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Better Counsel: Dads Matter

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Increasingly on our practice, we’ve seen more fathers involved in the referral process. Traditionally, Filipino dads will want to be more concerned with their role as “provider”, relegating the “nurturer” role to moms. In a traditionally macho society like ours, this has always been the case. However, it is very interesting and refreshing to see many dads who not only provide for their families materially but also emotionally. We salute all these dads and we encourage all dads to have a positive attitude towards becoming more emotionally supportive and available to their kids.

Interestingly, there is a growing body of research that highlights the importance of fathers in the lives of their children. Recently, Scientific American Mind’s May/June 2014 issue has a banner story that talks about how dads contribute much to their teenage children’s happiness and sense of self-worth. Additionally, the same article tells us how dads impact the sexual maturity and development of their teenage children, giving these teenagers a healthier, more well-adjusted view on sexual activity. Indeed, the role of the father has been downplayed over the years but now, we are realizing how important dads are.

Here are some tips that we are offering dads in celebration of father’s day. These tips can help deepen and nurture the relationship of dads with their children and make the entire fatherhood experience more rewarding and lasting.

1. CONVERSE – The traditional Filipino dad will always be described as a “man of few words, only speaking once and everyone will listen”. This connotes some form of reverence to being “DAD”. However, with the changing generations of children, the traditional idea of the silent-type dad just won’t do. In fact, many dads actually like to talk, it’s just that most of the time, they admit that they don’t know where to start or what topic to talk to their kids with. It’s not that the dads don’t like talking, it’s just they don’t know what to talk to their kids about. Also, from the kids’ perspective, they also don’t know what to talk to their dads about!

How do we remedy such a situation? Well, the first thing is really for the dad to take that first step. Take your kids out for ice cream, just dad and the kids. The first car ride might be awkwardly silent but just wait. It’ll happen. Start talking about the weather. Ask your kids what new movies are out. Or just ask them how school is. Don’t interrupt your kids when they’re talking, the more they feel like you are listening, the more comfortable they are knowing that you’re available to listen. Practice listening and tone down the condescension and you and your kids will be talking the entire car ride home!

2. CONNECT  – Related to our previous point, find a way to connect with your kids. Get more involved in their lives, ask your wife about what’s going on and then ask your kids again, pretending that you’re hearing things for the first time. Find activities you both like doing. The more things in common that you do, the smoother things become!

3. BE CLOSE – Being physically close is one thing, but by practicing conversing with your child and finding those connections, you actually are working on your closeness to each other. Establish father-child dates where you go do something that’s just the you and your kid. It doesn’t matter what the activity is as long as it’s enjoyable for the two of you, then it’ll be great!

But, here’s where most dads get it wrong: most of the time with teenagers, they need to act cool. So dads, tone down the enthusiasm a notch. Like it but don’t make your entire life about it. Just sit back and enjoy the activity!

4. BE AVAILABLE – Make it a point to remind your kids that you’re there for them. Text them each day, send them pictures of interesting things. Just let them know you’re there. Don’t force the issue, just make it felt.

5. BE A HERO – Dads are a kid’s first hero. Be that hero! Stand up for the values you want your child to have. Be their champion! Give them a pep-talk before a big test or a game. Let them feel safe and support their beliefs. If you become the hero, then you’ve won your child’s trust forever.

It’s really tough being a dad, but it’s really rewarding. Just ask any father you meet and they’ll tell you that fatherhood is both the most stressful and the most rewarding thing they’ve done in their lives. We know most dads want only what’s best for their kids, and we applaud each and every dad out there trying to be the best they can be.

Raphael Inocencio is a founding partner and consultant at Better Steps Psychology, Inc. His research interests include child and adolescent issues, anxiety, and positive interventions. You can book a consultation with him and other professionals at Better Steps Psychology by sending us an email: wellness@bettersteps.org or calling us at (02) 216 1586 or (0917) 894 3988.

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