is not an easy time for kids of either gender. The good news is that a positive relationship with Dad can be significantly protective. Here are some major ways:
Warm and supportive dads can help their kids seek help when they need it, especially with things like depression.
Having Dad around and participating—even if he doesn’t live in the same house—can help avoid and/or diminish negative behaviors.
Fathers with a playful style of parenting—football, baseball or basketball, hiking, and even going to the library—are more valuable to their kids’ emotional well-being, social skills and physical fitness than dads and kids whose “together time” is passive like TV or movies.
Key Factor: Be Productive!
It’s crucial for kids to do productive tasks with their dads—cleaning up the house, laundry, working in the yard, or fixing things around the house. These shared activities instill a sense of responsibility and self-esteem. In the long run, doing helpful activities with Dad can help kids succeed in school, and in life, have greater psychological well-being, and be more engaged civically. Thumbs up!
4. DAD & HIS ADULT CHILD
The reality is that most parents never stop being parents, even when their children are grown and living on their own. Dads remain committed to their children's success and feel bad when they don't achieve their goals.
A daughter with an involved dad will be more ambitious in her career. A study at the University of British Columbia proved that a father’s approach to household chores was a strong predictor of his daughter’s professional ambitions.
Never be afraid to take advantage of a teachable moment, especially when an adult child asks for an opinion or advice. Whether the question is superficial ("What do you think about this set of tools?") or of reasonably serious importance (“So, Dad, what do you think of the girl/guy I brought home for dinner?”) never waste the opportunity and give a yes/no answer or a non-answer. Being faithful to your adult children with the smaller questions will build trust, so they’ll know you’re a credible resource for the bigger issues.
HERE ARE 3 IMPORTANT DON’TS AND 1 FABULOUS DO FOR FATHERS:
Good Fathers Don’t offer unsolicited advice. Adult children want to make their own decisions and live with the consequences. Giving an answer before being asked will too often feel like meddling.
Good Fathers Don’t overprotect their children from the consequences of their behavior. If they don’t learn their own life lessons, they’ll be less likely to be willing to change.
Good Fathers Don’t assume their children’s responsibilities. Parents who enable or indulge their adult children, strip away valuable life lessons.
Good Fathers Do help their grown child create an awesome resume and apply for a job when needed as well as provide support when help is accepted by the adult child.
And now that we realize the importance of a father in your life, let’s think of ways to pamper him on his special day:
WAYS TO PAMPER DAD ON FATHER’S DAY
BREAKFAST IN BED:
Make him a tray for breakfast. If you can cook, make it fancy. But even something simple like cereal, juice, and coffee definitely counts as pampering. Or run to Dad’s favorite fast food breakfast place and bring back a bag to have a picnic on the bedspread.
Hint: Buying Dad breakfast is even more special if the kids in the family pay out of their personal spending money...especially if that money comes from the teenagers in the family!
Write Dad a song, poem or short story, or make a piece of artwork. The piece can be about Dad or just for him—whatever form of creativity makes you happy, too.
Fun Idea: Put on a mini Family Talent Show. Especially if Dad has been footing the bill for music, dance or other private lessons, this is a great way to show him you appreciate his investment.
Sit around together—without Dad there, of course—and record stories and memories, and talk about how much Dad means to you.
Fun Tip: If you have the technology, burn the conversation onto a CD and surprise him on Father's Day with "something special to listen to" on his drive to work on Monday morning.
Mom can help the kids plan a surprise picnic and figure out a way to “hijack” Dad to make it extra special.
Fun tip: The “hijack” can consist of entering a surprise destination into the family car’s GPS, so Dad won’t know in advance where you’re going.
This can be a super special family time or can be set up as a “group Father’s Day” celebration if Dad has fishing buddies who are also fathers. The families can get together, set up the surprise, and then met the dads afterward for a picnic with fresh grilled fish—or pizza if the guys prefer to “catch and release.”
Fun Tip: Pack a camera with instruction for the dads to take photos. Then make a “Catch of the Day” photo album—perhaps simply a framed wall collage—and give each dad a copy.
FULFILL SOMETHING ON DAD’S BUCKET LIST:
For this, you’ll have to either know Dad’s bucket list or get him to talk about things he’s always wanted to do but for some reason couldn’t. (If you want it to be a surprise, ask Mom to get this information out of him for you!) If the whole family can participate, great. But even if it’s something “just for Dad all by himself” the look on his face when you surprise him will be worth every ounce of effort it took to make one of his dreams happen.
Tip: This idea may cost a little money, but if it’s for Dad, for sure it’s something worth saving up for during the year, right?
WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE...
Fathers are as important as mothers in their respective roles as caregivers, protectors, financial supporters, and most importantly, models for social and emotional behavior. In fact, a relatively new structure that has emerged in our culture is the stay-at-home dad. This prototype is growing daily, thanks in part to women’s strong financial gains, the recent recession, increase in corporate layoffs, and men’s emerging strong sense of self.
An involved father is one who is sensitive, warm, close, friendly, supportive, intimate, nurturing, affectionate, encouraging, comforting and accepting.
Key rule: "Just make yourself available (either if you are a father or a child) and when you're together, be together."
Finally, on this Father’s Day, it is important to recognize and reward dads for being there, and actively teaching important life skills to children. It is important to their children, and meaningful to dads everywhere when you say “Thank you, job well done.” This, after all, is what makes life worth living.
This is a father’s true legacy: Ensuring the health and well-being of his children as well as future generations to be. “Thanks, Dad!!
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To your child's success!
Your Therapy Friend,
Sofia Robirosa is the owner of Infinite Therapeutic Services and is a Relationships & Parenting Expert. She offers individual, couples, and family counseling to individuals seeking to enhance their relationships. Her private practice is located in Plantation, FL. She attended Nova Southeastern University for both her Bachelor and Master Degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy and in Business Administration. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and a Leader in Active Parenting for children and teens, an evidenced based program. She is also a Certified Addictions Professional (CAP). She is a passionately committed therapist, who thoroughly takes pride and joy from her job. She enjoys working with a culturally diverse population and is bilingual in Spanish and English. She is a member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and an active volunteer of the Broward Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves her family, which consists of her husband, daughter, and two dogs. Some of her interests outside of work include spending time outdoors, traveling, and dining. Read more about her at: www.infinitetherapeuticservices.com and follow her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/infinitetherapy/