"Dear old dad, remember when... You would sing to me, we could do it again." The words from Rebecca Sugar's sentimental ode to fathers ring true for many of us, but unfortunately not all. According to statistics from the National Center on Fathers, more than 20 million children live in homes that don't have the physical presence of a father and millions more where dad isn't emotionally available.
Even if you grew up in a home without a father, you now have the chance to provide an entirely different experience for your own children. Here is why the bond between father and child is so important and what you can do to strengthen those ties.
Why Some Fathers Might Be Absent
As most would expect, the biggest contributor to a fatherless home is family conflict and, most notably, divorce. Between 1960 and 2008, the number of divorces in the U.S. doubled. Having children outside of marriage is on the rise as well. By 2008, more than 40% of children born in the U.S. were outside of marriage. While divorce and the decision to have children outside of marriage are personal choices, a dad's involvement with the family remains possible in most cases.
Other reasons that a father might be absent from a child's life include guilt over a lack of financial means or failed personal connections with their own father. What many fathers fail to realize is that children value the time and personal commitment from their fathers above anything else.
The Value of Father-Child Relationships
There is more than one study showing that if a father is involved, supportive, and affectionate, children are more likely to thrive. Boys tend to model themselves after their fathers while girls will see their father as a symbol of males in general. According to a fatherhood report from the Department of Health and Human Services, children with involved fathers are more likely to have higher academic achievement, better social behavior, and a higher level of psychological well-being.
Tips for Creating Memories With Your Children
When it comes to getting more involved in your child's life, there is no single answer that's right for every dad. Being a good dad takes dedication, practice, and initiative. Some dads might feel awkward with young children at first, and that's ok. Here a few tips that can get you on the right track.
- Be Available. The most important thing that you can do for your children is to be both physically and emotionally available for them. Not only do you want to schedule some fun time, but also make sure that you are there for the day-to-day activities as well.
Teach Them Respect. Whether you remain in a relationship with your child's mother or not, children watch what you do at all times. The best way to teach your children respect is to behave in a polite manner with everyone while in their presence.
Embrace Opportunities. You could be sitting at the breakfast table, on the vacation of a lifetime, or heading out to your local 4th of July parade. All of these are opportunities to connect with your children and create lasting memories. Don't let them slip by.
As a dad, your number one job is to be there for your children. A memory can be created at any time or place and, in the end, the fact that you were a constant presence in your children's life is the greatest gift that you can provide.
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