According to the U.S. Census, fathers are fast disappearing from American homes and one in three children, or approximately 20 million live without one.
The census recorded the fact that 160,000 new families with children were added, the number of two-parent households decreased by 1.2 million and nearly five million live without a mother.
More than 20 million children live in a home without the physical presence of a father. Millions more have dads who are physically present, but emotionally absent. If it were classified as a disease, fatherlessness would be an epidemic worthy of attention as a national emergency.
This fatherlessness can be seen in our homes, schools, hospitals and prisons and especially in families. Back when families were more intact, many fathers protected, mentored, guided, supported, taught values, played sports, added humor, and helped in bringing up their child or children. Today, there are many fathers who, for a variety of reasons, are absent, either emotionally or by distance and play a small or no part in bringing up their child or children.
Children need both parents’ influence for a balanced upbringing. They usually receive nurturing and care-taking from their mothers. Fathers can supply discipline, authority, companionship and be an example as a role model. Role models are important for both boys and girls. Boys look to their dads as the type of man they want to be when they grow up; girls look to their dads as models of a possible future mate. Fathers’ praise, unconditional love, encouragement, support, and guidance are as important to children as the fostering acts a mother supplies.
Research has concluded that the father/child relationship is more important than once believed. With a baby, a father is usually more physical at playing games than the mother and makes a playful and joyful contribution to a baby’s life. As small infants and children, they can receive assurance and empathy from a dad when mom is not available or busy with something else. School age children benefit from the caretaking of dads who help with their care in transporting them to school and activities, helping them with homework, or teaching them responsibility. Many fathers join in sports activities with both boys and girls through softball, baseball, football, soccer and form a lasting team tie with their kids.
Children who have both parents who express these characteristics are blessed, indeed. Sometimes, they may have grandparents, step parents, or guardians who also exhibit traditional and loving nurturing. Studies show that a father who exhibits love, kindness and faith values to his children – in turn foster those values that their children will emulate with their own family and children.
And sometimes, there are children, who, for various reasons, may be absent a father. He may have died, or separated away from the family, or simply is out of the picture. There can be a family member or male friend who can pitch hit for an absent father and help fill the void a father leaves. An absent father in a family could make his child at a higher risk of drug abuse, smoking, alcohol abuse and other risk-seeking behaviors. Other problems with absent fathers can be unhealthy relationships with others, poor grades in school, and problems in social relationships.
At some point in our lives, all of our fathers will leave us. For those of you who mourn a lost father, for whatever reason, take heart. We still have a Heavenly Father, Who will never leave nor abandon us.
Recently I heard a great quote by Sigmund Freud: “I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.” God bless ALL fathers this Father’s Day – may your love and caring for your children bless and reward you with love returned.
June 8, 2017 Marie Coppola