While there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach for fathers to follow, there is little doubt on the importance of being a hands-on father in all aspects of raising a child.
After all, fathers play an equally crucial role as mothers in shaping the development of their child’s socialemotional, cognitive, language, and motor skills. Studies have shown that fathers who play an active role both early and often in their child’s life, help to enhance their child’s development.
As a father and husband, there are many aspects to be involved with, beginning from the news that your spouse is pregnant and lasting for the rest of your life. Just like any other relationship, the value of your involvement lies in the quality of your interaction rather than the amount of time spent. For instance there is little value in spending time with your child if you are sitting beside him while playing with your electronic gadgets, thus ignoring him.
By investing time in your child, you will help ensure that he grows up to be a more emotionally secure and confident child, who will also be less likely to get into trouble, be it at home or in school.
From the start
As a father, you should not shy away from handling your newborn or infant. By providing your baby with high levels of affection (you can do this by playing and responding to his cries), he will quickly form a strong attachment to you. In fact, it is best to start interacting with him even during pregnancy – you can talk, sing, or even ‘play’ with him by touching your spouse’s belly, in the later stages of pregnancy.
Fatherhood and academic development
Several studies seem to support the idea that children whose fathers are more involved in their upbringing do better in school. The same study also suggested that time spent playing with children during their infancy can lead to kids with higher IQs and better linguistic and cognitive abilities.
Upon entering school, these children are more receptive to lessons, more patient, and better equipped to handle the stresses and frustrations of schooling, when compared with children whose fathers were less involved.
You should also be aware that the benefits to your child’s academic achievements and, his social and emotional development are not limited to toddlers or young children but extends into his adolescence and adulthood.
Steps you should take
So what should you be doing? There are several important aspects that you need to be aware of, namely:
- Keep a positive relationship with your spouse – how you treat her sets an example to your child, so be sure that you show her respect and love. Children who grow up in an environment where they watch their mother being mistreated or abused are more likely to treat their own spouses the same way, when they are adults. They also suffer from a higher risk of depression and may be more aggressive. In terms of health, the stress created by parental conflict may suppress their immune system, thus leading to health problems.
- Spend quality time with your child – this allows you to bond with your child and get to know each other better, thus giving you a better grasp of his emotional state. You play a unique role in his development but this is best done with active and physical activities, such as playing badminton or football instead of passive activities like watching TV together. This will greatly help with his emotional well-being, social development, and physical fitness.
- Teamwork fosters closer ties – when it comes to household chores, try doing them together with your child. This allows you to spend some quality time with him while instilling him with a sense of responsibility
- Encourage your child’s intellectual growth – make the effort to stimulate his mind by reading to him, meeting with his teachers, or any other activity that focuses on his academics/intellectual ability.
Don’t be afraid to show that you care
No matter how busy you are, make it a point to set some time aside for your child – most children see the time you spend with them, as an indicator of your love for them. There is nothing wrong with showering your child with care and attention, particularly with newborns or babies. As a father, you should be responsive to a baby’s cry.
Take every opportunity to bond with your baby by holding or hugging him as often as you can. Don’t leave all the basic care such as feeding or changing diapers to mum – step in to do your part as often as you can. Your nurturing may not be as openly expressive as mum’s, but it is just as important. After all, the parenting ‘workload’ should be shared between both parents.
An educational collaboration with Malaysian Psychiatric Association.