As a psychologist, I see many dads who take pride in and also struggle with being a father. In honor of Father's Day, I have some ideas for becoming a happier, more involved father.
Fathers have always had an important role in the family, but the demands on fathers have exploded over the last generation or two. From a father's role being limited to income earner, fathers are now expected not only to provide, but also to be nurturing and supportive of their partners and children, involved in their children's school and sports, good role models, caretakers, and so on. A unique situation is created with this shift in expectations and fathers can feel a little frustrated as they juggle different roles without much training. Boys are generally taught from a very young age to be tough, competitive, and not show feelings (and definitely don't cry). What background do most men have to be good fathers? How do they learn to nurture? When you ask fathers, a majority say they did not have good role models. Almost 2/3 report that they can not use anything from how they were fathered.
I have found that most men welcome some coaching about being a dad. Here are some tips:
1) Recognize the positive benefits of being involved, not only for the kids and partner, but for you.
2) Ask for help and support from your partner.
Ask your partner to recognize your efforts of being involved. Allow yourself to ask how to do things you are not sure of. Ask to be respected when you try new things with your children. Fathers who feel supported are more involved with their kids and are more confident in their parenting.
3) See yourself as important to the next generation.
How do you want your children to think about you today and in the future? What do you want them to say about you as their father? What do you want them to learn from you? What will your legacy be? Allow your answers to guide your daily interactions with your family.
I've never heard clients say that their father tried too hard to be part of the family, and no man has expressed to me that he wished he was not close to his children. Focus on what you do well and bring your strengths and passions home for your kids, for your partner, and for yourself.
Happy Father's Day
» SEE MORE Father's Day Gifts (don't forget grandpa)
Chen Z. Oren, Ph.D., licensed psychologist and professor in the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program, Phillips Graduate Institute, Encino, California. His main area of expertise is the psychology of men. Dr. Oren is a counseling psychologist with a private practice in Westlake Village, California. He works with a men, women, and couples, and facilitates a men's group. He is an active member of APA's Division 51, the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity, and currently serves as the division treasurer. With his wife, Dora Chase Oren, Ph.D., he co-edited Counseling Fathers (Routledge), a book that bridges the gap between fathers and professional helpers. He has presented symposia and workshops at local and national conferences in the area of fathering.