The Power of Dads

The Power of Dads

Fathers are significant influencers in the lives of their children and fortunately, the days of detached fathering are a thing of the past. Dads are more involved than ever in all aspects of childrearing. Research has found that men who are fathers are actually happier than their childless peers.

Not only do dads benefit from getting involved, but there are huge benefits for children, too. The latest research points to several areas where dads have an especially profound effect on their daughters’ health and wellbeing.

The power of dads.

Dealing with stress

Research has found that the perceived quality of the relationship between father and daughter may influence the daughter’s ability to manage stress because lower baseline cortisol levels were detected when there was a warm relationship, and higher cortisol levels were detected when there was a strain on the relationship. Cortisol is often referred to as the “stress hormone” and is responsible for regulating changes that occur in the body in response to stress. Thus, the daughters with the lower cortisol levels tended to have lower reactivity to developmentally appropriate stressors and increased coping mechanisms to deal with stressful situations. They also found that positive interactions between fathers and daughters may influence social cognition such that when discussing social problems with peers, women with warm fathers tended to be less inclined to focus on the elements of the problem that are uncontrollable or unpredictable. 

Self-esteem and body image

Fathers can set the foundation for a young woman with regard to how she views herself and her body. When fathers are present and loving, young girls learn to view themselves in a positive light. Dads who show unconditional love and support for their daughters increase the probability of a positive body image. But when a dad’s feedback focuses on his daughter’s looks and talents, there tends to be a higher incidence of negative body image. Research has also proven that daughters who feel a strong emotional connection to their fathers are also less likely to be depressed or have an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia. 

Academic performance and professional success.

Not only does a positive, warm and connected relationship to one’s father help girls and women emotionally, it can have a profound effect on their success in school and in their careers. A recent US census found that girls who had a warm relationship with their fathers were 43% more likely to earn A’s and 33% less likely than other children to repeat a grade. Women are seeking careers that are similar to those of their fathers now more than ever. A 2009 study from the University of Maryland found that 20% of women currently in their 30s are following in their fathers’ professional footsteps, compared to only 6% back in the early 1900s. The thinking behind this shift is that not only are more women in the workforce now, but also their fathers are mentoring and investing more in their daughters’ futures, as well as in their relationships with their daughters. 

Healthy relationships in adulthood with men.

One of the most significant published findings is that girls who enjoy healthy relationships with their fathers tend to have healthier, happier and longer-lasting relationships with men in adulthood. They also tended to have stronger communication skills, which promoted healthier intimate relationships with men. A study in 2010 found that the interactions with her father in a girl’s formative years could be a strong predictor of both her intimate and sexual relationships with men later. The study found that girls who did not feel emotionally close to their fathers tended to engage in more frequent sexual activity in adolescence. The reason for this may be that they are trying to fill the emotional void created by a lack of closeness and affection.

A final word.

When fathers connect on an emotional level and invest in building relationships with their daughters the increase in physical, mental and social well-being is profound. Fathers have a very important role to play in building emotionally and socially healthy children. So be sure to get dad involved in coming up with your family’s parenting plan.  He has an important role to play!  

References: 
Allgood SM, Beckert TE, Peterson C. The Role of Father Involvement in the Perceived Psychological Well-Being of Young Adult Daughters: A Retrospective Study. North American Journal of Psychology. 2012.

Byrd-Craven J, Auer BJ, Granger DA, Massey AR. The Father-Daughter Dance: The Relationship Between Father-Daughter Relationship Quality And Daughters’ Stress Response. Journal of Family Psychology. 2012.

Hartwell-Walker, M. (2015). Daughters Need Fathers, Too. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 24, 2016, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/daughters-need-fathers-too/

Lawson, J. (2012, June 12). 5 Ways Fathers Influence Their Daughters. Retrieved from http://www.ldsliving.com/5-Ways-Fathers-Influence-Their-Daughters/s/68982

Lloyd, R. (2009, March 16). Trend: Daughters Follow Dads’ Footsteps. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/3388-trend-daughters-follow-dads-footsteps.html

Scheffler TS, Naus PJ. The Relationship Between Fatherly Affirmation And A Woman’s Self-Esteem, Fear Of Intimacy, Comfort With Womanhood And Comfort With Sexuality. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality. 1999.

Scutti, S. (2013, June 12). Why The Father-Daughter Relationship Is So Important. Retrieved from http://www.medicaldaily.com/why-father-daughter-relationship-so-important-246744

This article originally appeared on The Committee For Children blog on June 17, 2016

One Comment

c

The power of “good” dads. Go guys, it can’t be that hard to want your kid to grow up not being afraid of the world and everyone in it.

And, it’s not just girls!, if you want good dads, the boys need just as much work, (if not more), or your “dad” pool starts drying up.

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Anxiety shows up to check that you’re okay, not to tell you that you’re not. It’s your brain’s way of saying, ‘Not sure - there might be some trouble here, but there might not be, but just in case you should be ready for it if it comes, which it might not – but just in case you’d better be ready to run or fight – but it might be totally fine.’ Brains can be so confusing sometimes! 

You have a brain that is strong, healthy and hardworking. It’s magnificent and it’s doing a brilliant job of doing exactly what brains are meant to do – keep you alive. 

Your brain is fabulous, but it needs you to be the boss. Here’s how. When you feel anxious, ask yourself two questions:

- ‘Do I feel like this because I’m in danger or because there’s something brave or important I need to do?’

- Then, ‘Is this a time for me to be safe (sometimes it might be) or is this a time for me to be brave?

And remember, you will always have ‘brave’ in you, and anxiety doesn’t change that a bit.♥️

#positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #parenting #childanxiety #heywarrior #heywarriorbook
The temptation to fix their big feelings can be seismic. Often this is connected to needing to ease our own discomfort at their discomfort, which is so very normal.

Big feelings in them are meant to raise (sometimes big) feelings in us. This is all a healthy part of the attachment system. It happens to mobilise us to respond to their distress, or to protect them if their distress is in response to danger.

Emotion is energy in motion. We don’t want to bury it, stop it, smother it, and we don’t need to fix it. What we need to do is make a safe passage for it to move through them. 

Think of emotion like a river. Our job is to hold the ground strong and steady at the banks so the river can move safely, without bursting the banks.

However hard that river is racing, they need to know we can be with the river (the emotion), be with them, and handle it. This might feel or look like you aren’t doing anything, but actually it’s everything.

The safety that comes from you being the strong, steady presence that can lovingly contain their big feelings will let the emotional energy move through them and bring the brain back to calm.

Eventually, when they have lots of experience of us doing this with them, they will learn to do it for themselves, but that will take time and experience. The experience happens every time you hold them steady through their feelings. 

This doesn’t mean ignoring big behaviour. For them, this can feel too much like bursting through the banks, which won’t feel safe. Sometimes you might need to recall the boundary and let them know where the edges are, while at the same time letting them see that you can handle the big of the feeling. Its about loving and leading all at once. ‘It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to use those words at me.’

Ultimately, big feelings are a call for support. Sometimes support looks like breathing and being with. Sometimes it looks like showing them you can hold the boundary, even when they feel like they’re about to burst through it. And if they’re using spicy words to get us to back off, it might look like respecting their need for space but staying in reaching distance, ‘Ok, I’m right here whenever you need.’♥️
We all need certain things to feel safe enough to put ourselves into the world. Kids with anxiety have magic in them, every one of them, but until they have a felt sense of safety, it will often stay hidden.

‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what they feel. At school, they might have the safest, most loving teacher in the safest, most loving school. This doesn’t mean they will feel enough relational safety straight away that will make it easier for them to do hard things. They can still do those hard things, but those things are going to feel bigger for a while. This is where they’ll need us and their other anchor adult to be patient, gentle, and persistent.

Children aren’t meant to feel safe with and take the lead from every adult. It’s not the adult’s role that makes the difference, but their relationship with the child.

Children are no different to us. Just because an adult tells them they’ll be okay, it doesn’t mean they’ll feel it or believe it. What they need is to be given time to actually experience the person as being safe, supportive and ready to catch them.

Relationship is key. The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains in our way. When we feel someone really caring about us, we’re more likely to open up to their influence
and learn from them.

But we have to be patient. Even for teachers with big hearts and who undertand the importance of attachment relationships, it can take time.

Any adult at school can play an important part in helping a child feel safe – as long as that adult is loving, warm, and willing to do the work to connect with that child. It might be the librarian, the counsellor, the office person, a teacher aide. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it is someone who can be available for that child at dropoff or when feelings get big during the day and do little check-ins along the way.

A teacher, or any important adult can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
There is a beautiful ‘everythingness’ in all of us. The key to living well is being able to live flexibly and more deliberately between our edges.

So often though, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ we inhale in childhood and as we grow, lead us to abandon some of those precious, needed parts of us. ‘Don’t be angry/ selfish/ shy/ rude. She’s not a maths person.’ ‘Don’t argue.’ Ugh.

Let’s make sure our children don’t cancel parts of themselves. They are everything, but not always all at once. They can be anxious and brave. Strong and soft. Angry and calm. Big and small. Generous and self-ish. Some things they will find hard, and they can do hard things. None of these are wrong ways to be. What trips us up is rigidity, and only ever responding from one side of who we can be.

We all have extremes or parts we favour. This is what makes up the beautiful, complex, individuality of us. We don’t need to change this, but the more we can open our children to the possibility in them, the more options they will have in responding to challenges, the everyday, people, and the world. 

We can do this by validating their ‘is’ without needing them to be different for a while in the moment, and also speaking to the other parts of them when we can. 

‘Yes maths is hard, and I know you can do hard things. How can I help?’

‘I can see how anxious you feel. That’s so okay. I also know you have brave in you.’

‘I love your ‘big’ and the way you make us laugh. You light up the room.’ And then at other times: ‘It can be hard being in a room with new people can’t it. It’s okay to be quiet. I could see you taking it all in.’

‘It’s okay to want space from people. Sometimes you just want your things and yourself for yourself, hey. I feel like that sometimes too. I love the way you know when you need this.’ And then at other times, ‘You looked like you loved being with your friends today. I loved watching you share.’

The are everything, but not all at once. Our job is to help them live flexibly and more deliberately between the full range of who they are and who they can be: anxious/brave; kind/self-ish; focussed inward/outward; angry/calm. This will take time, and there is no hurry.♥️

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