Twenty-four million children in America (that’s one out of every three) currently live in homes where their biological father is not part of their life. Unfortunately, these kids are more likely to face financial challenges, use drugs, drop out of school or engage in criminal behavior.*
Having both biological parents active in a child’s life is very important to that child’s long-term development, health and well-being. Dual-parenting has proven to have a positive effect on both a child’s social development and academic achievement.
While getting back into a child’s life after a parent has been distant or estranged can be very difficult, the following is advice for fathers who are working to repair their relationship with their child.
Establish answers to lingering questions
The absence of some men may be due to not being completely certain about the paternity of the child. These questions are actually more common than you might think. In fact, a recent survey found that one in five Americans said that they, or a close friend or family member, have questioned paternity.
Addressing paternity questions is important not only for the child, but also for the man and woman involved. Test kits like the HomeDNA Paternity Test are available at drug stores and super centers, and offer 100 % accurate and confidential results within a matter of days.
Meet with mom
Once paternity is established, the father should set a time to meet with the child’s mother. During this meeting it’s important to maintain civility and talk about why the father wants to now become a part of the child’s life. This meeting should serve as a time to break any tension that might be lingering from a past relationship, and is also an opportunity for both parents to set some ground rules in regards to the new relationship with the child.
It’s important to start slow when first establishing a relationship with the child. If the father and child have never met before, it might make sense for them to first speak over the phone first (if the child is old enough), in order to become familiar with each other’s voices.
When meeting in person, the pair should meet in a place where the child feels the most comfortable, such as his or her home or a nearby park. It’s a good idea for the mother to attend in order to put the child’s mind at ease, and to start off talking about simple subjects, such as his or her favorite colors, animals, foods, television shows, school subjects, etc.
Consistency is perhaps the most important. The father needs to follow through with the relationship this time. A dad should plan to meet with his child at least once a week in order to build trust and a good rapport. As time passes, the goal should be to increase the father’s presence in the child’s life, perhaps attending more school or sporting events, or sharing holidays.
There’s no question that rebuilding this critical relationship between father and child can be tricky. However, with a little patience and persistence, establishing a healthy father/child relationship can have such a positive effect on all those involved. For more information and advice on this topic, visit Fathers Incorporated.
* Statistics are provided by United States Census Bureau, National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools, ‘Fatherless Children’, and the US Center for Disease Control
Article written by Dr. Janet Taylor,Community Psychiatrist.
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