Last weekend was Father’s Day. I helped my young children celebrate their dad by purchasing a small gift we knew he would love and creating personal cards for him to enjoy.

He was delightfully surprised by both, and quickly commented, “Ah, you don’t have to celebrate me. I’m not half as important as your Mom anyway. She’s the real one to celebrate.”

While I appreciated the compliment, my brow furrowed a little at this statement… and I think it still is. 

A Pew Research study completed in 2017 found that 68% of dads felt they did not spend enough time with their kids. Similarly, a whopping 85% said they felt their role as a parent mattered, but not as much as mom. While the logic behind these surveys is easy to understand, the reality is dads play a different role in a child’s life than moms, but that role is just as important.

One unique way a father contributes is to a child’s emotional and social development.

Psychologist Dr. John Gottman emphasizes that fathers often engage in roughhousing, wrestling, and play that is physically stimulating and unpredictable. This teaches children about managing emotions and taking risks within safe boundaries. It also helps children develop resilience and confidence.

Moreover, fathers are role models for both sons and daughters. For boys, a father’s behavior can shape their understanding of masculinity and respectful relationships. For daughters, the father’s treatment of their mother and other women sets a precedent for what they might expect in their own future relationships.

A wide array of studies show that children with actively involved fathers tend to fare better on numerous fronts.

They exhibit higher levels of academic achievement, better social skills, and improved self-esteem. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, these children are also less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as drug use and delinquency. The positive presence of a father can be a protective factor against many of the challenges young people face today.

Despite the significant role fathers play, they often face numerous societal pressures and challenges that can hinder their involvement. Traditional gender roles, workplace demands, and the lingering stereotype of fathers as secondary parents can create barriers. It’s crucial that we, as a society, recognize these obstacles and provide support to fathers.

Workplaces can be more father-friendly by offering paternity leave and flexible working arrangements.

This not only allows fathers to be more present in the early, formative weeks of their child’s life but also supports a more balanced sharing of parental responsibilities. Schools and community programs can actively involve fathers by hosting events and workshops that welcome their participation and acknowledge their role.

Relationship experts, like Dr. Michael Lamb, advocate for counseling and resources tailored specifically to fathers. Parenting classes that address the unique challenges fathers face, coupled with support groups, can provide the necessary tools and confidence for men to engage fully with their children.

So dads, please believe that your role is irreplaceable. Your presence, love, and involvement are crucial in shaping the next generation. For those in the community supporting fathers, continue to encourage and create spaces where fathers can thrive and feel valued. By doing so, we not only uplift individual families but strengthen the very fabric of our society.

While last week was Father’s Day, but we can celebrate dads every day, recognizing the irreplaceable contributions they provide and renewing our commitment to supporting them in their parenting journey. Whether through policy changes, community support, or simply recognizing the invaluable role they play, every effort counts in helping fathers build stronger bonds with their children.

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