Involved Dads are Key to Preventing Childhood Trauma
An “adverse childhood experience” (ACE) is an experience or event in a child’s life that creates trauma and, accordingly, leads to a negative outcome during childhood or later in life. Many children experience multiple ACEs. One in 10 children, for example, experience three or more ACEs. These children are at especially high risk for a host of negative outcomes. One of these outcomes is toxic stress.
A vital hedge against toxic stress and other ACEs is a steady, supportive relationship with a caregiver, such as an involved, responsible, committed dad. That’s why helping dads to become the best dads possible must be part of any sane strategy to address ACEs. It can prevent parental separation in the first place and, when separation occurs, help repair the damage wrought by separation. Father absence also plays a role in economic hardship. Children in single-parent homes are more likely to live in poverty.
11 Ways To Be A More Involved Dad
- Remind yourself that you are not their gift-giving Uncle (avoid the Uncle Dad complex), not their best friend; you are the Dad. Do Dad things. Spend quiet Dad time with them. Tell Dad jokes.
- Some of the real gifts you can give your child are the simplest, say researchers at the University of Florida. Communicate. Set boundaries. Show them what a model man looks like and speaks like. Be there for them.
- Read to them — Virginia’s public libraries are free to use; let your kids pick books they like, and you pick a book you’d like to read to each; then read to them with no electronics or distractions.
- Eat together — No cell phones at the table; no tablets or toys; whether it’s a family restaurant or your own apartment kitchen table, make the meal about family.
- Listen first, then talk — Listen to all the babble, all the drama, all the ideas; children will share openly when they trust you.
- Respect their mother — Do not make your children emotionally responsible for your relationship with your wife or your ex.
- Discipline with love — Guide, teach, coax, and set reasonable limits; your time with your children is not a free-for-all, no-holds-barred circus; maintain rules and expectations.
- Teach — Balance your children’s interests with your own; if you like to fish, teach them to fish; if you like astronomy, show them the stars; teach them to tie knots, cook spaghetti, or change a bike tire.
- Write your children letters — it’s a great way to show them how important they are. Be honest, keep things simple, and avoid temptation to make the letters bright, light and trite. Avoid promises but do offer advice. Let them read how attentive you are to their changing ideas and passions.
- Have a healthy relationship to money — Children will never know what you hoped to do for them but couldn’t (because of time or money). They will only know what you did with and for them.
- Share laughs with your children. They’re free, they make great memories, and they forge lasting relationships. Need corny Dad jokes? Try pun.me.