How to be the Father Kids Need
American fatherhood has evolved considerably in the last 50 years. While dads used to be kept out of the delivery room, today, more than 90 percent of new fathers are present for their children’s birth, reflected in MenCare Advocacy’s State of the Worlds’ Fathers. However, being there early on does not necessarily define the scope of future involvement. Overcoming obstacles that might keep men from being the “high-five” dads they and their family need them to be is key.
Involved fathers benefit children. Most research on child development has focused on how mothers influence their children, but in recent decades, society has “discovered” fathers. In many studies, pioneering Psychologist Ross Parke, Ph.D., professor emeritus of University of California, Riverside, and others have conclusively shown that children of more-involved dads are better at solving puzzles, score higher on cognitive skills tests, do better in school, are more likely to go to college, are more empathetic, manage their emotions better, have fewer behavior problems, are less likely to suffer from depression or mental illness and are less likely to break laws or become teen parents.
Fathering tip: Never miss an opportunity to change a diaper, play with the kids, read stories together or simply ask them about their day.
Equal workplace policies matter. The U.S. is the only economically advanced country that has no nationally mandated paid maternity leave policy and is absent a national paternity leave policy, paid or unpaid. When men don’t get time off to learn basic parenting skills, it’s harder for them to stay engaged later.