The importance of spending time with dad

By Andrea Kellerman
Date: January 2016

Now that the holidays are coming up it is good to consider why it is important to spend time with the family. Many children spend a lot of time with their moms, especially when they are young. Have you ever thought of why it is so important to spend time with dad too?
Parents are vital for the emotional well-being of their children as they teach children how to behave, how to love, how to be kind and caring and set the right principles and morals for life.
Research shows that if your child’s father is loving, supportive, and involved, he can contribute to a great extend to the child’s cognitive, language, and social development, good academic achievement and a strong self-esteem.

How fathers influence children’s relationships
The child’s relationship with his/her father can affect the child’s relationships for his/her entire life, including his/her friends, lovers, and spouses. This means that the interactions with the father can change and mould the child’s view in life and can have a profound influence on existing and future relationships.
Girls will look for men who are behaving similar to their dad as they feel familiar and comfortable with that. Therefore, if the father is kind, loving, and involved, they will look for those characteristics in their boyfriends or husband. Children look for what they have experienced and become familiar with in childhood. Because they’ve gotten used to certain behavioural patterns in their father, they think that they can deal with them in relationships.
Boys on the other hand, will copy their fathers and behave in a similar way. They will look for their father’s approval in everything they do, and copy behaviours that they see as both successful and familiar. Hence, if dad is abusive, controlling, and dominating, those can be the patterns that their sons might imitate and act out in their relationships with others. However, if the father is loving, supportive and protective, often boys will want to be like that too.
We, as human beings, are “social animals” and we learn by copying our parent’s behaviour. Those early patterns and behaviours of our interaction are all children know, and it is those exact patterns that effect how they feel about themselves, how they behave and how they develop.
It is very interesting what research shows how a good relationship with dad can influence different areas in a child’s life, also the scholastic performance. For example, girls tend to do better in mathematics in school, and boys tend to have better grades or perform better on achievement tests.

Family structures are changing
Over the last decades the traditional family structure has started to change. More and more women are focusing on their careers and men are taking over additional family roles like running the household, looking after the children and being more involved in the day to day running of the family. A recent study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) shows that fathers are more engaged in caretaking than ever before. The research found that children who have fathers that are involved and caring tend to have fewer behavioural problems, and are somewhat stronger in deciding against alcohol and drug abuse. This indicates that fathers are as important as mothers in their roles as parents, protectors, financial supporters, and most importantly, role-models for the social and emotional behaviour of their children.
Having said this, do not be alarmed if the father has to work long hours, has work in another town or if the parents are divorced. Even when fathers are physically removed from their families, there are ways for them to develop healthy relationships with the children. Fathers need to realize that they matter and can shape their child’s future greatly.
Showing interest in the child, phoning him/her regularly, being part of the daily routines even if it is via Skype or a phone call can create a close bond as well. It is important to spend some quality time with the child, which can be one or two hours a week. This can often be enough for a child if he/she feels that this time is just for the child because he/she is special to the parent. What counts is the quality, not quantity of the time spent together.
There are many reasons why fathers should be part of their child’s life. It is interesting to see how a good relationship with love, care, good listening skills, granting appropriate freedom, being there to support and setting clear rules and boundaries can develop happy children who have the ability to do well in life and gain the necessary resilience to cope with difficult situations.
In summary, the key point to remember is not to focus on who’s more important but understand that dads are vital in all the ways moms are. “We hope findings like these will encourage men to become more involved in their children’s care,” says Dr Rohner (Study for Parental Acceptance and Rejection at the University of Connecticut).
Use your time wisely and keep in mind that being involved in your child’s life will have long-term and long-lasting benefits.
Written by Andrea Kellerman, Educational Psychologist, specializing in Neurofeedback/Brain Training, Emotional Intelligence courses, Business coaching and hypnotherapy.
For further information or courses on parenting or emotional intelligence skills for children, contact EQ Advantedge, 031-2668563/ info@eq-advantedge.co.za (www.eq-advantedge.co.za).