by Ken Canfield, Ph.D.
We recently released an ebook with highlights from the results of our recent survey of dads: Fathering During the Pandemic: Challenges & Surprises. You can get a free copy right here.
Dads have had a wide range of experiences during the pandemic, and often it depends on their situation. Some dads felt like their world was turned upside down, others took it pretty much in stride, and of course many dads were somewhere in between.
How worried are your children about all that is happening? Chances are their level of concern is somewhat different from yours, and as fathers we need to be a calming presence for them.
We have all faced various challenges during the pandemic, and how we respond to difficulties or crisis situations will create a reference point that our children will remember and carry forward into the future—whether they are still at home or living on their own as adults. They too will face large or small crises in the future, and they’ll look back on how we handled difficult situations, even if it’s a subconscious memory, and that will affect how they respond. We’re setting that example for them right now. If we avoid coming apart during a crisis and instead take positive action, we not only help our children survive the immediate crisis, but also help prepare them for future ones. Our protection as a father can extend even beyond our presence.
Here are 6 essential things effective fathers can do to help make them better protectors of their children:
1. Adopt a healthy attitude toward difficulties and crises. Recognize that crises will occur, so you aren’t off guard. And having accepted that one of your roles as father is to be a protector for your family, you’ll be ready to step forward and take action when necessary.
2. Identify role models from whom you learned how to deal with crises. Those of us whose fathers handled crises effectively have positive memories to draw from, but the rest of us have to rely on our friendships with other men, both as children and now as adults.
3. Look to other dads for support. There’s a great sense of camaraderie in interacting with other dads, hearing that you aren’t the only one who struggles, learning from their experiences, encouraging them and being encouraged.
4. Understand your own foundation as a man. In our research, fathers who scored high in being able to deal with crises also scored significantly higher than other dads on their responses to male identity questions. So, handling crises is connected to feeling comfortable being a man.
5. In times of crisis, talk with your children. Crises go better when you’re able to talk things through as a family, during and after a crisis. Work toward open communication with your kids as a habit, so they feel they have an open channel to their dad at any time, concerning any subject.
6. Maintain consistent communication with your kids’ mother, too. You’re a parenting team, and that teamwork is never more important than during difficult situations.
There are crises all around us in today’s world, and they aren’t likely to subside in the future. Children need support and guidance from their fathers more than ever before—and they’ll need it years from now when you aren’t there—but your influence and the investments you’ve made in them will still make a difference.
What is the toughest situation you have faced as a father, and what helped you through it? Help other dads by leaving a comment at our Facebook page.