Dads contribute to their kids and families in a unique, dynamic, and important way,” explains Edwin Choy, who set up the Centre for Fathering in 1999 with two friends to inspire dads to be more involved with their children.
Choy points out, “Fathers have a role beyond the stereotypical disciplinarian, breadwinner to caregiver, companion, teacher and nurturer.”
A child’s relationship with their father can affect all of his or her present and future relationships, including friends, lovers and even their spouses.
Infants with hands-on fathers are more likely to form secure attachments with papa, better able to handle strange situations and are also more resilient in stressful situations, according to research by Canada’s University of Guelph. These tots are also more curious and eager to explore the environment and relate more maturely to strangers. Father involvement has a positive correlation with their children’s overall life satisfaction and they experience less depression.
Fathers are role models
When fathers talk to toddlers, their conversations include more wh- (eg “what”, where” and so on) questions, which encourage them to talk more, use more diverse vocabulary, and produce longer statements, compared to when they talk to their mothers, according to a study.
In addition, children of involved fathers are more likely to demonstrate a greater tolerance for stress and frustration, have superior problem-solving skills, adapt better, and are more playful, resourceful and skilful. When facing a problem, they are also better able to manage their emotions and impulses in an appropriate manner.
A child’s relationship with their father can affect all of his or her present and future relationships, including friends, lovers and even their spouses. An affectionate, supportive and involved father has a big part to play not only in his child’s cognitive, language and social development, it builds good self-esteem and boosts their emotional well-being.
Explains Clara Chung, director of Caelum Junior Group, a preschool, “Children learn by modelling behaviours. They learn how to function in the world through social imitation. The patterns of interaction affect how they feel about themselves and how they develop.”
Chung notes that girls grow up to look for men with their fathers’ traits and characteristics if he is kind, loving, gentle and patient. Boys will copy their father’s behaviour if they recognise it as successful and familiar. Dads are central to their sons’ development of their sense of who they are and want to be.
Still, some dads need a little help planning activities they can do with their toddlers. If you’re raring to start bonding with your little one, try these meaningful ways to spend time with junior when he’s a baby and beyond:
1. Feeding or having meals together You’ll enjoy face-to-face time with your baby when you feed him, which fosters close interaction and builds trust. For older tots, carving out time daily to share a meal together allows you to tell each other about the day’s activities and experiences.
2. Quiet story time Lap reading — sitting on dad’s lap while he reads — is excellent for bonding. The physical closeness and daddy’s calm reading voice creates a sense of security, as well as feelings of trust and love. Read bedtime stories to them every night before bed or regale them with your stories of your growing-up years.
Do simple household chores together like folding the laundry, clearing up after a meal... This will show your child that a home is everyone’s responsibility, not just mummy’s or daddy’s.
3. Indulge in “rough” play Rumbling and tumbling together often elicits laughter as well as an understanding of each other’s tolerance level and/or limits. Never ignore a cry to “stop” — acknowledge it, so that children will learn that they are respected as individuals.
4. Explore nature together Take walks (in the stroller or baby carrier) to encourage junior to have a healthy lifestyle. Explore nature in parks like Sungei Buloh, the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve or check out animals at the Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park, Hay Dairies, Animal Resort or try longkang fishing at Mainland Tropical Fish Farm or Orto when he’s older.
5. Organise a picnic Spend a day at the beach or park, laze around on a picnic mat together watching the clouds drift by, or play hide-and-seek, “catching” and other childhood games.
7. Do chores together Do simple household chores together like folding the laundry, clearing up after a meal, watering the plants in the garden or washing the car together. This will show your child that a home is everyone’s responsibility, not just mummy’s or daddy’s. It’ll also give them a sense of achievement when they complete the task.
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