Who hasn’t read a study with statistics showing the challenges of fatherless families. Single moms struggling to provide for their kids. Children lacking a positive male role model. Boys and girls growing up many times destined to repeat the cycle.
I am a foster care/adoption advocate and adoptive father. I write about foster care and adoption. I work with families who foster and/or adopt, and I work with orphan care organizations.
So I see firsthand the impact on children when a father is absent or non-existent.
It’s easy to trace back to a fatherless family a lot of the hyper-active, apathetic, rebellious behavior seen in children, especially boys.
A lot has been written about ways to help offset this dilemma ranging from increased governmental support to local community, faith-based support to educating young families about healthy marriage and family life.
Deservingly so, most of the attention goes to these families that are minus a father figure.
What About Dads Who Are “Present”?
How present are you really? I have noticed that even families where the father is “present”, many of the same challenges exist. What’s the reason for this?
You know, I am like a lot of dads. I struggle sometimes entering my son’s world. I easily get focused on the things in my own areas of interest, and my interaction with him boils down to instruction and correction. Even at five-years-old, I can tell a difference in how he responds to me, and others, when I take time to do what he enjoys. Now at this age that includes building things, exploring a new trail, or putting on a super hero vs transformers fight.
So, even where the dad lives with his family, the children can suffer from an absent or uninvolved dad.
What I really find interesting is when a family fosters or adopts and the father still isn’t very present. That communicates to me a couple of things. First, the family really don’t understand the needs of a child from a hard place. Two, the wife had the desire to foster or adopt and the husband went along with it.
Whether you are the dad of biological, adopted, or foster children, they need you to be present in their lives.
What do I mean by the word “present”? They don’t only need you to stick around and provide for the family, they need you to be tuned in, involved, in the moment, not thinking about yesterday or tomorrow, aware of what is going on their lives…not from your perspective but from theirs.
Instead of talking about how…I think each child has a different how…here are a few reasons why your child needs you to be present in their lives.
Why Sons Need their Father Present
- A model of how to be a man. Of course this assumes that you know how to be a man. Your son needs a man to role model for him things like how to treat women, how to work hard and earn a living, how to relate to authority, etc. No wonder so many boys and young men struggle when this is absent.
- Learn that’s ok to be a boy. When a boy is five, 10, 15 years-old, they need to feel like they can actually enjoy being that age. When a father is absent, that young boy or man feels a need to grow up too fast. This is a huge felt-safety need. When you are present, fully present, they feel safe to do the same. They learn to live life embracing their present.
- Understand that boys and men have emotions too. When a father is absent, a young boy doesn’t know how to navigate the emotions they encounter. A father can help them learn how to handle anger, sadness, disappointment, happiness, excitement, and so on. A mother can help of course, but as we all know, men and women are different creatures!
Why Daughters Need their Father Present
- A model of how a man appropriately treats a woman. A young girl, whether five or 15, needs a father who will show her how a man is to appropriately love and treat her. This will happen her father relates to her personally and as she watches him relate to his wife, her mother.
- Learn that they are safe to be a girl. Same as a young boy, yet different. A young girl/woman should feel safe in her relationship with her father. When she knows that he is there for her, providing for her needs, protecting her from harm, and purely loving her, she feels safe.
- Understand they are treasured. Fathers probably won’t always understand their daughters, but they can always treasure them. A father who takes time to know his daughter by listening, playing, even dating them will communicate value and worth to his daughter. Yes, his daughter may have to look long and hard to find a husband who matches that, but what a positive standard and expectation a present father can set for his daughter.
That’s just a few reasons that our children need us as father’s present in their lives.
I understand that some, maybe many fathers reading this feel pressure or overwhelmed. Maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t know how to do this! I didn’t have a good role model in my life.”
That’s ok! Seek out other men who are doing a good job being present with their children and simply spend time with them. Look for a an older man whose children are grown and learn from them. If you look for these men, you will find them.
Have any other reasons you can add to why we fathers need to be present in our children’s lives? Leave a comment either here or on Facebook (with a link to this blog)