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Who Needs Dad? The following 718-word article is available for publication in print or online. There is no cost to use the article, but full credit must be included as it appears at the end of the article. Please let us know in advance of your intent to use the article, and when; then a hot link or two copies of the article must be sent to us after publication.
Who Needs Dad?by Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC
As we celebrate Father’s Day this year, it’s important to remember that in the U.S. the number of single parent homes is growing, now up to 51 percent. That means the majority of children are growing up with one primary care-taker, often the woman. Needless to say, I’m concerned. Many of those homes have no father, leaving limited resources for the mother to draw upon. In fact, the father may not want to raise the child, may not have completed high school, or may be too immature to be invested in anyone’s life but his own. The rise of single mothers has nothing to do with sex, love, or being a victim. This has to do with an “attitude” that women can raise healthy children without a dad.
As a woman, I embrace the fact that I can be gentle, warm, firm, and independent. I embrace the fact that I can be knowledgeable, capable, and a primary breadwinner. However, I cannot embrace the myth that I can be both a mom and dad to my child. Nor can I embrace the myth that my child doesn’t need a dad. Every child deserves a dad. We tell ourselves all kinds of things when we feel guilty or defensive about something we have done. One of the current myths our society is telling us is that if you don’t find a good man to marry and start a family with, you can do it on your own. We are women, after all, and we can do everything and anything. Wrong, ladies! We can’t be a father.
Why does your child need a father? Here are a few reasons:
• Fathers are engaged with their children and demonstrate love to them. They do the little things with them, and children begin to see that they matter not only to mom, but to dad. Kids that grow up with this understanding have healthier self-esteem and are better at bonding with males.
• Having a father makes children feel protected and safe. Anxiety disorders are on the rise. This is partly due to kids growing up confused about where their dad is, who their mom or dad are dating, and not feeling like their “real dad” is engaged in their life. Dad’s presence is very important in demonstrating security.
• Fathers play with their kids. Kids learn that the person who plays with them can also be firm when need be. Dads enjoy play (rough play especially) more than moms. Kids not only love this, they need it. • Kids grow up feeling more valued in families where a father is engaged in their lives.
• Fathers who are involved with their children help prevent teen pregnancy. A daughter doesn’t need to act out to get male attention. She has it from her father and has nothing to prove to herself or others.
• Kids who grow up with attentive fathers are less likely to commit suicide.
• A father’s presence offers another source of advice or comfort for his children. The perspectives of men are different from women’s, and kids need to hear both from someone who is invested in their wellbeing.
• Kids who grow up with a father engaged in their lives do better academically.
• When a child has a father, moms are less stressed.
• A loving father shows the children what respect and love for a woman looks like. Children watch more than they listen. They learn by their models.
Sometimes children end up in a family where the dad doesn’t understand the importance of his role. Moms may react out of hurt and pain and limit the child’s exposure to dad. In cases where there is abuse or addiction, this may be a wise choice. However, it’s always important to remind your child of the good things about their dad. If you can’t remember any, then it’s always best not to say anything. Your child will figure it out. I listen to kids every day. I hear their dreams and wishes. Most kids love their father, and most kids want him in their lives. If your child has a dad who isn’t really a “father,” make sure you expose them to a positive male role model. Fathers are too important in your child’s life to disregard.
Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at www.StartTalkingBook.com and more about Rapini at www.maryjorapini.com.
Start Talking features succinct yet lively answers, sample conversations, and real life stories to help open the door to better mother/daughter communication. Rapini and Sherman have compiled more than 113 questions girls (and their moms) routinely ask – or should be asking – about health, sex, body image, and dating.