Any Man can be a Father, but it takes Someone Special to be a Dad
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America, that’s 1 out of 3, live in a father-absent home. Self-esteem, mental health, emotional stability and behavior can be affected by either the love or rejection of a father. There is a special importance to being a dad in a child’s life. Whether a dad is re-married, single, divorced, widowed, gay, straight, adoptive, or a step-dad, what is important is his involvement in a child’s life.
Like Father, Like Son
Children are quick to pick up habits or mimic things that mom and dad do. We have all seen that picture of a boy using his toy lawn mower next to dad’s real lawn mower, or the picture dad took showing the aftermath of a little girl getting into mom’s make-up bag. These are some innocent examples of how children carefully observe their parents’ every day tasks. So how can we be good father figures? When they start getting interested in boys, most girls will look for (or expect) traits that their father possessed.
If dad is kind, loving and respectful, girls will seek the same characteristics in men, because it is what they knew while growing up. Boys will typically model themselves after dad, which explains why boys want to have a car like dad does – or mow the lawn! They look for their father’s approval, copy their behaviors and imitate them as their own characteristics. It is important to realize children will emulate behaviors, whether they are positive or negative.
Father’s Role in Behavior
Studies have shown that children with a father figure in their life will have less of a tendency to experiment with alcohol or drugs. Children who lack father involvement are more likely to drop out of school, and show more behavioral problems and substance abuse.
With a father figure present in their lives, kids tend to do significantly better in school as well earning better grades than with a mother-figure present. This is true for father figures in biological families, stepfathers as well as single-parent fathers. Within a single-mother household, children display a higher level of aggression. Living in a single-mother home can compare to experiencing 5.25 partnership transitions. As teens, the lack of father presence is displayed in other ways. For example, being raised by a single mother raises the probability of teen pregnancy and marrying with less than a high school diploma.
How Distant Fathers Can Become…not so Distant
There are many situations or circumstances in which fathers could be distanced or removed from their families, however, there are still ways that they can maintain a strong and healthy relationship with their children. First, they must understand how important their role is in their children’s lives. With programs and events like “Father-Daughter Dance”, held in prisons by Angela Patton, daughters can bond with their fathers in prison, which is a win-win scenario.
Daughters can get to know their dads and as Angela Patton says, “When fathers are connected to their children, it is less likely that they will return.’ Fathers no longer living with their children due to divorce, living in a different state, serving in the military, or any other circumstance, can still love and show their children how much they care. What may seem as small and insignificant as sending a birthday card really isn’t small or insignificant! Sending a note with loving and nurturing words is a great example of how fathers can continue making an impact on their child’s life.
Once a Father, Always a Father
Humans learn by modeling behavior or social imitation; this is especially true for little kids. Children are the ones most likely to pick up on early patterns or habits that can then affect their character or behavior throughout their life.
It is important that children have both mother and father figures in their lives, if possible. A father figure does not necessarily need to be a biological father. If the father is unresponsive or not able to be present for the child’s life, an uncle, grandfather, or even a family friend can be a father figure to children. Dr. Janet Taylor said it best in an interview with Lisa Davis on “It’s Your Health” network, “A Father’s interaction doesn’t have to happen just in a two-parent household, a father no matter where they are can continue to inquire and be present.. ” INVOLVEMENT is key.
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“Census.gov.” Census.gov. U.S. Department of Commerce, n.d. Web. 29 June 2016. <http://www.census.gov/en.html>.
“National Center for Fathering.” National Center for Fathering The Consequences of Fatherlessness Comments. National Center for Fathering, n.d. Web. 29 June 2016. <http://www.fathers.com/statistics-and-research/the-consequences-of-fatherlessness/>.
Nauert, Rick, PhD. “Modeling Behavior for Children Has Long-Lasting Effects | Psych Central News.” Psych Central News. Psych Central, 27 May 2010. Web. 29 June 2016. <http://psychcentral.com/news/2010/05/27/modeling-behavior-for-children-has-long-lasting-effects/14139.html>.
Patton, Angela. “A Father-daughter Dance … in Prison.” Angela Patton:. Ted Talks, Nov. 2012. Web. 29 June 2016. <http://www.ted.com/talks/angela_patton_a_father_daughter_dance_in_prison?language=en>.