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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When things feel hard or the world feels big, children will be looking to their important adults for signs of safety. They will be asking, ‘Do you think I'm safe?' 'Do you think I can do this?' With everything in us, we have to send the message, ‘Yes! Yes love, this is hard and you are safe. You can do hard things.'

Even if we believe they are up to the challenge, it can be difficult to communicate this with absolute confidence. We love them, and when they're distressed, we're going to feel it. Inadvertently, we can align with their fear and send signals of danger, especially through nonverbals. 

What they need is for us to align with their 'brave' - that part of them that wants to do hard things and has the courage to do them. It might be small but it will be there. Like a muscle, courage strengthens with use - little by little, but the potential is always there.

First, let them feel you inside their world, not outside of it. This lets their anxious brain know that support is here - that you see what they see and you get it. This happens through validation. It doesn't mean you agree. It means that you see what they see, and feel what they feel. Meet the intensity of their emotion, so they can feel you with them. It can come off as insincere if your nonverbals are overly calm in the face of their distress. (Think a zen-like low, monotone voice and neutral face - both can be read as threat by an anxious brain). Try:

'This is big for you isn't it!' 
'It's awful having to do things you haven't done before. What you are feeling makes so much sense. I'd feel the same!

Once they really feel you there with them, then they can trust what comes next, which is your felt belief that they will be safe, and that they can do hard things. 

Even if things don't go to plan, you know they will cope. This can be hard, especially because it is so easy to 'catch' their anxiety. When it feels like anxiety is drawing you both in, take a moment, breathe, and ask, 'Do I believe in them, or their anxiety?' Let your answer guide you, because you know your young one was built for big, beautiful things. It's in them. Anxiety is part of their move towards brave, not the end of it.
Sometimes we all just need space to talk to someone who will listen without giving advice, or problem solving, or lecturing. Someone who will let us talk, and who can handle our experiences and words and feelings without having to smooth out the wrinkles or tidy the frayed edges. 

Our kids need this too, but as their important adults, it can be hard to hush without needing to fix things, or gather up their experience and bundle it into a learning that will grow them. We do this because we love them, but it can also mean that they choose not to let us in for the wrong reasons. 

We can’t help them if we don’t know what’s happening in their world, and entry will be on their terms - even more as they get older. As they grow, they won’t trust us with the big things if we don’t give them the opportunity to learn that we can handle the little things (which might feel seismic to them). They won’t let us in to their world unless we make it safe for them to.

When my own kids were small, we had a rule that when I picked them up from school they could tell me anything, and when we drove into the driveway, the conversation would be finished if they wanted it to be. They only put this rule into play a few times, but it was enough for them to learn that it was safe to talk about anything, and for me to hear what was happening in that part of their world that happened without me. My gosh though, there were times that the end of the conversation would be jarring and breathtaking and so unfinished for me, but every time they would come back when they were ready and we would finish the chat. As it turned out, I had to trust them as much as I wanted them to trust me. But that’s how parenting is really isn’t it.

Of course there will always be lessons in their experiences we will want to hear straight up, but we also need them to learn that we are safe to come to.  We need them to know that there isn’t anything about them or their life we can’t handle, and when the world feels hard or uncertain, it’s safe here. By building safety, we build our connection and influence. It’s just how it seems to work.♥️
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#parenting #parenthood #mindfulparenting
Words can be hard sometimes. The right words can be orbital and unconquerable and hard to grab hold of. Feelings though - they’ll always make themselves known, with or without the ‘why’. 

Kids and teens are no different to the rest of us. Their feelings can feel bigger than words - unfathomable and messy and too much to be lassoed into language. If we tap into our own experience, we can sometimes (not all the time) get an idea of what they might need. 

It’s completely understandable that new things or hard things (such as going back to school) might drive thoughts of falls and fails and missteps. When this happens, it’s not so much the hard thing or the new thing that drives avoidance, but thoughts of failing or not being good enough. The more meaningful the ‘thing’ is, the more this is likely to happen. If you can look behind the words, and through to the intention - to avoid failure more than the new or difficult experience, it can be easier to give them what they need. 

Often, ‘I can’t’ means, ‘What if I can’t?’ or, ‘Do you think I can?’, or, ‘Will you still think I’m brave, strong, and capable of I fail?’ They need to know that the outcome won’t make any difference at all to how much you adore them, and how capable and exceptional you think they are. By focusing on process, (the courage to give it a go), we clear the runway so they can feel safer to crawl, then walk, then run, then fly. 

It takes time to reach full flight in anything, but in the meantime the stumbling can make even the strongest of hearts feel vulnerable. The more we focus on process over outcome (their courage to try over the result), and who they are over what they do (their courage, tenacity, curiosity over the outcome), the safer they will feel to try new things or hard things. We know they can do hard things, and the beauty and expansion comes first in the willingness to try. 
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#parenting #mindfulparenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparent
Never in the history of forever has there been such a  lavish opportunity for a year to be better than the last. Not to be grabby, but you know what I’d love this year? Less opportunities that come in the name of ‘resilience’. I’m ready for joy, or adventure, or connection, or gratitude, or courage - anything else but resilience really. Opportunities for resilience have a place, but 2020 has been relentless with its servings, and it’s time for an out breath. Here’s hoping 2021 will be a year that wraps its loving arms around us. I’m ready for that. x
The holidays are a wonderland of everything that can lead to hyped up, exhausted, cranky, excited, happy kids (and adults). Sometimes they’ll cycle through all of these within ten minutes. Sugar will constantly pry their little mouths wide open and jump inside, routines will laugh at you from a distance, there will be gatherings and parties, and everything will feel a little bit different to usual. And a bit like magic. 

Know that whatever happens, it’s all part of what the holidays are meant to look like. They aren’t meant to be pristine and orderly and exactly as planned. They were never meant to be that. Christmas is about people, your favourite ones, not tasks. If focusing on the people means some of the tasks fall down, let that be okay, because that’s what Christmas is. It’s about you and your people. It’s not about proving your parenting stamina, or that you’ve raised perfectly well-behaved humans, or that your family can polish up like the catalog ones any day of the week, or that you can create restaurant quality meals and decorate the table like you were born doing it. Christmas is messy and ridiculous and exhausting and there will be plenty of frayed edges. And plenty of magic. The magic will happen the way it always happens. Not with the decorations or the trimmings or the food or the polish, but by being with the ones you love, and the ones who love you right back.

When it all starts to feel too important, too necessary and too ‘un-let-go-able’, be guided by the bigger truth, which is that more than anything, you will all remember how you all felt – as in how happy they felt, how loved they felt were, how noticed they felt. They won’t care about the instagram-worthy meals on the table, the cleanliness of the floors, how many relatives they visited, or how impressed other grown-ups were with their clean faces and darling smiles. It’s easy to forget sometimes, that what matters most at Christmas isn’t the tasks, but the people – the ones who would give up pretty much anything just to have the day with you.

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