It’s vital for a father to be there for his kids, both physically and emotionally, but what does “there” really mean?
It has become somewhat of a cliché in modern culture for guys to find themselves on the psychiatrist’s sofa explaining how their father was never really… well, “there”. With the common view of fathers as purely “hunter-gatherers” or clumsy with children, it’s no wonder most first time dads feel anxious and ill-prepared for the emotional stuff.
Regardless of the view some people still have of dads, it’s essential that both parents are there for their children; the idea that it’s purely the mother’s role to be there for tears and tantrums is misinformed and, according to psychologists, can be damaging to your child.
Psychologists who ran a 26-year-long study found a link between father-daughter relationships and mid-life crises in women. It was also found that a father’s warmth and support had more of a positive effect on a daughter’s self-esteem than her mother’s affection.
For boys, it is their sense of identity that’s on the line when it comes to their relationship with their dad. Boys tend to find confidence and purpose in accomplishments and peers, but without the nurtured self-esteem only a father-figure can offer, a son may find himself chasing a sense of purpose all of his life.
Studies have shown that in some circumstances, not giving your kids enough love and affection can affect their mental health, the quality of their future relationships, ability to hold down a job and even their impulsiveness to commit crime.
How to be “there”
With the stresses of modern life weighing us down, it can be tough to stay available whilst ensuring you keep your family’s heads above water.
It’s a fairly typical scenario; you come home from work, exhausted, and your whole body is telling you to relax and indulge in some television. Whilst this is a sound way to spend a weekday evening, it’s best to wait until the kids are in bed before turning off; take advantage of the precious moment you have here, between school and bedtime.
A simple, “How was your day?” is a good start, but remember to ask more personal questions to show that you’re keeping up-to-date with their lives.
For younger children, be happy to acknowledge their many questions and reward their inquisitive nature with a smile.
Be physically available. Your child’s sense of safety, security and belonging can be found in simple hugs or by sitting on your lap.
It’s these little displays of love and compassion that help your little one grow up feeling happy, secure, and confident – supported by the most important man in their lives, their dad.