Studies have shown that a child’s relationship with their father has an influence on almost every area of a child’s life from academic achievement to sexual development to drug use and depression. Clearly, a child’s relationship with their father has long-lasting effects on the child’s health and development. Even if a father does not live with his children, there is much that can be done to encourage a positive relationship between them. Spending quality time together and communicating effectively are two of the greatest means of developing a strong relationship between children and their fathers.
Spending Quality Time together
In a stereotypical family, fathers are almost always a breadwinner. This means that whether parents are married or divorced the father is away from his children for most of the day and sometime part of the evening as well. When time is factored in for adult activities, this means that it is often as little as less than an hour a day that a father spends with his children. Fortunately, the quality of the time spent together can mean more than the quantity of the time spent together. Fathers and children can maximise their time together by:
- Turning off the television, computer or video games that inhibit interaction.
- Avoiding outings that require silence, such as trips to the cinema.
- Engaging in physical, cooperative play such as football in the park.
- Shopping for a child’s necessities, such as stationary supplies and shoes.
- Interacting over board games or children’s card games.
- Enjoying special day trips, such as to the zoo.
- Setting up traditions, such as making Saturday morning breakfast together.
When together, fathers and children must work hard to communicate effectively, particularly if they do not have unlimited time together. Fathers especially must remember that they are one of their children’s primary teachers and that through both their words and actions they are teaching their children about the world around them. Communication must: use an appropriate tone of voice and never descend into yelling and screaming; always take into account body language as well as what is being said; use a vocabulary that can be understood by everyone involved, and never employ vulgar or inappropriate words; be direct, say “I felt…” or “I think…” rather than trying to rely on abstract concepts; address only one issue or event at a time and emphasise what was positive about an issue, event or experience as well as touch on what was negative.
Long Distance Father Child Relationships
Even if fathers do not live with their children there are many ways that they can foster strong relationships with them. Fathers can:
- Invite their children to where they live and make them comfortable in these surroundings.
- Special rooms, areas or even toys will help children feel that they have a place in this second home.
- Contact, particularly by telephone, their children every day.
- Ask their children about their daily lives and important events that are coming up.
- Tell their children about their own daily lives and important events that are coming up.
- Set up small traditions for when they are together, such as particular meals or activities.
- Plan celebrations for children’s birthdays and milestones.
- Make sure that their children understand that they are a part of a larger family by keeping aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents involved in the children’s lives.
- Sending emails or postal cards “just because” to let the children know that you are thinking of them.
A child’s relationship with their father can have life-long effects on the child’s health and development. Building and maintaining strong relationships between father and child will hopefully make these effects positive for all parties involved.