Fatherhood Matters: Resources That Encourage Dads to Stay Involved With Their Kids

It’s Father’s Day this weekend, so we’ve rounded up a few resources you can use (all year long) to emphasize the importance of fatherhood.

Research

Studies show that children and families benefit in many ways when fathers are involved: kids do better in school and have improved relationships with peers, and parents feel less stress when they work together to raise the kids. And the impact starts on Day 1: Changes in brain chemistry occur in both dads and their newborns when they interact.

Child Trends, a research organization that focuses on children and families, lists five reasons fathers matter, including these benefits of being actively involved in kids’ lives:

“Fathers make important contributions to their kids’ development – and do so in ways that are different from mothers’ contributions. Fathers are more likely to use advanced language around young kids, which promotes vocabulary development. Fathers also tend to prioritize rough-and-tumble play, letting kids explore, and playing more than caretaking, which establish independence and positive social skills. Positive father engagement has been linked to better outcomes on measures of child well-being, such as cognitive development, educational achievement, self-esteem, and pro-social behavior.”

In a new video (at right), Project ABC in Los Angeles uses dads to replicate the famous Still Face Experiment. The takeaway: Babies respond to their loving fathers as they do their mothers, looking to get their needs met, to learn from them, and best of all, to have fun together.

Home Visiting and Father Engagement

Approaches to Father Engagement and Fathers’ Experiences in Home Visiting Programs, a recent report from the Urban Institute, discusses approaches that home visiting programs use to engage fathers, the challenges they face, the strategies they use to overcome these challenges, and benefits of participating from the perspective of fathers and program staff.

Early childhood home visiting programs typically target pregnant women and mothers of young children, but some programs have begun including fathers as well. The study aimed to understand how home visiting programs engage fathers, what fathers’ experiences are in those programs, and the perceived benefits of fathers’ participation. Qualitative interviews were conducted with home visiting program administrators, staff members, and participating fathers and mothers in five programs implementing strategies to engage fathers in home visiting services.

The accompanying brief, Engaging Low-Income Fathers in Home Visiting Approaches, Challenges, and Strategies, summarizes key findings from the report.

National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse

The Clearinghouse (Fatherhood.gov) serves as a resource for responsible fatherhood information, designed to promote and encourage the appropriate involvement of fathers in the lives of their children. The Clearinghouse provides access to curricula, webinars, research products, and other resources to improve the implementation and success of their programs.

“Fresh Air” Radio Interview With Leaders of Project Fatherhood

Listen to NPR’s “Fresh Air” interview ‘Project Fatherhood’ Teaches Parenting Skills To Inner-City Dads. The show’s Dave Davies interviews Mike Cummings (“Big Mike”) and Jorja Leap, who work with men in Los Angeles — many of whom are former gang members — to help them find something that was missing from their lives as they grew up: fatherhood. Project Fatherhood is a program of the Los Angeles-based Children’s Institute, Inc. Read more here.

What-to-Expect Articles for New Dads

Toolkit for Engaging Dads

Engaging Men & Dads at WIC: A Toolkit is written for WIC programs, but there’s a ton of useful information for anyone who works with expectant parents and families with newborns.

Quotes on Fatherhood

“Responsible fathering means being present in a child’s life, actively contributing to a child’s healthy development, sharing economic responsibilities, and cooperating with a child’s mother in addressing the full range of a child’s and family’s needs.”
— President Barack Obama

“By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he’s wrong.”
— Charles Wadsworth

“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”
— Mark Twain

“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.”
— Sigmund Freud

“You will find that if you really try to be a father, your child will meet you halfway.”
— Unknown

“A man never stands as tall as when he kneels to help a child.”
— Unknown

“I talk and talk and talk, and I haven’t taught people in 50 years what my father taught by example in one week.”
— Mario Cuomo

“It is much easier to become a father than to be one.”
— Kent Nerburn

“I have found the very best way to advise your children is to find out what they want to do and advise them to do it.”
— President Harry Truman

“Sometimes the poorest man leaves his children the richest inheritance.”
— Ruth E. Renkel

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”
— Umberto Eco

“The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”
— Theodore Hesburgh

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