Kids need their dads. This seems obvious, but as recently as 10 years ago, cultural norms in America meant that moms stayed home and nurtured while dads went out and provided for the family. More recently, however, there’s been a shift in the traditional “family dynamic.” There is more of a male presence at home (especially following the recession of 2008) and more groups are lobbying for paternity leave after a baby is born. Studies of the impact a father has on his children have come to the same conclusion: It’s important that dads stay involved.
Being Involved From the Beginning Makes Dads More Present Later
There was a time when most dads opted to stay out of the delivery room when their babies were born. Going to prenatal appointments with soon-to-be moms was almost unheard of. Today, most dads are present for their child’s birth and join in prenatal appointments. Not only does this often improve the relationship of both parents, but we’re seeing a significant correlation between the way in which a father is involved in prenatal care and the amount of time dads spend with their kids later. Basically, if you’re present from the beginning, chances are you’ll be more involved with your kids as they grow.
Dads and Moms Teach Different Things
Dads approach children with a different set of experiences than moms, and both parents are vital to teaching kids valuable lessons as they mature. For example, research shows that when dads are involved with infants, they tend to teach them different words than when mom alone is involved. This is because moms tend to tailor conversation to their child’s known vocabulary while fathers are more likely to introduce new words. This often speeds up speech progression. During playtime, moms tend to provide balance and safety while with dads it tends to be a little more rough-and-tumble. Believe it or not, this is important for a child’s development. High-intensity play provided by fathers teaches kids to explore their boundaries and become more independent.
You’re Good for Their Mental Wellbeing
It’s increasingly evident that having a father in a child’s life is usually positive, especially during adolescence. Studies have shown boys and girls suffer a lower risk of depression and reduced behavioral problems when fathers are active and involved. Cognitive and psychological development is also increased when a father is present, research shows. Early involvement of dads with daughters also leads to a decreased likelihood of early puberty, early sexual experience and teen pregnancy, in addition to other risky behaviors such as smoking or drug involvement.
This brings me back to my point at the beginning: Dads are important in their children’s lives. Go to those prenatal appointments, get down on the floor and play with your kids, teach them new things. Your kids need you!
Dr. Hunaid Gurji is a pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Fort Bend Medical and Diagnostic Center. In addition to his medical degree, he has a doctorate in philosophy. Dr. Gurji’s clinical interests include high-risk patients and those with cardiopulmonary issues.