Fathers play a vital and unique role in bringing up their sons and daughters so they will become happy and secure adults.
If you think mothers are the key to the happiness of a toddler or teenager, think again. Rsearch is discovering that fathers are just as important in their children’s lives as mothers. Their parenting style may be different, but they are vital in giving a child a sense of stability, confidence and identity.
Ruth Schmidt Neven, a child and family psychotherapist at the Child and Family Development Centre in Melbourne, says the role of fathers is undervalued in Western society. She says dads are often sidelined after a child is born, and both lose out.
“A child’s mental health is as dependent on fathering as it it on mothering,” she says. “There is a terrible notion that very tiny children are the mother’s responsibility, but dads need to be involved in their child’s development.”
So why have fathers been sidelined? Neven believes this problem is partly due to soceity’s expectations of men and partly due to men themselves. Men are supposed to be the fixers and menders, and the strong figures who cope no matter what, and so, they have been prevented from being able to feel and express emotions.
Also, men have been reluctant to discuss feelings because they don’t want to let the macho mask slip. “Men can’t begin to think about the emotional needs of other people if they haven’t begun to think about themselves and their own emotional state,” says Neven.
To be effective fathers, Neven believes men just need to do less and feel more. “Father’s don’t need to rush around doing things with their kids. They don’t have to arrange anything elaborate,” she says.
“Just listening, making yourself available and letting your kids potter around with you is fine. That’s all most kids want and need.” So, how can father’s make their kids happier and help with their development? Here are five ways: