In her many years as a practicing pediatrician, Dr. Meg Meeker has discovered three things that children say they want most from their dads – and it’s a list that might surprise you!
In this blog by Dr. Meeker, she reveals some of what she’s learned from talking to children over the years about their relationship with Dad, and just how much these three seemingly insignificant behaviors can impact a child’s life.
1. Children Need Your Company
Dr. Meeker has found that this is more important than all the nice clothes, newest smartphones and bigger houses combined. This is because “children are fundamentally self-centered and being with you makes them feel valuable,” she writes.
When you’re with your child, either while doing chores around the house or running errands, they are watching how you respond to them.
“If they see that you enjoy their company they feel more respectable and more self-confident. Nicer clothes, playing soccer better or living in a bigger home can’t give them self-confidence like spending time with you can.”
2. Children Need You to Safeguard Them
“Children who live with their fathers are at lower risk for drinking, being sexually active, depressed or getting into trouble at school. The flip side is this: living with you helps your children get better grades, have a higher self esteem, be happier and be less anxious to name a few.”
In other words, “you are great for you kids!”
3. They Need You to Make Them Feel Safe
Number three is an extension of number two and one that applies even to teenaged children. They need to feel safe, and when they see their father protect them, “they believe that they are worth protecting,” Dr. Meeker writes.
“When a daughter hears her father tell a guy who wants to date her ‘no’, she feels good about herself. (On the surface, she will appear furious, but down deep, she feels loved.) In fact, having a father present decreases a girl’s chances of getting taken into sex trafficking because girls feel safe (and in fact are safer) when their fathers are around.”
Although this is just a short list, it’s enough to make one thing abundantly clear – children need their fathers, and not just to make sure they get better grades and stay out of trouble.
“They need something far more serious. They need life. You not only give them life, but throughout their childhood, you also save them over and over. You keep them away from the bad stuff, help them stay on the high road and yes, there are times when you literally save their lives by simply being their dads.”
The best thing we can do for the fathers in our lives today is remind them of how important they really are. This is especially important in today’s culture which too often diminishes the need for men in the life of a child.
“Don’t believe them. You are your child’s one and only father,” Dr. Meeker says. “And the two who know the significance of this most clearly are you and your child.”
But what about those whose fathers were absent, either physically or emotionally. For whatever reason, they were left without a father who accompanied us through life and helped them to feel safe.
What about them?
This is where the role of religion plays such a vital role in the life of a child. We all have a perfect Father in heaven who provides the exact same needs for us spiritually, and knowing this nurturing and protective Lord has been shown to have a dramatic impact on our lives regardless of our family situation.
For example, the regular practice of religion has been shown to contribute substantially to the formation of personal moral criteria and sound judgement. It inoculates individuals against a host of social problems, including suicide, drug abuse, out-of-wedlock births, crime and divorce. The regular practice of religion also impacts positively on our mental health resulting in less depression and more self-esteem.
In other words, we have a Father in heaven who can fill this void by supplying us with the spiritual equivalent of our needs: 1) by virtue or our Baptism, He resides within us by grace and is always present to us; 2) through the gift of the Holy Spirit and the proper formation of our conscience, our Father guides us away from evil and toward the good, and; 3) Scripture is full of reassurances from God that He is our protector, our rock, even our hiding place!
And so, on this Father’s Day, let’s celebrate all of the fathers in our lives – our physical fathers and our heavenly Father who is never so happy than when we call upon Him with His favorite title – Abba!
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