I don’t think every dad knows just how important he is to his children. Many do, but I don’t feel confident about saying most. I’m not thinking of financial importance, which is critical. I’m not even thinking about how a father protects his children, which is crucial! These are the areas that, unfortunately, many people think of when we talk of a dad’s importance in a home. There is another matter in which dads are fundamentally necessary to the health and growth of their children--emotional well-being!
A kid’s emotional well-being concerns their stress level, the emotion of happiness, self-satisfaction, and anxiety level. If any of these criteria are at risk, the child will suffer not only emotionally, but their physical health could deteriorate.
Children with good emotional health:
Do well in school, at home, and in other social situations
Feel good about themselves, and don't suffer from self-esteem issues
Believe that they are valued and belong
Are able to accept changes better and just go with the flow
Have fun and enjoy others
Have less stress, and are better equipped to deal with stress
Feel contentment with their lives
So how do we as dads contribute to our children’s emotional well-being?
Naturally, parents have the most influence and are the most responsible for all aspects of their children’s lives. We teach them whether we do so intentionally or not, whether we are good or bad examples. "Do as I say and not as I do," never works as a value system or mentoring technique, therefore, be sure to be a good example and a knowledgeable teacher.
8 ways you can support your child’s emotional well-being:
Be careful with your criticisms and honest in your praise.
Most important is your interest in them. A child ignored by his or her parents can feel defeated and lose their self-worth, then react to that feeling by becoming more aggressive or more reclusive. Be sure to listen intently when you know what your children are saying is important to them. Aggressively attend their parent-teacher conferences, coach their sports if possible, and give them flowers after their dance recitals.
Teaching your children values to live by will give them the confidence to make decisions in their lives, especially when they must act on their own. This will become very important with the peer pressure that will undoubtedly challenge them. Being in control is a vital component of a child’s emotional well-being.
Teaching your children kindness will allow others to like them and teaching them strengthwill allow them to ignore those that don’t. How do you teach these lessons? By being kind and showing strength yourself.
Good parents pay attention to character in their children. Their moral and ethical actions and reactions to everyday events are key indicators of their emotional well-being. Kids have good character when they respect others, are responsible for their actions, and show humility. When you see integrity in your children, it’s a very good sign that you have been a great parent (or very lucky). If you don’t, their lack of character likely didn’t come about overnight, and it won’t be corrected overnight.
Dads are male role models for their sons and examples of male respect towards females. Boys need to prove themselves to someone male. If not their father, then who? When fatherless boys band together, you can be assured it is a recipe for trouble. They tend to want to prove their manhood to each other in all the wrong ways.
Girls need male approval. Reassurance from their mother of their self-worth is not enough. They need the feeling of being valued by a male. Again, their father is in the best position to do this honestly. Without this, the girl will look for male approval in the wrong places and from individuals who may not have their best interests in mind.
Dads actively parenting in homes helps our society. Look at various neighborhoods, comparing single versus two parent home statistics, then compare them to the crime statistics in the same neighborhoods. You will see what I mean.
The Bottom Line
Many dads are aware of their fiscal and protection responsibilities much more than their nurturing responsibilities. Society is advanced by every good dad who attends to the emotional well-being of his children, working of course with their mother. Today’s children are the leaders and parents of tomorrow. When we teach them well and they're able to thrive, they will do the same with their children, and if the trend continues with each generation, watch the social issues of our country dissolve into a mere distraction.
--- For more great insights and tips be sure to subscribe to our Good Dads Podcast, and check out this Winning at Home episode where Good Dads Founder and Executive Director, Dr. Jennifer Baker, and special guest, Dr. Matt Biller, talk about how you can help your child learn to process the world around them in a way that will help guard them against debilitating anxiety.
--- Editor's Note: This article was adapted slightly from the original version written by Michael Smith for Good Dads in November 2015, entitled "The Whisper of Fatherhood".
Michael Smith, the author of The Power of Dadhood: How to Become the Father Your Child Need, is the father of three adult children and grandfather of four. He is a retired US Air Force officer and resides with his wife in St. Louis, MO. Michael can be reached for question or comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.