Every Dad’s a HERO to his kids

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I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren't trying to teach us. - Italian philosopher and author Umberto Eco

As a father, you play a critical role in shaping the lives and development of your children. It is important that you play an active role in parenting to create a balance and positively influence your children’s lives.  Active fathering is a term to describe the evolving role of fathers to have a more direct involvement in the growth and development of your children and family[1]. Active fathering benefits not just your children but youself too.  You will gain confidence in parenting and foster a stronger relationship and understanding with your spouse and children.

Benefits of Active Fathering

Research has shown that active fathering will have a positive impact on the physical, emotional, psychological, intellectual and social development of children[ii].

Physical and Emotional Security

One of the major benefits that you can provide for your children by being actively involved is a sense of physical and emotional security. By participating proactively in your child’s life, you develop a balanced and trusting relationship with your child. This would contribute to a balanced emotional development for your child.

Higher Self-esteem

Self-esteem refers to an individual's psychological state and perception of himself or herself. Children with high self-esteem tend to be happier and more confident than children with low self- esteem. As an active father, you promote your children’s self-esteem by being fully involved in their lives and giving them an improved sense of self-worth.

Enhanced Intellectual Development

Active fathering also enhances children’s intellectual development. Research has shown that children who are raised with actively involved fathers tend to score higher on measures of verbal and mathematical ability, and also demonstrate greater problem-solving and social skills. As an active father, you offer your children a stable and secure environment to focus on their intellectual development.

Improved Social Skills and Reduced Behavioral Problems

Active fathers listen and support your children when they experience a wide range of emotions.   When you provide emotional support for your children they tend to become more sensitive to the needs of others. Your children will also interact better with and develop good friendships with their peers.  Various studies have also shown that active fathering has a direct correlation with reduced criminality and behavioral problems[iii].  Through active fathering, you will be attuned to your child's development and can play a proactive role in protecting your children against risk behaviours and distress.

How You Can Practice Active Fathering

Active fathering involves undertaking basic parenting tasks such as bathing, playing, feeding and soothing the child.  You should also nurture and develop your children, devoting time to them and engaging them in cognitively stimulating conversations. You may also engage your children through fun and memorable physical activities, such as sports and games, picnics, excursions, board games and vacations.  These activities tend to stimulate children and facilitate their all-rounded development.  Active fathers should also taken a keen interest in your children’s development in school, participating in school activities for parents and communicating regularly with your children’s teachers

Believe in it.  Then practice it.

It is important for you to believe in the importance of active fathering and participate whole-heartedly.  Your children will be able to distinguish between involvement by choice and involvement by compulsion or obligation.  Hence, you should choose an approach that you are comfortable with to reap maximum benefits from active fathering.  It is also important to adopt a child-centric approach, where you leveraging on your personal strengths, interests, experiences and values to meet your children’s needs.

How can you prepare for Active Fathering?

Fatherhood is not an easy role.  It is a journey that you should adequately prepare for.  You need to recognise your personal limitations and explore options to overcome these limitations.  There are various ways to prepare for active fathering.

Seek advice and learn from other fathers

One of the best ways of preparing for active fathering is to seek advice and learn from the experiences of other fathers, particularly within your family.  Experienced fathers have a wealth of knowledge on parenting.  They will be able to understand your apprehension and be able to provide contextualised advice to suit your specific situation.  Observing other dads or even volunteering to help them with parenting tasks will ease the transition to fatherhood for you too!

Attend parenting workshops and classes

You may also choose to attend fathering workshops to know what to expect and how to act and support your spouse and child during this difficult but fulfilling phase of your lives.  The Centre for Fathering Singapore organises regular fathering workshops and sharing sessions to prepare future fathers for active fatherhood[iv].  Besides attending fathering workshops, you may also attend pre-natal classes with your pregnant spouse, to better understand and support her in this process.

Get connected online

You can also harness the internet and gain knowledge on active fathering from the numerous online parenting forums, where parents share their experiences and seek advice from a wider community.  But always take care to verify the credibility of the information on the web.

Seek spiritual guidance

Finally, you may also engage your religious or community groups for spiritual guidance.  Draw on the community strength and values to prepare for this new phase of your life.

Conclusion

Through adequate preparation and dedication, active fathers provide the necessary balance for the holistic development of their children. You will serve as positive role models for your children. In a UK survey, 88% of boys would like to be fathers when they are older[v]. In their eyes, their Dad's the hero they want to emulate.

This article was first published for the Dads for Life movement. The movement was  launched in 2009 to inspire and influence fathers to be good influencers in their children’s lives... for life. For more information on the Dads for Life movement, please visit www.dadsforlife.sg

References:

[i] http://www.mychildmagazine.com.au/EXPERTS/fatherhood/tabid/246/Default.aspx#Active_fathering

[ii] http://fcs.tamu.edu/families/parenting/fathering/fathering_pdf/active_fathers.pdf [PDF format]

[iii] Blackwell Publishing Ltd.. "Children Who Have An Active Father Figure Have Fewer Psychological And Behavioral Problems."

[iv] http://www.fatheringmatters.com/dpl/events

[v] http://www.fatherhoodinstitute.org/index.php?id=3&cID=61