Written by Hazel Kurian
The emphasis on the role of fathers in parenthood has had a few waves. In the olden days, dad was the boss and primary bread-winner, the family decision-maker and the one who wore the pants in the relationship. In the 70’s fatherhood took a backseat to the mother-child attachment, with psychologists playing a guilty part in emphasising the mother-child relationship over the father-child relationship. The role of fatherhood is once again in the forefront of research and media interest.
What’s Research Got To Do With It?
Research has found that children with involved fathers/father-figures are more likely to be emotionally secure and confident with better social connections and better educational outcomes. Girl children are more likely to have better opinions of men, and are more likely to achieve cognitive and academic achievement.
The emphasis of this article is on the involvement of fathers in their children’s and family’s lives. This does not exclude fathers who are already present in their family! Ask the questions: how involved am I in my child’s life? Do I spend quality time with my children? Do I enjoy being with my child? Am I being a good role model to them?
Tips for fathers:
- Let your children know that you enjoy being their father. Fatherhood comes with a lot of responsibility, but also a whole lot of fun!
- Spend enough time with and take responsibility for your children
- The way you treat the child’s mother/mother-figure/other parent is a key aspect. Show that you support and respect your children’s mother (if your relationship with the mother is a difficult one, at least make the effort to be civil towards her- do not bad-mouth her in front of the kids)
- As a role model, live by your word and by your example, that it is ok to make mistakes-can you learn anything from it? It is important to be able to show your children how to decide between what is right and what is wrong
- Show your children affection, demonstrate your love for them
- Be careful to not place unreasonable expectations on your children, instead help them achieve realistic and achievable goals
- Take an interest in your child from a young age
- Play with your kids
- Protect them (financial security, physical security, etc)
- Help with the ‘mom-stuff’, help change their nappies, help put them to bed (this gives you more time with your children and you help the mother)
- Teach them about how to be responsible with money
- Set firm boundaries with them. Discipline is still important to uphold, be careful to not over-indulge your child
- Have a sense of humour (I highly recommend reading Nathan Ripperger’s series “Things I’ve Said to My Children”)
Families do not all look the same, so it is important to adapt some of the above points to suit yours, regardless of whether you are a married/unmarried couple, a single parent, gay/lesbian/hetero, grandparents raising children, etc.
The more the role of fathers is validated the more conscious fathers will be of their value, which will ultimately lead to a greater desire to be involved parents.
Hazel shared her views on the role of fathers in changing society and effective fathering on the Let’s Talk Possibility show with Kevin Rutter of the NGO “Fathers for Africa”:
About the Author:
Hazel Kurian is a Counselling Psychologist who works primarily with adults, doing individual and couple’s psychotherapy, as well as with adolescents. She also offers training and workshops for organisations or smaller interest groups. She is particularly interested in working with anxiety and depression, sexual health related issues, trauma, women’s issues, body image, relationship problems, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) clients and stress management. Contact Hazel through oneheadspace.