Being an Involved Father: What Does It Mean?
It seems that more and more folks are sharing the message that fathers should be more involved in caring for their children. You may hear this message on TV, on the radio, where you worship, at school, at meetings, at work, and, especially, at home. Father involvement is defined as, men's "positive, wide-ranging, and active participation in their children's lives" (Marsiglio et al., 2000, p. 276).
How Much Is Enough?
Efforts to get every father more involved in their children's lives leaves many fathers asking themselves: "How much is enough? When have I done enough to be considered an 'involved' father?"
Many of us remember how much or how little involved our fathers were in raising us. We notice the difference in today's dads. More fathers are involved in caring for their children than their own fathers were, especially in the early phases of a childs life (Manlove & Vernon-Feagans, 2002). You may end up asking yourself if it's enough just to do more than your father did. Perhaps you coach a little league team or shuttle your child back and forth to games. Maybe you cook dinner for your child or, as a new father, feed your baby or change diapers. You may even take the time for a sit-down talk about sexuality with your child. You may find yourself asking the question, "How much time and attention do I need to give my child to ensure she or he grows up healthy?"
Instead of counting how many minutes you spend with your child as a measure of "good" fathering, ask yourself, "What do I do with my child with the time that I have?" Researchers generally find the quality and type of activities that you do with your child are far more important than the amount of time you spend with them (Palkovitz, 2002).
Here is a list of strategies that you can use to make sure that you have a healthy and "involved" relationship with your child.
Spend Quality Time with Your Child
Quality time is an expression used a lot on TV and in books and magazines about parenting. The trouble is, many people aren't really sure what quality time is. In essence, quality time is time that parents use to focus on healthy, positive, and nurturing experiences with their child. The emphasis is on what you do with your child instead of how much time you spend with them. Here are a few rules of thumb you can use to decide whether you are spending quality time with your child:
- Is your child the center of your attention--or are you just trying to keep them busy while you do other things?
- During your time together, are you involved in activities that both you and your child enjoy?
- Are you investing time and energy in your children's lives on a daily basis or are you interacting with them just when it is convenient?
- Are you happy just spending ordinary time with your child with no particular purpose or goal in mind?
If you answered "yes" to all these questions, it looks like you are spending quality time with your child. It's important for fathers to spend quality time because, in most families, they are not the child's primary caregiver. This means that others (such as child care workers, teachers, and mothers) spend more time with your child each week than you do.
Quality, positive interactions help form a healthy bond between fathers and their children. These interactions help father-child attachment to grow. Fathers can understand their child's world a little better and children will be able to see and understand their dad as a real person.
Reprinted with the permission of the University of Florida. © 2008 University of Florida.
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