Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad. Given the stress we face in Singapore’s society, active parenting is quite the challenge for fathers.
Research from Michigan State University found that children with fathers who play an active role in their lives form stronger cognitive, psychological, socio-emotional, and academic skills faster than those whose fathers are absent.
In a closed-door dialogue chaired by Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, Singaporean fathers shared that they indeed struggle on how to be present in their children’s lives without outsourcing their fatherly duties.
A father’s tension towards active parenting
We’re at crossroads in terms of how we view fathers. While fathers do want to be more active at home, the workplace hasn’t really adapted to it. And that there the tension is for men. They are torn between needing and wanting to care, and also needing to still provide.
Why do fathers find it difficult to build a strong relationship with their child?
Given the time spent away from home or used to focus on the many hats fathers wear in life, consistent and quality bonding time with children can be hard to achieve, especially with school-going children. Also, work and other responsibilities can often leave the father too tired by the time he gets home to spend quality time with his children. There are also other distractions, such as work that is brought home from the oﬃce, personal pursuits and time needed with other family members.
When children feel that their fathers are not emotionally available, they tend to be less open and honest with them. The child may grow up feeling uncomfortable talking to their father. Poor communication also puts a strain on the father-child relationship.
While easier said than done, it is important for fathers to be mindful about making an eﬀort to set aside time to spend with their children whenever possible.
Fathers may be unknowingly distancing themselves from their child.
Fatherhood is one role in life that is often greeted with as much excitement as trepidation. Often, new fathers are inadequately prepared for the responsibilities and substantial number of sacrifices that comes with it.
Some of the ways in which fathers unknowingly distance themselves from their child include:
- Not prioritising quality time with their child
- Missing important milestones in a child’s life (birthdays, school events, etc.)
- Being highly critically and have unrealistic standards for their child
- Not being attentive to their child’s emotional and physical needs
- Being over-authoritative and controlling
- Showing explicit disinterest or disapproval towards their child’s interests that are not in line with their own
As one of the most important figures in a child’s life, it is important for fathers to be mindful of the above. Children may feel neglected and undervalued when repeatedly exposed to behaviours as such.
Here’s how fathers can strengthen their relationship with their child.
No one is born a great father. We learn to be better ones.
For the multitude of roles that fathers often have to juggle with, it will be helpful to work on principles that are simple and easily remembered when it comes to active parenting and engaging their children.
The key is to strengthening father-child relationship is to keep communication channels with your children open at all times and always look out for opportunities to enhance them.
Some basic yet eﬀective ways fathers can strengthen their relationship with their children include:
- Allocating and prioritising quality time with your child on a regular basis. (e.g. once a week to better understand them and their needs more)
- Always making your children feel significant and validated, through your actions, so that they know that they are important to you.
- Being active and supportive in your child’s interests and endeavors.
- Learning to be trustworthy, non-judgmental and open, so that they feel comfortable approaching you.
Share this with a fellow Dad who might find this useful. :) Thank you Dr Marcus Tan for sharing your insight on this.
I wish all Fathers out there, Happy Father’s Day! You’re our superheros!