Celebrating Father’s Day – Father’s Role In Nurturing Children’s Emotional Safety
“Fathers, like mothers, are not born. Men grow into fathers - and fathering is a very important stage in their development.”
~ DAVID M. GOTTESMAN
Certain qualities that fathers represent and model are invaluable, such as standing up for and believing in ourselves and our dreams, to never giving up and mustering the strength to face our fears with courage. Healthy fathering nourishes children with a strong and healthy sense of self, agency, determination and momentum to make things happen.
At the same time, it’s equally important for children to know their fathers are secure enough to be imperfect, and okay with that. Fathers who are willing to be human are secure enough in their own sense of self to listen and to seek to understand, to be informed choice makers who are willing to grow alongside their children (and wives). This helps children learn to own their mistakes, to take responsibility – teaching them that it is excellence, and not perfection, that we’re striving for.
And perhaps even more importantly, what matters most is knowing that nothing can separate you from your father, not your mistakes or his; that your relationship and emotional connection is enduring, forever, and will survive the challenges, imperfections, and ups and downs of life.
“The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”
~ THEODORE M. HESBURGH
Fathers tend to underestimate the power of their love and support, encouragement and presence in the lives of children. For generations, fathers have been conditioned to believe that a father’s value depends on being a superhero who fixes all problems, and sweeps away all heartache. However, what matters most to children are qualities that foster emotional security, resiliency, and a quiet inner confidence that their father will be there to encourage them, to never give up on them, to be interested in getting to know them, their interests and passions and fears, and a strong sense of emotional connection through open and regular communication.
The hallmark of healthy relationships, communication helps children learn how to deal with conflict, and the heart of matters, in the home, and later at school and work. And perhaps nothing increases a child’s sense of emotional security more than knowing their mother and father openly love and value one another, tenderly and thoughtfully in their actions.
“It is a wise father that knows his own child.”
~ WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
Even more than being a hero, a father sees the aspiring hero in each of his children. Regardless their sex or age, every child yearns to see a reflection of themselves as a hero in their father’s heart and eyes.
Fathers have the biggest impact when they are personally engaged and fully involved in their children’s lives, interests, dreams and aspirations on a daily basis. They show acceptance and encouragement, and keep believing in their children to help them believe in themselves. They clearly communicate to uphold guidelines, firmly yet fairly, without belittling or micro-managing.
Delighting in their children, they love to have fun and play. It’s in the context of strong relationships with their parents that children best learn values, among others, for responsibility, integrity, worth ethics, cooperation, resiliency, optimism, and consciousness.
“It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.”
~ ANNE SEXTON
Finally, there are those for whom this day brings up painful memories, perhaps of abuse, neglect or fathers who were emotionally or physically absent. While early experiences may be enduring forces that can lead some to get lost or stuck in familiar old life stories, there is ample empirical evidence from neuroscience that, though change may be challenging and scary, it is possible for adults with difficult childhoods to create a secure state of mind by engaging in consciously corrective experiences that allow the brain to access its ability to continually remodel itself (known as neuroplasticity) in response to new therapeutic awarenesses and insights that create shifts in emotional experience.
So even in cases where a father was not present or capable to be all that he could have been, for whatever reason or wounds he carried, it is always possible for us to draw from and create new meanings from what fatherhood symbolizes and means, so we may realize our own healing and integrative experience of self in relation to father …
A FATHER MEANS …
A Father means so many things…
A friend for life.
An understanding heart.
A source of strength and of support
Right from the very start.
A constant readiness to help
In a kind and thoughtful way.
With encouragement and forgiveness
No matter what comes your way.
A special generosity and always affection too.
A Father means so many things
When he’s a man like you …
Staik, A. (2012). Celebrating Father’s Day – Father’s Role In Nurturing Children’s Emotional Safety. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 20, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationships/2012/06/the-power-of-a-fathers-contribution-to-a-childs-sense-of-security/