Research shows that a loving and nurturing father improves outcomes for children, families, and communities. Fathers who live with their children are often more likely to have a close, enduring relationship with their children. Even if you do not reside in the same home as your children, you can still play an active role in their lives and form a close bond. Studies suggest that children with involved, loving fathers are significantly more likely to do well in school, have healthy self-esteem, exhibit empathy and pro-social behavior, and avoid high-risk behaviors including drug use, missing school, and criminal activity.
Father involvement is guided by the following principles:
- All fathers can be important contributors to the well-being of their children.
- Parents are partners in raising their children, even when they do not live in the same household.
- The roles fathers play in families is diverse and related to cultural and community norms.
- Men should receive the education and support necessary to prepare them for the responsibility of parenthood.
Here are some tips and promising practices for staying present in your child’s life.
Tips & Best Practices
- Making a Visitation Schedule Work for Your Family. Are you divorced or separated? Do you only see your kids on weekends? This can be one of the greatest challenges you face as a father. Give your children the time to adjust and make them feel at home. If you have new living arrangements, provide them their own if possible.
- Stay involved, even from a distance. For a variety of reasons, many dads do not see their children on a regular basis. As a result, you may have to redefine your role and responsibilities as a father. Staying aware of your children’s needs and interests is an important step in remaining connected. Dads who are incarcerated may have greater difficulty tracking their children’s development and activities but can find ways to stay involved.
- Become involved in all aspects of your child’s life. The presence of both parents is important for a child’s development. Fathers are doing much more hands-on caregiving now than they did a generation ago. Fathers previously were more involved in play, particularly physical play and “rough and tumble” play. You can get involved by changing diapers, getting up with your child at night, reading books, telling stories, taking your child to the doctor, sharing drop-offs and pick-ups, and helping with homework.
Through program practitioners’ day-to-day work with fathers, they are given a unique window into the ways fathers shape their children’s development. However, it is also important to step back and dig into the research from time to time in order to keep up with any new findings around how and why dads are so vital to children’s lives. There is always something new to learn in the field of father involvement and children’s development—as practitioners, researchers, and (many of us) dads ourselves.
I’m deployed overseas. What can I do to stay connected to my child? Can my presence reduce behavioral and emotional problems with my child?
If communication and the emotional bond between you and your children are solid and growing, you can maintain the connection in a way that does not feel awkward or forced, even during your deployment. Creating a home environment now that is accepting, affirming, accountable, and under loving authority is the best way to prepare your children for your deployment.
How can I rebuild a relationship with my child?
Rebuilding your relationship with your children begins with you, but you do not need to make the journey alone. Although many dads have trouble admitting they need help, identifying an individual you respect as a good father or grandfather can be an important first step. Ask the person to mentor you toward slowly repairing the broken bond with your children. Request specific tips that will help you be the loving father you aim to be. Also ask your mentor for recommendations on books or videos, blogs, or social media handles to follow about fatherhood that will strengthen your relationship and nurturing skills.
How can I maintain a bond with my child when we do not see each other regularly?
The noncustodial parent, often the dad, must make a special effort to maintain a close and loving relationship with the children. When the kids are with you, you can really devote that solid block of time to them. You may find that you have more free time to develop a fulfilling relationship post-divorce.