Articles for Parents

Everything listed under: fathering

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    4 Must-Dos for Parents After Divorce

    Based on hundreds of peer-reviewed studies, Dr. Warren Farrell, co-author of The Boy Crisis, says that “Dad’s time trumps Dad’s dime.” 

    “More than 100 psychologists and researchers got together. They wrote in unanimous consent that the children need their father about equally to their mother in the case of divorce,” says Farrell. 

    Farrell explained that for years researchers believed that children did better with an involved father because intact families had more money and lived in better neighborhoods. However, researchers controlled for virtually every variable and found that father involvement plays a vital role in the health of a child. It’s not just about the money he may provide, although that is very important. It is the combination of presence and provision.

    “The degree of difference between the health of a child who has both father and mother involvement, who has four things after divorce is so different from the health of the child that doesn’t,” Farrell says. 

    Farrell goes on to say that whether babies are born prematurely or full-term, the importance of the father being involved is enormous. 

    “Prematurely-born children are more likely to develop their brains better and get out of the hospital sooner and have more psychomotor functioning when the father is visiting the hospital as much as possible, according to research from Yale University,” he says.

    “The father breathing on the child when it’s first born helps the bonding process to occur and changes the dad’s brain,” Farrell says “The sooner the father gets involved with the child, a whole nest of neurons in the male brain begins to develop and connect with each other that mimics the mother instinct - overlapping with mother instinct. Oxytocin levels go up, testosterone levels go down. Dads connect emotionally with their children.”

    According to Farrell, in the event of an unavoidable divorce, here are four must-dos for your child to have a reasonable chance of doing well.

    The first one is ensuring an equal amount of time with mother and father. Being in checks and balance mode with each other never means the father going away and working 80 hours a week and coming back when he is exhausted and the children are in bed. Farrell asserts that children need more than a Disneyland Dad or just a visitor on the weekends. They need time, and plenty of it.

    The second must-do is for the mother and father to live within a 20-minute drive time from each other. This gives children greater stability and creates less resentment, because if parents live further away, the kids may have to give up activities or friends in order to see the other parent. 

    It’s also important that children are not able to hear or detect bad-mouthing or negativity from one parent about the other. If one parent responds negatively about something concerning the other one, it can affect the child’s intimacy with one or both parents. Bad-mouthing isn’t just by words, it’s also via body language and tone of voice. Farrell says that many parents will swear that their kids did not overhear them saying something negative about the other parent while on the phone, but the child could detect the difference in the tone of voice, even from another room.

    Finally, it’s beneficial for the kids if parents spend significant time doing consistent relationship counseling, even if it only happens every few weeks. If parents only seek counsel in an emergency, the chances are you need to solve the problem sooner, and you are more likely to make the other parent wrong and you only see the other parent when you are emergency mode. Therefore, you don’t have the chance to think and feel through with compassion the other parent’s best intent to solve the problem and make decisions.

    “Before you make a decision to have a child, do the research on why children need a significant amount of father involvement so that you don’t raise a child on your own and think it is just fine to do so and think that having a stepfather or you doing the father-type of role is going to be enough,” Farrell says. “If you believe your new husband is going to be a better stepfather than the biological father is a father, know that almost always the stepfather perceives himself to be an advisor, and the dynamic between a biological mother and stepfather is one where the biological mother does make the final decision. All of the dad-style parenting that a stepfather could potentially bring to a child’s life, like roughhousing, is likely to be inhibited by a biological mother with a lot more power and potency than she will use with the biological father. There’s a tendency for the stepfather to back out of equal parent engagement and just become a breadwinner.”

    Since research consistently shows that both parents are the best parents, Farrell expresses concern for unmarried biological moms who are living with the father. Farrell wants these moms to understand that when Mom is the primary parent, it often leads to the father being uninvolved and feeling that he is not valued. In situations like this, many fathers leave the child’s life within the first three to four years. 

    A word of caution here: While there is no question that some parents are unfit when it comes to filling the parent role, careful evaluation may be necessary to discern whether an ex is truly not fit to parent, or if it would "just be easier not to have to deal with them." If your thought process is more along the lines of, “I made a mistake marrying them. I want to start life over again without them. I don't like them. I don't like dealing with them,” it might be wise for you to reconsider your stance.

    There’s a big difference between safety and abuse issues and misunderstanding the other parent’s reasoning, thought processes or parenting style. If the goal is for children of divorce to be healthy in adulthood, it is important to follow these 4 must-dos after a divorce when it is possible and safe to do so.

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on June 7, 2019.

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    Do Fathers Really Matter?

    If you watch almost any show on television that involves a father these days, it’s common to see a dad who is portrayed as an idiot when it comes to his children and family. In real life, many men have been told straight up: You don’t really parent, you babysit. 

    It's estimated that people spent more than $15 billion celebrating Dad this past Father’s Day. Why all the celebration if dads really don’t make that much of a difference in the lives of children? 

    In an article for the Institute for Family Studies, Dr. William Jeynes, Harvard graduate and professor at California State University, Long Beach highlights his recent meta-analysis of 34 studies regarding the unique role fathers play in childrearing. He found statistically significant effects between good fathering and a number of outcomes for both boys and girls.

    Jeynes looked at whether fathers make a unique contribution in raising children compared to moms. The meta-analysis included 37,300 subjects. In the study, Jeynes and his team defined the unique fatherhood contribution as paternal monitoring, involvement and childrearing activities that can be distinguished from activities undertaken by the mother, another guardian, relative or caregiver.

    A clear theme emerged: While mothers were often shown as the more nurturing parent, fathers appeared to be more involved in preparing children to deal with life. Fathers also seemed to more realistically assess their children’s future behavior problems. In some cases, fathers were better predictors of their child’s future cognitive performance than moms were.

    Jeynes also found that father involvement or monitoring was associated with lower rates of delinquency and substance abuse among boys and girls. That’s in addition to students performing better in school and having better attitudes while in school.

    While the analysis showed mothers consistently demonstrated higher average levels of patience and nurturing than fathers, fathers tended to expect more of their children and placed greater emphasis on the preparatory aspect of childrearing more so than mothers. Results also suggest that there is often a balance established when the unique role of the father is combined with the distinct role of the mother. 

    According to Jeynes’ analysis, the importance of fathering is undeniable, and father involvement is greatly connected to family structure. He also asserts that father engagement is best facilitated in two-parent families, mainly because single-parent families tend to be headed by mothers. 

    Jeynes also cites a 2015 article appearing in Education Next, indicating that children living in two-parent families consistently receive more schooling than those in single-parent families, with the gap increasing over time. 

    Additionally, statistical analyses of nationwide data sets show that, on average, children raised by their biological parents in intact married families academically outperformed their counterparts who lived in cohabiting families and never-married, single-parent families.

    Coming from a two-parent, intact family helps kids experience high levels of mother and father engagement, although it does not guarantee that mothers and fathers will be involved. Nevertheless, the changing makeup in family structure in recent decades has ultimately made father involvement more difficult. 

    Jeynes offers these thoughts based on his research outcomes: One of the most child-sensitive and family-sensitive actions one can take is to develop a greater appreciation of the value of fatherhood, and it is not only unwise to diminish the salience of fathers, it is mindless to do so. Moreover, it is blatantly unkind to America’s children to detract from a vital parental role for their future fulfillment. To be truly pro-child is to be pro-father.

    Don’t underestimate the role fathers play in raising children to be successful adults. If you want to model being pro-child and pro-father, here are some things you can do. 

    • If you’re a mom, encourage positive male role model involvement in your child's life.

    • If you're a non-residential dad, visit with your children as often as possible. Avoid making promises you can’t keep. You can also be very intentional about teaching them important life lessons.

    • If you are an educator, encourage fathers to be active in the classroom.

    • Be a positive male role model for the kids in your community.

    • Faith-based institutions and programs can bring fathers together with their children. Encourage healthy and appropriate male role models to engage children in their sphere of influence.

    • If you’re a business leader, encourage employee participation in community efforts with children. For example, promote mentoring with organizations like Big Brothers-Big Sisters, youth groups, Boys and Girls Club or Girls, Inc.  

    There is no denying that a healthy father positively impacts his child’s life, and that father absence dramatically affects a child’s ability to thrive throughout life.