For decades fathers were seen as solely responsible to work and to be the main breadwinner with very little responsibilities to take care of their own offsprings. Nowadays the situation has changed a lot. Fathers are expected to be active participants in their children’s lives in many different ways. This shift in commitment and responsibilities has brought us to a new definition and understanding of fatherhood and has also made a difference between being a biological father and an active dad.
An American research dating back to 2013, had shown us that children who grow up without their fathers are: 90% more likely to become homeless, 71% to drop high schools and 63% to commit suicide (A Guide for Father Involvement in Systems of Care, 2013, American Institute of Research www.air.com). These are alarming rates which make us think and reflect on the role of fathers in our children’s lives. Unfortunately, many fathers are still not aware of their importance in our changing society and their impact on their children’s lives.
Nowadays not only mothers are responsible for the children’s upbringing. Dads are expected to be physically present for their children as well as helping them to develop into emotionally functional adults. There are many mothers who join the workforce after their maternity leave which creates more space for dads to be active participants in their children’s lives. Dads nowadays are present during important school and extracurricular events such as concerts and football events, assist their children during their homework, read bedtime stories, feed and bath their children. Another new trend is that some fathers are choosing to stay at home and take care of the children while their wife/partner is working and gaining money. It is becoming more popular that some couples choose this lifestyle for different reasons, mostly financial reasons. For sure, whatever the couple chooses, it seems to be a fact that children require both their parents to be active participants in their lives.
Another trend has been developing, that of adopting a father role. Not all biological fathers act like a proper dad and not all dads are biological fathers. We are all seeing an increase of non-traditional family units which are not necessarily made up of biological father, biological mother and their offsprings. Single mothers are now more likely to couple up with partners and create a family unit. The partner is nowadays given a significant role in children’s lives. In certain families, the partner is experienced as a father figure by the children, therefore he is also expected to act as an active father within the family unit.
What is hindering fathers to be active dads?
Society and the norms are affecting how men father their children. Some men do not find it cool or attractive to father their children because of stereotypes. They believe that it is solely a mother’s job. Others do not find it appropriate because they did not experience their own father to parent them. Other fathers do not believe that they have enough skills to parent their children.
New dads are encouraged to take parenting classes to increase their knowledge.
Fathers can also attend psychotherapy sessions to increase their self-esteem with regards to being an active dad. They can also discuss their fears and unfinished businesses which they might be experiencing. One can answer the following questions:
- What type of father do I want to be?
- How do I feel when I am with my children?
- What are my areas of improvement?
- Do I have family and work-life balance?
- How many hours /quality time do I spend with my children?
One should be patient with oneself and take risks. Fathers are encouraged to be in contact with their own children as this can prove to be a very healing experience. We can only learn by making mistakes!
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