Fathers’ engagement improves family wellbeing
Brendan Dennehy, founder of the Fatherhood Programme, explains the many benefits to families when fathers realise the importance of their role.
“In your child’s mind you are a giant. They look up to you. Despite sometimes doubting ourselves and our own ability to parent effectively, the latest evidence supports the view that most of us are doing our best. And that goes for Mums too”. (Fed, Funded and Ferried, A Father’s Guide to Happy Children, Brendan Dennehy 2017)
It’s important to note, it doesn’t have to be the biological father who can play this role. Grandparents, uncles, brothers and other trusted family friends can cast their invisible, yet life affirming spell, by simply hanging out.
Improved Emotional-Social, Behavioural and Academic Outcomes
The idea of getting fathers more involved in family life is something all families, especially Mums, would welcome. It’s not just about the practical stuff – the dropping, collecting, feeding and countless other tasks. It’s the emotional and social benefits that a fully engaged and emotionally committed father can bring to family life.
Fathers ought to take comfort from recent data (The Fatherhood Project, Harvard Medical School, 2014) which reaffirms the hugely influential role they play in their children’s lives – from birth to early childhood and beyond. In fact, science says that a father’s active participation and emotional engagement with his children leads to improved social-emotional, behavioural and academic outcomes.
Self-confidence is something you want for your child. You want to teach them the social skills to help them navigate their way through school and early adulthood. Harvard research says that higher levels of father involvement correlate with greater levels of sociability and confidence in your children.
Father involvement means your child will have better stress tolerance. They’ll have greater problem solving competence too. Not only that, your children will develop greater empathy, moral sensitivity and better grades too.
And it doesn’t end there, according to the research, fatherhood engagement reduces psychological problems and rates of depression in young women.
Quality not Quantity
Many fathers (and mothers too) feel a sense of guilt around not spending enough time with their children. However, according to the British Medical Journal https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/11/e012034 its quality, not quantity, of time spent that helps your children thrive.
The research found that when a father feels secure and emotionally connected to his partner and children – those same children were less likely to experience behavioural problems, regardless of the amount of time the father put into childcare.
The research suggests that parental guilt about how much time is spent with their children may be misplaced. It is the emotional connection that you have with their children that counts. For babies and toddlers, playing, reading and bathing can be high-quality activities. With older children, parents often recognise quality time when it happens – a simple chat in the car, for example. No one says less time is better, but the research suggests that what matters most is making the time you do have really count.
So go ahead and book that babysitter, you’ve just qualified for a guilt free night out.
Seek progress not perfection
Naturally, parenting is fraught with imperfection and demanding perfection of yourself or expecting it from your children is the source of much stress. It’s like the carrot in front of the poor old donkey. Much as we endeavour we’ll not get there. Fathers too, are far from flawless, but their emotional commitment to their children does help future proof them against many of life’s challenges and helps build resilience.
And it doesn’t end there.
When fathers give their children the guidance and attention they crave, it’s like neural wifi. It silently transcends all the noise. It’s clear signal helps the children disseminate truth from fiction. Those daily moments of space you lovingly share, promote in your child a contemplative self-regard. It teaches them the value of space and time, over pace and grind.
There’s so much more to fatherhood. We’re maps makers too. At your best, you represent a GPS for your family – A Guru Positioning System. Every day you deploy an inner technology honed over thousands of years that requires no licence to operate, until in time, your children learn to traverse the contours of their own lives. That’s who we are; kind and caring cartographers; master path finders. No wifi signal or batteries required. Just the occasional hug.