The bond between Dads and children is a very important one. Often Dads feel they get overlooked, or feel they are seen as taking the ‘back-seat’ with Moms taking responsibility for everything from childcare needs through to housekeeping.
Every family dynamic is different and parenthood is tricky. Moms might find themselves wondering why Dad isn’t bonding well with their little one, but they may be seeing the bond between Dad and child the wrong way. In fact, Mums might even be able to learn from it.
In fact, Dads are spending increasing amounts of time with their family. CANParent recently announced that on average, between 1975 and 1997, there was an 800% increase in the amount of time Dads spend with their children. CANParent is a free universal parenting program for all parents/ carers – with online resources and group sessions — which helps parents understand how children grow, develop and learn between 0-6 years old.
Here are four ways families can help nurture the bond between children and their Dads.
1. When They First Arrive: Loving the Little Stranger
For many mothers the parent-child bond comes in-utero. Nine months of pregnancy, then delivery and nursing often make for a physical and emotional bond from the outset. Dads can feel a bit left out in those early days and may struggle a bit to find a connection with their little one. It’s normal for fathers not to feel as connected in those first few months.
Canada’s paid parental leave benefits average about 35 weeks which allows more room for Dads to take a leave without cutting in on Mom’s time at home. This can be key to supporting those first bonding moments between Dads and the new little one in their lives. It’s important that Dads don’t feel as if they miss out on those first connections.
2. Messing About is Serious Business
The early years are prime for father-child bonding. The early school years are great for horsing around, shoulder rides, and rough and tumble play. While there are plenty of dads who like quiet activities with their children, many families love the fun play that ‘Daddy’ can do. This kind of silliness is an important part of bonding and growing during those formative years as well.
And if it looks like Dad is having all the fun, it may be because he is.
The parent-experience that Dad’s have can be different to that of a Mother’s. Many Moms see the relationship between Dad and children as all fun and games. Obviously, not all time spent with children can be playtime, but men and women alike could find solace in the fact that parenting can be associated with greater feelings of happiness.
Lisa Bosomworth, from CANParent says, “The level of a fathers’ involvement makes a huge difference to the wellbeing of their children. Research shows that when both parents work as a team to raise their children, homes are calmer, mothers feel more supported and children are more like to do better in life and cope with whatever comes their way!”
3. Every Family is Different
Of course families don’t all look the same. Families where the father is the primary caregiver, blended or divorced families, single parents and same-sex parents are all growing parts of the populations. Every family is unique and every parent-child bond is different, but fostering a bond, particularly between the children and the parent who isn’t the primary caregiver is incredibly important to everyone involved.
Allowing the child to have a relationship with both parents and having them work hard at not making the child take sides is essential to their well-being. As for families of same-sex couples or families where the father is the primary caregiver, recognize the strength that each parent brings to the family and carve out special time with your children to foster those bonds and grow them.
4. Parenthood Is Tricky
As children grow, those close knit bonds that fathers have in the early years can be tested. Teens may no longer think that Dad is cool and messing around or reading together may seem babyish. Fathers can often retreat and that bond can feel strained at times, but it is important to be the grown up and keep at it.
Being present is a big part of parenting for all ages. Shouting at them to put the phone down and talk to you may not always yield the results you want. If your child always seems to be texting, be funny in your messages to him or her even if it’s about something mundane.
Parenthood is really a time to stretch yourself as a person and try and be your best self. There is always a way to get back into a child’s life no matter what the age. It’s all about being there for an activity, being approachable and willing to talk. It takes effort but being there does help these bonds.