A growing body of research shows that there is a clear link between fathers being involved in parenting their children well, and good outcomes for those children’s development. So, as a dad, finding ways to strengthen your relationship with your child can be one of the most important ways to ensure that your kids are happy and healthy.
It seems that dads are realising the importance of their role in the lives of their children. In a report produced in 2011, 82% of full-time working men say they would like to spend more time with their family; in 1989 only 70% felt that way. And 74% of fathers report that spending time with the family or finding time for key relationships is their biggest concern in daily life.
How do dads make a difference?
- Children whose fathers are involved in their lives are less likely to be caught up in substance misuse and more likely to be better adapted to adult life, lower criminality and having fewer mental health issues.
- Young children are more prepared to start school if they have involvement from their dad.
- Dads can build their child’s self-esteem and therefore strengthen their relationships with their peers, especially at school.
- The quality of play between a father and a child affects the child’s self worth as a teenager
In a recent government survey on measuring the well-being of children, the greatest need of children was shown to be focused and uninterrupted time from their parents. In The Sixty Minute Father, Rob Parsons writes about how we can have different priorities for our work and family commitments The scenario he mentions of the phone call from work interrupting a family meal is one that many of us can identify with. Over-busyness can often destroy special family moments that matter to your children. It’s a dilemma when we don’t have much control over the demands of work – maybe we need to do that overtime to pay some bills or are at a stage in our career when we have to priories it. But when we are able to choose where we spend our time, we can make sure that those choices are good ones.
Separating your work and family life may mean turning off your mobile when you are spending time with your children
For some fathers, separating your work and family life may mean turning off your mobile when you are spending time with your children – you make a decision that for the next hour or half-hour while you are with your kids, the office, social media, etc can wait. Perhaps it’s a hard reality to grasp hold of, but remember that you won’t have this time forever. As Rob Parsons says, when your child is born you will have 6,570 days until they reach 18. If your child is ten years old, 3,650 of those have already gone. You have 2,920 left. No amount of money, power or prestige can increase that number.
If you are aware that you may not be spending the time with your children that they need, be proactive about putting that right. For busy fathers, planning ahead and sticking to your commitments to your kids ensures you are able to be there for special moments in their lives. Put dates that are important to birthdays, school concerts, and sports events, for example. And consider whether you could start or join them in a hobby or leisure activity that you can both do together. How about taking some time off during their next school holidays to enjoy a fun activity with your child? Using time on the weekends to spend individual time with your kids – even if it is every couple of weeks – can help them to know they are valued.
As a father, your words of encouragement have the potential to build your children up like few other things will. You don’t have to be particularly academic to support your children in their school work; you don’t have to be particularly sporty to support them on a football team. Find something that they are doing well, no matter what it is, and let them know they are doing a good job. When behaviour needs to change and you’re not sure how to handle it, be prepared to ask other parents and friends for advice – or look up Care for the Family or other parenting organizations for tips.
Being able to support your kids and love them unconditionally whether they succeed or fail, is one of the most important things you can do for them. It is your privilege to enjoy life with your children; rediscover the art of fun and make their childhood a treasured memory.