July 7, 2022
Research shows that fathers can make a huge difference for child development. Children whose fathers are more sensitive and involved are better adjusted and score higher on reading and math. However, dads facing long work hours or who don’t live with their children often worry about whether or how they can make a positive impact on their child’s life. Here are some tips:
Taking part in daily caregiving and having quality time with children are great, but they’re not the only ways fathers can support their children. Research shows that the income fathers earn is critical for a child’s development by providing safe and consistent living arrangements, adequate food and medical care, and access to toys and books. Additionally, fathers benefit their child by providing emotional support to the child’s other parent. Research shows that mothers who feel supported by their partners engage in more positive parenting behaviors.
Perhaps you don’t get home most nights in time to see your children. Perhaps you live out of state and see your child only once a month. What’s important is for you to be present during the time you do spend with your child. Put away your phone. Focus on your child and the activity you’re doing together. Perhaps you can develop a tradition like going for breakfast on Saturday mornings or going to the zoo on your visitation day. Kids enjoy having a special regular activity with dad to look forward to.
Successful co-parents look for ways to fill the child’s needs that may not be fully met by the other parent. For example, if the child’s other parent is great at playing sports with the child but not enthusiastic about reading, you can spend extra time reading with your child. If the child’s other parent is not very affectionate, you can take extra steps to provide hugs and kisses.
If you have relationship problems with your child’s other parent, do not talk about them to (or in front of) the child. If you have complaints about the other parent’s parenting, do not discuss them with the child. Children need to feel safe and secure in order to thrive. Having two parents in conflict with each other – even when they know each parent loves them — causes children to feel anxious and fearful.
If you won’t be home in time to put your child to bed, tell them. If you don’t live with the child, give them a realistic picture of how often you’ll see them. Let your child know if and when you can be reached by phone or other means. The important part is that you are available when you say you will be. That way your child knows they can believe and trust you.
Research shows that having a highly supportive parent helps children, regardless of whether that parent is male or female. Dads can and do make a difference in their child’s life!