We often hear about how dads aren’t needed for anything except adding income, they’re the “main breadwinner” and it’s their job to go out and work. Is that truly their only function in a family? If that’s true then why stick around, just make sure you pay the alimony and you’re a good dad, right? A father in the home, interacting with his children is vital! Look at some of the statistics from the National Center For Fathering and The Fatherless Generation:
- 85% of youths in prison come from fatherless homes
- 71% of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes
- 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes
- Nearly 25 million children live without their biological father
- 60% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes
If you flip those around you see:
- 15% of youths in prison come from a home with a father
- 29% of high school dropouts come from a home with a father
- 10% of all homeless and runaway children come from a home with a father
- 40% of youth suicides come from a home with a father
Divorced Dads, Stepdads, Mentors
Wow! That says that dads are very important! Mentor.org, where volunteers are matched up with at-risk youths to provide a father figure in their lives says that with a mentor youth are
- 55% more likely to enroll in college
- 78% more likely to volunteer regularly
- 90% are more interested in becoming a mentor themselves
- 130% more likely to hold leadership positions
- 46% less likely to use drugs
- 81% more likely to participate in sports or extracurricular activities
Mentors are awesome, but they won’t be as impactful as a father in the home. By the way, you don’t have to be a child’s biological father, your power comes from becoming a parenting team who loves the children in your home. Remaining active in the lives of your children while having a positive attitude towards their mother provides a powerful influence in the lives of children from a divorced home.
A Positive Presence
Studies repeatedly show that a father’s positive presence in the home is of great benefit to everyone (parents and children). The wife/mother benefits and the child benefits even before birth because the mother’s health tends to be better. Children who have good relationships with their fathers are less likely to experience depression, have disruptive behavior, or lie. They are a benefit to society. A father’s love felt in the home decreases feelings of abandonment and increases self-esteem.
So often we hear about the value of mothers in the home, let’s notice and support dads! Here are some quick tips on how to have healthy, positive interactions with your children (ideas adapted from the Modern Dad Dilemma by John Badalament, EdM).
Tips on Being a Great Dad
- Speak positively about and to their mother. This applies even if you are divorced or separated. It’s a simple matter of respect and will carry over to the children as they interact with their mom and with other women throughout their lives.
- How do you want your children to see you when they become fathers? Look back on your relationship with your dad. What were the positives and the negatives? What memories are your favorites? Use that as your guide to how you want to build your relationship with your children.
- You can’t avoid the past, it has already happened. It has already affected you and your children for better or worse. Take charge and make changes as needed. If you are seeing yourself repeating mistakes your parents made, talk to a professional and discover how to stop the cycle. Be open with your children, let them know that you love them enough to change. We offer Family Therapy with child care provided.
Prioritize Children as Individuals
- Simply spend time with your children, especially one-on-one time. Plan a “date” with each child each month where the two of you do something together that involves mostly talking for roughly two hours. Make it a time that your child can look forward to and count on. Find activities that you both enjoy and agree on. Try new things until you find something you both like. It may mean trading off and you pick the activity this month and the child the next month. As you age and the child ages, your activities will most likely change.
- Get to know your children as the unique individuals they are. I remember reading a statistic that stuck in my head around twenty years ago. It said most parents did not know that their children were into drugs until they had been using for 3-6 months. I was floored! My parents noticed if I drank caffeine. They would have known quickly if I were to try drugs. Why? Because we spent a lot of time together. Both of my parents worked, but they also made the children a priority as well.
- Let your children get to know you. Share stories of your childhood with them. Let them know that you screwed up, too. You had embarrassing moments, you flunked tests, you had fights with your friends and more. Walk with them through their lives sharing. Be sure you listen to them as well, don’t make it all about you. Some days listening is way more important than sharing.
As you can see, dads are important and it isn’t hard to be a great one. Just be there, have respect for people (women and men, children and adults), and talk to one another. That’s all it takes. You can do it!