The impact of healthy father-child relationships can’t be understated. Studies have shown that fathers are critical to children’s happiness, well-being, and social and academic success. Children with involved fathers arrive at school better able to learn and twice as likely to graduate and go to college. They are five times less likely to be poor. Kids who spend quality time with their dads are less likely to be violent or aggressive, have higher self-esteem, and better self-control. They are less likely to become young parents.
Despite the importance of fathers, dads everywhere struggle to find the support they need to have a positive impact on their children. Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy recently drew a firestorm of criticism from sports commentators when he took three days of paternity leave and missed opening day, a controversy that underscores an astonishing lack of respect for the importance of fatherhood. For many dads, paternity leave is a distant thought, not because their workplace discourages it, but because they’re unemployed. The Great Recession has not been kind to working men. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that one in five working-age American men does not have a job, an all-time high that illustrates the extraordinary toll this recession has taken on male-dominated professions in particular.
Parenting is hard work for moms and dads, alike. This Father’s Day, make an extra effort to reward and recognize the fathers in your community and honor the difference dads make.
Here are some quick tips especially designed for dads:
Take care of yourself. Raising children is hard work and a lot of responsibility. Try to get enough sleep. Make time for yourself to do what you love, take a walk to clear your head, or work on a special project to recharge your batteries.
Communicate with your child’s mother. Whether you’re married or separated, living together or living apart, conflict will arise with your kid’s mother. Open and honest communication about your expectations and values regarding parenting and discipline can go a long way toward heading off conflict and hurt feelings. If you can’t work out your differences, consider family counseling or mediation.
Practice patience. Kids push boundaries. It’s how they learn what behaviors are acceptable to you and to society. Figure out which behaviors and situations make you angry or upset and make a plan to respond to them in a firm, but calm and peaceful way. Patience is a learned skill, but your hard work will pay off with an improved relationship with your children.
Look to your community. It’s easy to become absorbed in the day-to-day tasks of caregiving. Don’t forget to consider the many important supports you can find in your extended family, friends and community. A trusted family member or friend can watch your kids for the day while you run errands. Take a look at the libraries, community centers and other organizations in your area. Many offer free activities and classes for families.
Be a role model. Kids learn more from what you do than what you say. Kids who are treated with love and respect will, in turn, treat others with love and respect. Kids who experience regular hostility, shame or fear will have harder time learning to respect themselves and others.
Go easy on yourself. No parent is perfect. When you make a mistake with your kids, take responsibility for it, apologize and promise to do better next time. Your kids will respect your honesty and recognize the value of learning from mistakes.
If you’re having trouble, get help. Remember, good parents are made, not born. A parenting class can help you learn what to expect from kids at different ages and how to discipline in a positive way. Counseling can help your family solve problems. If your child is acting out, he or she might need an evaluation. PCANY’s Parent Helpline can connect you to these services and more. Call 1-800-CHILDREN to find resources in your community that can help with parenting and family difficulties.
- Prevent Child Abuse New York offers an array of downloadable parenting materials, including tip sheets especially for fathers.
- The National Fatherhood Initiative works to improve the well-being of children by increasing the proportion of children with involved, responsible, and committed fathers in their lives. Its web site includes research about fatherhood and resources for community-based organizations, the military, government agencies, and other organizations that work with dads. It also runs the Father Factor Blog, which includes news, tips, and tools for dads and those helping them.
- Fatherhood Incorporated is the nation’s premier organization in promoting and marketing responsible fatherhood and mentoring. It offers information and resources for dads and the professionals working with them, including the Fatherhood Resource, a smart phone app that has a Fatherhood Hotline, resources, and access to Fathers Incorporated social media links and related websites. This free app is available via Google play, App Store, and Amazon and via email or QR code.