Raising children can be a blur. One minute your child is a year old, and the next thing you know, he’s 21. Thankfully, most moms and dads make the most of the childhood years and work hard at being good parents.
But even good parents can get off track, especially dads. Early research in a forthcoming study shows that men are just not as involved in their children’s lives as mothers are. I know that when Susan and I were raising our five children I would often lose myself in work and financial responsibilities. It took intentional effort to be sure I was taking part in family life, to connect with kids in a personal way. And since studies find that fathers have a huge impact on how their children will develop emotionally and academically, every dad needs to connect to his kids in these three ways.
1. Be accessible.
In research terminology, accessibility refers to the presence of the father in the child’s life both physically and emotionally. The best way to be accessible to your children is to live with them. This means working hard on your marriage to keep your family intact.
2. Be engaging.
Engagement includes direct contact, such as playing with your children, reading with them, tucking them in at bedtime, and talking with them. Engagement, like love, requires actions to connect with our children minus distractions.
3. Be responsible.
A father takes appropriate responsibility when he is involved in parenting decisions for his child. These decisions may be significant, such as where the child will go to school, but they may also be more mundane, such as choosing what shoes his child will wear.
Children without connected fathers can turn out just fine, but a University of Denver research team found that children who grow up alienated from their fathers have higher delinquency rates, while children who are close to their fathers and place their trust in them are less likely to exhibit delinquent activity.
So, dads, be there for your children. If you live with them, make the most of that proximity to your kids. If you don’t live with your children, make even more of an effort to be a part of their lives. Every child longs to have a father he can depend on, and every child deserves it.