There are all kinds of fathers. Some fathers protect, mentor, guide, support, teach values, play sports, add humor, and help in bringing up their child or children. There are other 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 get more nurturing and care-taking from their mothers. Fathers can supply discipline, authority, companionship and an example as a role model. Role models are important for both boys and girls. Boys look to their dads as the type of father 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.
During adolescence and puberty, the dad can take on more of an ‘advisor’ role as the child may focus more on the mom and her guidance at this age. But the father is in the background, offering advice and decisions about what is going on in their lives. It’s a busy, bustle time within a family and a time when a child can spend some quality time with their father on a trip to the mall or a sporting or camping event.
Personally, I loved to play cards with my dad and we spent many hours together with him teaching me pinochle and all kinds of card games that I love to play today. The time together is more an endearing, special memory.
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 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.
It’s hard for children to understand parents who are not good at parenting or not available for them. What they get is what they see. Teenagers can be a challenge to raise in any family and it is made even more difficult with fathers who seem to be immature, irresponsible or simply not there.
If you have such a father, remember, we are all imperfect and in time, hopefully, they might realize the strong bond of family they have with you. If for some reason, this is impossible, and you will never have a relationship with your biological father, at some point, you will have to accept this. It is not always possible to make the natural connection that would have been there. It is not your fault; but it’s time to get past it and move on. To suffer with it if there is no solution, is not beneficial to you or anyone.
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. There are at least five places in the Bible, the phrase ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ – Deuteronomy 31:6; Deuteronomy 31:8; Joshua 1:5; 1 Kings 8:57; Hebrews 13:5. Our Father in Heaven wanted us to be sure to read it! He promises always to embrace you, love you, guide you, help you and save you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Never. He is the Ultimate Parent; and He’s yours, forever.
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.” I will add: A father’s protection is needed in childhood as is our lifetime need for Our Heavenly Father’s protection. I pray for all children that they will have both.
© Marie Coppola, Revised 2014; some rights reserved.