The importance of being a father
Studies demonstrate that healthy father-child relationships help children flourish when it comes to coping and adapting, solving problems, staying in school and developing longer lasting relationships. Involved dads also win, enjoying better overall health, higher self-esteem and a more positive self-image. “Studies show that when fathers are involved in the lives of their children, both parent and child win,” said Suzin Bartley, Executive Director of the Children’s Trust Fund. “All parents need and deserve the skills and support needed to be the best parent they can be. We applaud our dads on Father’s Day and throughout the year – they’ve got one tough job!”
It starts with getting involved
Start early. From the moment you know that you will be a father, you can be involved in your child’s life. If possible, go with your child’s mother to any doctor’s appointments, where you will be able to hear the baby’s heartbeat, see a sonogram of the baby, and ask any questions. If you have not been around children, try to spend some time with family or friends with infants. Talk about the experience of having a baby with other dads, or pick up a book and find out what to expect – they’re not just for moms! It’s natural for first time parents to be worried. No one knows what they are doing the first time. There may be parenting, childbirth, or other classes for both parents or even specifically for dads in your community or through a local hospital.
- Be ready for change. Having a child brings financial, lifestyle, and other adjustments. Children are expensive – there’s no doubt about it! However, there are ways you can prepare for this. Find out from other fathers what some of the costs are that you can expect. Some places of work allow dads to take some time off around the birth of their child – ask what the policy is at your work. Start saving as soon as you know you are having a baby. Even if you are separated from your child’s mother, you should help support your child. Not only are you legally required to help support your child, but supporting your child also means being there to care for her daily needs. Talk to your child’s mother about how you will share the responsibility of caring for your child. Make sure that neither of you get overwhelmed, and take out some time for yourselves, as well.
- Take on specific tasks. When it comes to taking care of your child, there are few specific roles for moms or dads. A good way of bonding with your child, beginning early on, is to decide on a few things that you will do with him. For example, you can give him a bath, read to him, or be part of the bedtime routine. You can choose one day a week to pick him up from school, or be the one to take him to certain activities.
- Get involved. Whether you are a working father or you stay at home, whether you live with your child or apart from her, know what is going on in her life. Attend school events, know her activities and whereabouts, and help with homework. Be the ‘good guy’ and the ‘bad guy’ – be around for the fun times but also participate in disciplining your child and teaching her responsibilities and values.
Reprinted with the permission of the One Tough Job campaign. © Children's Trust Fund of Massachusetts 2007. All rights reserved.