Actively involved dads positively impact their children

Dads who are actively involved in the lives of their children have a tremendously positive impact on them.

Traditionally, dads have been viewed as the bread winners and disciplinarians. The good news is that today’s dads are more involved than ever in many aspects of raising children, from helping with the basic caregiving to being stay-at-home dads. The bad news is that there are approximately 24 million children in the United States who are living apart from their dads. Being involved is more than just being there physically – quality is always better than quantity, whether you are close or far.

Children benefit from having involved dads. These children have:

  • Fewer problem behaviors in childhood and adolescence
  • Better skills at problem solving and handling frustrations
  • More social skills and better relationships with others
  • A better sense of humor
  • More of an eagerness to explore and learn
  • Better attention spans and academic achievement
  • Less involvement with the law as teens
  • Better mental health as adults
  • Better jobs and careers as adults

Dads do face some barriers to being involved with their children. Men may have less experience with children, so they may shy away from being more involved. Men may feel they should just know how to be a dad, so they may not ask for or seek help. Caretaking patterns are set early; often the more mom does, the less dad does. The challenges of running single parent homes and the demands of work make it hard to coordinate time to spend with children.

The most important thing for dads to remember is that your children need a father who will be there for them emotionally. This includes noticing the emotions your children are experiencing and seeing those moments as opportunities to connect with them. Help your children label their feelings and emotions. Even if you guess at what you think they might be feeling, and get it wrong, it still opens up the chance to talk. Children will still get the message that you care.

Recognize and validate your child’s emotions, even if you don’t approve of their behavior in that moment. Then problem solve with them. For example, you could say something like, “I understand you are disappointed and upset about being grounded and not being allowed to go to the game with your friends, but missing your curfew is against the family rules. Why don’t we talk about your plan for getting home on time after next week’s game?”

If you are separated by your child by distance or situations beyond your control, it is still critical to try to be there emotionally. Write letters, call, Skype, send cards, emails or texts to let your child know you care about them and want to know how they are doing.

If it is not possible for you to have regular contact with your child, keep a box of photos of you and them, or of you when you were growing up. Write notes on your thoughts and dreams for their future or on advice you have for them on leading a good life. Describe any good memories you have of them or of you and your dad. When you are able, send these items to your child as a “care package,” or save them for a time when you can give them to your child yourself.

There are many types of dads and many ways to connect with your children. Making a sincere effort to connect with your children puts you on the right track to creating the most positive impacts on their lives. Ronald Warren, Director of the National Fatherhood Initiative put it this way, “Kids have a hole in their soul the shape of their dads. They have a tremendous desire to connect – it’s in there, its part of who they are.”

For more information on all types of dads and families, you can also go online to National Center for Fathering. This is a nonprofit educational organization that provides research-based training and resources to men so they are equipped to accurately address their children’s needs. The organization’s goal is to reverse the cultural trend toward fatherlessness by helping every dad learn how to be the best father he can be.

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