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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‘Brave’ doesn’t always feel like certain, or strong, or ready. In fact, it rarely does. That what makes it brave.♥️
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#parenting #mindfulparenting #parentingtips
We teach our kids to respect adults and other children, and they should – respect is an important part of growing up to be a pretty great human. There’s something else though that’s even more important – teaching them to respect themselves first. 

We can’t stop difficult people coming into their lives. They might be teachers, coaches, peers, and eventually, colleagues, or perhaps people connected to the people who love them. What we can do though is give our kids independence of mind and permission to recognise that person and their behaviour as unacceptable to them. We can teach our kids that being kind and respectful doesn’t necessarily mean accepting someone’s behaviour, beliefs or influence. 

The kindness and respect we teach our children to show to others should never be used against them by those broken others who might do harm. We have to recognise as adults that the words and attitudes directed to our children can be just as damaging as anything physical. 

If the behaviour is from an adult, it’s up to us to guard our child’s safe space in the world even harder. That might be by withdrawing support for the adult, using our own voice with the adult to elevate our child’s, asking our child what they need and how we can help, helping them find their voice, withdrawing them from the environment. 

Of course there will be times our children do or say things that aren’t okay, but this never makes it okay for any adult in your child’s life to treat them in a way that leads them to feeling ‘less than’.

Sometimes the difficult person will be a peer. There is no ‘one certain way’ to deal with this. Sometimes it will involve mediation, role playing responses, clarifying the other child’s behaviour, asking for support from other adults in the environment, or letting go of the friendship.

Learning that it’s okay to let go of relationships is such an important part of full living. Too often we hold on to people who don’t deserve us. Not everyone who comes into our lives is meant to stay and if we can help our children start to think about this when they’re young, they’ll be so much more empowered and deliberate in their relationships when they’re older.♥️
When we are angry, there will always be another emotion underneath it. It is this way for all of us. 

Anger itself is a valid emotion so it’s important not to dismiss it. Emotion is e-motion - energy in motion. It has to find a way out, which is why telling an angry child to calm down or to keep their bodies still will only make things worse for them. They might comply, but their bodies will still be in a state of distress. 

Often, beneath an angry child is an anxious one needing our help. It’s the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. As with all emotions, anger has a job to do - to help us to safety through movement, or to recruit support, or to give us the physical resources to meet a need or to change something that needs changing. It doesn’t mean it does the job well, because an angry brain means the feeling brain has the baton, while the thinking brain sits out for a while. What it means is that there is a valid need there and this young person is doing their very best to meet it, given their available resources in the moment or their developmental stage. 

Children need the same thing we all need when we’re feeling fierce - to be seen,  heard, and supported; to find a way to get the energy out, either with words or movement. Not to be shut down or ‘fixed’. 

Our job isn’t to stop their anger, but to help them find ways to feel it and express it in ways that don’t do damage. This will take lots of experience, and lots of time - and that’s okay.♥️
The SCCR Online Conference 2021 is a wonderful initiative by @sccrcentre (Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution) which will explore ’The Power of Reconnection’. I’ve been working with SCCR for many years. They do incredible work to build relationships between young people and the important adults around them, and I’m excited to be working with them again as part of this conference.

More than ever, relationships matter. They heal, provide a buffer against stress, and make the world feel a little softer and safer for our young people. Building meaningful connections can take time, and even the strongest relationships can feel the effects of disconnection from time to time. As part of this free webinar, I’ll be talking about the power of attachment relationships, and ways to build relationships with the children and teens in your life that protect, strengthen, and heal. 

The workshop will be on Monday 11 October at 7pm Brisbane, Australia time (10am Scotland time). The link to register is in my story.
There are many things that can send a nervous system into distress. These can include physiological (tired, hungry, unwell), sensory overload/ underload, real or perceived threat (anxiety), stressed resources (having to share, pay attention, learn new things, putting a lid on what they really think or want - the things that can send any of us to the end of ourselves).

Most of the time it’s developmental - the grown up brain is being built and still has a way to go. Like all beautiful, strong, important things, brains take time to build. The part of the brain that has a heavy hand in regulation launches into its big developmental window when kids are about 6 years old. It won’t be fully done developing until mid-late 20s. This is a great thing - it means we have a wide window of influence, and there is no hurry.

Like any building work, on the way to completion things will get messy sometimes - and that’s okay. It’s not a reflection of your young one and it’s not a reflection of your parenting. It’s a reflection of a brain in the midst of a build. It’s wondrous and fascinating and frustrating and maddening - it’s all the things.

The messy times are part of their development, not glitches in it. They are how it’s meant to be. They are important opportunities for us to influence their growth. It’s just how it happens. We have to be careful not to judge our children or ourselves because of these messy times, or let the judgement of others fill the space where love, curiosity, and gentle guidance should be. For sure, some days this will be easy, and some days it will feel harder - like splitting an atom with an axe kind of hard.

Their growth will always be best nurtured in the calm, loving space beside us. It won’t happen through punishment, ever. Consequences have a place if they make sense and are delivered in a way that doesn’t shame or separate them from us, either physically or emotionally. The best ‘consequence’ is the conversation with you in a space that is held by your warm loving strong presence, in a way that makes it safe for both of you to be curious, explore options, and understand what happened.♥️
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#mindfulparenting #positiveparenting #parenting

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