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Keys to A Great Father-Child Relationship
Involvement, influence, and affection: three keys to father-child relationships. Though they may sometimes find it difficult to express their feelings, most fathers care about their children and families. This hearty endorsement of family life contradicts some of the traditional roles or popular images of fathers in our society:
This father is preoccupied with providing financial support for his family. He may work long hours to bring home his paycheck and does not take an active part in caring for the children. Making money provides this father with a distraction from family involvement.
The Dagwood Bum stead:
This father tries to be a "real pal" to his children, but his efforts are often clumsy or extreme. He doesn't understand his children and feels confused about what to do. He may also feel that he is not respected within the family.
This father tries to combine toughness with tenderness. He enjoys his children but is not afraid to set firm but fair limits. He and his wife may cooperate in childrearing and homemaking. This type of father has always been around. But the number of men who choose this role is increasing. Many fathers today recognize that family life can be rewarding and that their children need their involvement.
This shift in roles is influenced by two major social changes:
The increase in the number of women working and the rising divorce rate. As more and more mothers join the workforce, fathers are being asked to take on more responsibilities at home. In 1979, 40 percent of the mothers of children under age 3 were employed. Instead of remaining on the fringe of family life, many fathers are helping more with child care and housekeeping.
Involvement: The Foundation of a Relationship
The first step in any relationship is the feeling by both persons that the other is interested in them and wants to be with them. Many fathers begin to prepare for this kind of relationship before their child is even born. A father who seeks involvement is interested in his wife's pregnancy and makes preparations for the child's birth. When the child is born he is eager to hold the infant. Every child wants to sense this type of involvement from his or her father and mother. Without it, a child feels isolated and rejected. The foundation of the relationship crumbles.
Suggestions for Fathers
First, they can give each of their children exclusive attention as often as possible. During their time together fathers could enjoy their children's company without allowing outside distractions to interfere. As a result, their children would feel noticed and special. There is no single formula for how this might be accomplished. A father and child might play, talk, learn a skill or read together. What is important is that they notice each other and acknowledge a common interest. This type of undistracted attention promotes a sense that each is important to the other. Fathers might also give their children a glimpse of their work world.
Building the Relationship:
Once involvement is established in a relationship, influence is the next step. Each person wants to feel that what he or she says or wants is important to the other. Each wants to be listened to and included in discussions and decisions. This sense of personal power promotes feelings of self-worth and respect for the other person. Children want their parents to be strong. They need to feel protected from a sometimes threatening world and from their own immaturity and loss of control. But they do not want to be overwhelmed by their parents' dominance. For their own self-respect, children need a measure of personal influence.
- by Associated Press
- by Associated Press
- by Reuters