Being a dad can be one of the most joyful experiences in a person’s life. The bonds between fathers and their children are deep and last a lifetime. Loving fathers want the best for their children and work to strengthen these bonds of love; however, the challenges of life can strain even the most precious relationships. Stress at work, financial worries, strained relationships with a co-parent, difficulties related to custody arrangements or father-child visits, personal health issues—life’s curve balls can sometimes feel like obstacles to nurturing a strong father-child bond. They can even lead to an increased risk of child abuse. When life gets tough, it’s important for dads to have resources, supports, and coping strategies to help them parent effectively. Protective factors can help provide dads with these supports.
Protective factors are conditions or attributes of individuals, families, communities, or the larger society that reduce or eliminate risk and promote healthy development and well-being of children and families. These factors can include nurturing and attachment, parental resilience, knowledge of parenting, opportunities for engagement within school and the community, and individual coping skills. Fatherhood programs help fathers build these skills and provide opportunities for learning and connection.
April is recognized as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, with the goal of encouraging public awareness of child abuse and neglect. It is also an opportunity to highlight efforts and resources aimed at protecting children and strengthening families, including promoting protective factors as vital sources of parental support.
The Children’s Bureau Office on Child Abuse and Neglect (OCAN), Child Welfare Information Gateway, and the FRIENDS National Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention, publishes a yearly Prevention Resource Guide that aims to show how these protective factors can be used to help strengthen family bonds. The guide offers more than 20 tip sheets where fathers can find advice on how to handle a number of parenting challenges and information on how to access resources that can help them be more loving, supportive, and resilient dads. The tip sheets, available in both Spanish and English, address topics such as the following:
- Ten Ways to Be a Better Dad
- Managing Your Finances
- Managing Stress
- Parenting Your School-Age Child
- Parenting Your Child With Developmental Delays and Disabilities
- Bonding With Your Baby
- Dealing With Temper Tantrums
The Resource Guide also includes a calendar of activities for parents that dads can use throughout the year as daily inspiration for how to include protective factors in their everyday lives. It also offers examples of how local agencies incorporate protective-factor building activities into their programming, such as through parent cafés - structured, small-group conversations that bring parents together to discuss issues that are important to them.
Child Welfare information Gateway, the Children's Bureau's information service, also offers a number of factsheets for families where all dads - from biological fathers to foster and adoptive fathers - can find more information on handling a variety of parenting challenges, preventing the risk of child abuse, and promoting healthy families. These publications include:
- Leaving Your Child Home Alone
- Parenting a Child Who Has Experienced Abuse or Neglect
- Parenting a Child Who Has Experienced Trauma
- Parenting a Child Who Has Been Sexually Abused: A Guide for Foster and Adoptive Parents
- Parenting Your Adopted Preschooler
- Parenting Your Adopted School-Age Child
- Parenting Your Adopted Teenager
With the help of strong supports and parenting skills, a little patience, and resilience, fathers can encourage the bonds of love with their children, give children a safe space to learn and grow, and become the best dads they can be.