Did you know that dads play an important role in their child’s well-being? When a dad or father figure (like a grandpa, uncle, or stepdad) is involved in children’s lives, they perform better in school and even show stronger brain development. By supporting and being present with their family, dads can literally change a child’s future for the better.
Whether you’re a dad yourself or just interested in learning more, read on to discover how fathers can help children thrive at home and school. Plus, learn a few tips for improving parent-child relationships with dads or father figures who serve as role models in your child’s life.
The Importance of Dads in Child Development
Let’s examine just a few reasons why dads have a profound impact on their children’s well-being. When dads are involved during their child’s first few months of life, that child shows more cognitive and physical growth. These early years are crucial to a child’s future, and fathers play an important role from an early age.
Plus, children whose fathers play a more active role in their lives get better grades in school. In one study by the US Department of Education, researchers found that children with involved dads were 43% more likely to earn mostly As.
Luckily, more and more dads are realizing the positive impact they can have on their children’s lives. Compared to 1965, fathers now spend almost three times as much time with their families. And as the COVID-19 crisis increased time families spent at home, 68% of fathers report feeling closer to their children since the pandemic began.
7 Tips for Dads That Improve Family Bonding
Now that you know the importance of the role dads play in their homes, let’s discuss ways dads and father figures can strengthen relationships with their children. Although these tips were written with dads in mind, any parent or caregiver can use them to bond with their children.
Spend Time Together
Spending quality time with your child is a wonderful way to build a bond. Set aside one-on-one time every day to be present with your child and focus on an activity that they would like to do. That way, you will learn a little more about what your child enjoys and they will appreciate your uninterrupted attention.
Tell Your Child You Love Them
You love your child, of course. But how often do you tell them? Children need unconditional love, and as a parent, you can reassure them that they are loved every day.
Even if your child doesn’t seem to care or is acting out, make time to tell them that you love them. When your child knows that you love them no matter what, they’ll feel secure and supported around you.
Make Sure Your Child Feels Safe
Before children can thrive and reach their potential, they must feel safe. Make sure your child’s basic needs are met, such as food, love, and stimulation. If you need extra support, local and federal programs—such as these run by the US Department of Health and Human Services—can help you meet your child’s needs.
If you are in need of food assistance, go here for more information on free programs you may qualify for.
Build Mutual Respect
The best way to teach your child respect for others is by respecting them. Take your child’s thoughts and emotions seriously and try not to be condescending. Even though you may not be able to relate to some of your child’s concerns, take time to see things from their perspective and be sensitive to their needs, both physical and emotional.
Practice Active Listening
Giving your child your full attention and support while they talk is a powerful way to improve family bonds. As your child talks to you about things that are important to them, empathize with them and avoid harsh judgments. This will show your child that you care about their opinions and are here to help them.
Start a Bedtime Routine
Bedtime can be a great time to check in with your child. Before you both go to bed, take a few minutes to talk with your child about their day, read a picture or chapter book together, and discuss what they’re thinking about for tomorrow. By making this a routine, you can come to better understand what your child is thinking and feeling. And your child will see you are consistently present and interested in spending time together
Develop Shared Interests
You and your child can bond over a fun activity by finding a project you both enjoy. Share your passions and interests with your child, and take part in activities that they love, too.
If your child loves to bike, for example, go on a bike ride together every week. Or if you’re a big music fan, take your child to a family-friendly concert.
- Head Start Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center. Appreciating How Fathers Give Children a Head Start. https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/family-engagement/article/appreciating-how-fathers-give-children-head-start
- Rosenberg, J., and Wilcox, W.B. The Importance of Fathers in Healthy Development of Children. US Department of Health and Human Services. 2006. https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubpdfs/fatherhood.pdf
- Child and Family Research Partnership. Supporting Fathers and Strengthening Families. February 2017. childandfamilyresearch.utexas.edu/supporting-fathers-and-strengthening-families
- Weissbourd, R., Batanova, M., McIntyre, J., and Torres, E. How the Pandemic is Strengthening Fathers’ Relationships with Their Children. Harvard Graduate School of Education. June 2020. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5b7c56e255b02c683659fe43/t/5eeceba88f50eb19810153d4/1592585165850/Report+How+the+Pandemic+is+Strengthening+Fathers+Relationships+with+Their+Children+FINAL.pdf.
- Dorn, P. 8 Ways to Strengthen a Parent-Child Relationship. Family Services. July 28, 2020. https://www.familyservicesnew.org/news/8-ways-to-strengthen-a-parent-child-relationship/
- Child Mind Institute. Improving the Parent-Child Relationship. https://childmind.org/guide/parents-guide-to-problem-behavior/improving-the-parent-child-relationship/.
- Parker, W., and Forman, J. Strengthening Father-Daughter Relationships. Very Well Family. June 9, 2021. https://www.verywellfamily.com/strengthening-father-daughter-relationships-1270127.
- Race Against Abuse of Children Everywhere. Valuable Tips for Strengthening Your Father-Son Bond. June 7, 2017. https://www.raace.org/valuable-tips-for-strengthening-your-father-son-bond?journal=26
- Markham, L. Strengthen a Parent-Child Relationship Through Connection. Psychology Today. May 25, 2021. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/peaceful-parents-happy-kids/202105/strengthen-parent-child-relationship-through-connection.
- Zero to Three. Tips on Helping Your Child Build Relationships. February 21, 2010. https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/227-tips-on-helping-your-child-build-relationships