Fathers can give the best gift of all – it’s not about presents, but presence.
By Chimane Hess & David Puente
In the 1970’s a series of public service announcements aired that promoted strong families. Several of the ads focused on getting fathers to realize that their families wanted their time and attention. One of the favorites was of a busy father who is “kidnapped” by his wife and children to go on a family campout because he told them he was too busy to go. Another depicts a college age daughter calling her father (who is at work in an important meeting) to tell him of her exciting news. He has her on speaker phone, and he tries to get her to wait until later. She responds to this by telling her father that he can tell “all those stuffy old men” that his daughter just made it big. She tells her father that her dance audition was successful, had resulted in a job and an apartment, and then ends the call by saying that she loves him. The message of these ads is loud and clear…a father’s time is needed to give security, stability and strength to the family!
President Barak Obama commented on this problem in a father’s day speech, “too many fathers…are… missing – missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.” Can this be good for the children? How about the communities and nation?
National statistics show that “children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.”
When a father is involved
What can we do to avoid such a gloomy picture of our nation? Studies have shown that high levels of father involvement are associated with a range of significant and highly desirable outcomes. These include: better psychosocial adjustment in children and better mental health as adults; higher levels of cognitive and social competence; increased social responsibility, capacity for empathy, self-control, self-esteem, social maturity and life skills; more positive child–father and adolescent–father relationships; more prosocial sibling interactions; fewer school adjustment difficulties, better academic progress and enhanced occupational achievement in adulthood.
According to childwelfare.gov, the influence of a father’s involvement on academic achievement extends into adolescence and young adulthood and highly involved biological fathers have children who were 43 percent more likely than other children to earn mostly A’s and 33 percent less likely than other children to repeat a grade. It has also been shown that a father’s warmth contributes greatly to children’s long-term favorable development, emphasizing that young girls with good father-child relationships are less likely to begin early sexual activity and have unhappy romantic involvements, while young men benefit from positive father-child relationships in overall psychological well-being (Berk, 2010). Basically, much good can be accomplished merely by a present, involved, warm and loving, but firm father back at the head of his household.
Some fathers may feel that their family is just too busy to spend time together. “Parents are working, children are at school and the evening and weekends are taken up with a host of clubs, sports and play dates with friends. But this means that many families really struggle with time together and just enjoying each other’s company for a while.” The unlimited supply of technologies have opened up a world of information, opportunity to continue work after hours, connect with colleagues and friends more, relax through a video game or movie…the list could go on, contributing to the distractions to keep the father “away from the family.” Fathers are not the only victims of media distraction; the media will take hold of the children as well. “On average, children ages 2-5 spend 32 hours a week in front of a TV—watching television, DVDs, DVR and videos, and using a game console. Kids ages 6-11 spend about 28 hours a week in front of the TV.” Many people see media as a way to connect with their children; though it has a few moments of connection, it is not “real” and more often serves as a distraction from the nurturing, in-person relationships and building memories together. We cannot let quality time with children take a back seat to other activities; they need that time with their fathers. There isn’t anything that can replace or make up for the loss of it.
There are men that might think that they are not up to the challenge. Such was the case for Dwayne. He said “The reason I walked away is because, at the moment, I wasn’t the man that I wanted to be for [my kids] … I put them on a higher pedestal than I put myself. So, at a point, I wasn’t worthy to be in their life because I wasn’t the man that I would want for them.” Because there are so many benefits for father interaction, father’s need to realize that they are never too inadequate to be a father and that they must do all they can to preside, provide, and protect their families in order to give them the best chance to be successful in life. Roland Warren from the National Fatherhood Initiative “notes that men not feeling like the ‘perfect’ dad stems from a gross misunderstanding about the real role of fathers… it’s not just about presents… but presence…”
It is possible to change the foundation of a family, therefore the community and nation one father at a time! Fathers will find that they will also reap some healthy psychosocial outcomes for themselves. It has been shown that psychological and social aspects of sharing parenting are associated with marital happiness, parental competence, and closeness to children. These esteem building benefits strengthen the father, causing him to be a better father, which strengthens the children and it starts over again – a circle of positive progression and happiness for the family. Father’s need to give THEMSELVES back to their families.
Chimane Hess is the wife of Allen, mother of Ty, ChariAnn, Kevin, Clayton, Ethan, mother-in-law of Nathan, and grandmother of Allayna. She is currently a student at Brigham Young University-Idaho in the Marriage and Family Studies program. She loves families and knows that they can be successful when all members pull long, strong, and all together.
David Puente is happily married to Maria. They have been married for two years. He is the son of Mario and Juventina and has three older brothers. He is a student at Brigham Young University-Idaho and is in the Marriage and Family Studies program. He loves spending time with his family.
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