“Dad, it’s not optional: your daughter needs you to be her hero.” ~ Meg Meeker, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know
On this Father’s Day, I wanted to take a moment to truly highlight the importance of a father on a child. The older my kids get, the more I realize the positive impact their father’s presence has on them.
The positive impact of a father
I listened to a podcast recently (unfortunately, I couldn’t find the episode) that was talking about a strong correlation between men who are incarcerated and not having a father figure during their formative years. The argument was that they were missing an important male role model in their lives. Research has shown “strong evidence that a father’s absence negatively affects children’s social-emotional development” and the “psychological harms of father absence experienced during childhood persist throughout the life course.”1
It may stand to reason that a father’s presence makes a positive impact on his children and this is in fact true. In the article, The Distinct, Positive Impact of a Good Dad, based on evidence-based research, they identify 3 areas where a father’s contribution to his child’s life can be seen. As we alluded to above, boys who have a relationship with their father are less likely to “engage in delinquent behaviour”. Teenaged girls that live with their fathers in an intact family are about half as likely to become pregnant. And, for both boys and girls, “a high-quality relationship with dad is associated with less depression”.
Similarly, in a Harvard-based article, The Role of Fathers in Childhood Development, fathers can make a significant impact on young girls and their self-esteem extending into adulthood. I know I grew up with a father that did not see gender as a barrier to anything and always encouraged me to achieve my goals, even when I was unsure that I could achieve them. My husband instills this confidence in our daughter, often telling her she has the power to change the world, and that is how she is starting to move through life.
A FATHER’s presence
Being a parent, and watching a father unfold from day one, is really remarkable. I am truly grateful for the father of my children and the role he has played in their development. Anyone who knows Colin, knows he values his presence in his children’s lives (and mine) above anything else. Most men who are fathers are striving to do their best and some are even serving as father figures to other people. Being present as a FATHER can certainly make the world a better place, as outlined in the following acronym:
F – valuing Family time
A – encouraging Autonomy
T – giving his Time
H – opening his Heart
E – Enjoying each moment
R – modeling Respect
Being truly present – mindful parenting
Well known mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zin says mindful parenting “involves keeping in mind what is truly important as we go about the activities of daily living with our children”. I think this merits mentioning in the context of our discussion on being ‘present’ as I am sure we have all fallen into those moments where we are with our children but not really with them. We might be on our phones, lost in thought or focusing on something entirely different when our child, no matter how old, is trying to gain our attention.
I will never forget the message a real estate agent left me as we were selling our first home and our kids were young. I was apologizing for the disarray of our house when she came to see it, and she said “never apologize for spending time with your kids instead of cleaning your house”. Even before I really appreciated the concept of mindfulness, I knew that paying attention to the ‘moments’ as a parent was an exercise worth practising – for these are the little things that make the biggest impact.
1. McLanahan, S., Tach, L. & Schneider, D. The Causal Effects of Father Absence. Annual Review of Sociology. 2013; 39:399-427.
Mindful Parenting May Keep Kids Out of Trouble – Greater Good Magazine