By Ron Huxley, LMFT
One of the most magical moments of my life was being at the birth of
my child. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. I remember
watching him squirm and cry as he met the world. I remember how he
paused to listen to my voice as I whispered my love for him and
commitment to him. To this day, spending time with my kids continues
to be one of my favorite activities. To not spend time with my
children is unfathomable.
For many fathers, this isn't the case. They sit in hospital waiting
rooms, clapping each other on the back and congratulating one another
on a job well done, while their child enters the world without their
father next to them. The day after the delivery and every day after
are filled with missed opportunities to bond with their child and
influence the directions they will take in life. They rationalize
that they are sacrificing for their family by working long hours and
justify their emotional distance as modeling how to survive in
the "cold, cruel world." Food on the table and a roof over head is
nice but nothing makes up for loving, nurturing relationships with
How do fathers build this bond? What barriers stand in the way? And,
what are some practical tools to help fathers strengthen their
children intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and physically? To
help me answer these questions, I asked for advice from dad's who
have a close bond with their children. How do I know they have a
close bond? I asked their wives! What's more, these wives are
webmasters of active parenting and family oriented websites.
How do you bond with your child?
In response to this question, all of the fathers answered alike. They
stated that the best way to bond was simply to spend time with a
child. What you do is not as important as doing something.
They divided activities up into four main areas: Physical,
Intellectual, Social, and Spiritual. A balance of these four areas
would result in a child having a happier, healthier life. Physical
activities are the most familiar to fathers and include working
around the house together, sharing a hobby, coaching an athletic
team, exercising together, and going places together.
Intellectual activities focus on being involved in a child's
academics, participating in school related activities, encouraging
hard work, and modeling yourself as a their primary teacher of life.
Social activities centered on talking with children, sharing feelings
and thoughts, demonstrating appropriate affection and manners, and
getting to know your child's friends. Spiritual activities are used
the least by dad's but have the most power to influence a child.
These activities incorporate reading spiritual stories together,
going to church or the synagogue, praying with children, establishing
rules and order, being consistent and available, and exploring the
mysteries of nature.
What is difference between the father/child bond and the mother/child
It was quickly apparent from the surveys that dad's have a different
approach or style to bonding than mom's. Dad's have a more rough and
tumble approach to physical interaction or may spend time in more
physical activities such as play or working on a project together.
Competition was also seen more in father/child bonding and was
considered healthy if used in small doses and with sensitivity to a
child's temperament and abilities. Sportsmanship, but not necessary
sports activities, was regarded as an essential ingredient in the
development of a child's characters. While the approach may differ,
the need for bonding with mom and dad is equally significant. One dad
joked that other than a couple of biological differences (e.g.,
giving birth or breastfeeding) he couldn't see one as more important
than the other.
What barriers prevent fathers from achieving a bond with their child?
All of the fathers agreed that work and the mismanagement of time
were the biggest robbers of relationships with children. No one
discounted a father's responsibility to provide for his family, but
all of them maintained that a healthy balance is needed between work
and family. They felt that society makes it easy to use one's career
as an escape. Social influences tend to value the bond a child has
with mom to be more important than with dad. But none of the dad's
questioned felt this barrier to be insurmountable.
Eliminating barriers in society begins in the home. Dads must
demonstrate that being involved in the home is important to them
before society will start treating dads as important to the home.
Dads need to take the initiative to change a diaper, clean up after
dinner, give the kids their bath, and do the laundry. The collective
effect of these "small" acts will ripple out into society to
create "bigger" change.
Can a father bond with a child if they did not have a father growing
The entire group affirmed that not having a father would make it more
difficult but not impossible to bond with a child. According to one
dad, bonding is more of an innate need or spiritual drive, than
simply a learned behavior. Therefore, fatherless fathers are not
doomed to repeat their own childhood experiences. Another dad
suggested "getting excited" by the little things that make a child
excited or happy. Getting down on the child's level, regressing to
those early moments in life when you were a child, and sharing simple
pleasures with your child will foster the bonding missed the first
In summary, it is clear that the bond between a father and a child is
an important one. Barriers, such as social values and absent fathers
make bonding with children difficult but not impossible. Children
need the unique style of bonding that fathers can provide and fathers
can build that bond by spending time engaging in physical,
intellectual, social, and spiritual activities.
About the author: Ron Huxley is father of four children, two of which
are his step children. He is the author of the book: "Love and
Limits: Achieving a Balance in Parenting" and founder of the
http://parentingtoolbox.com web site. Get more special reports and
articles at http://parentingtoolbox.com/join.ht
Originally uploaded by rehuxley.
* This is a work of fiction done for pure sake of creative exploration. The collage is from a new book of altered art called "This is Psychiatry."
"I am having a bad day", she said. It was right in the middle of breakfast and he still wasn't able to focus on much of anything. "Getting up this early is bad" was all he could grunt. "No, I mean I am having a really bad day!" Tears were in her eyes as she said this. The waiter hovered in the corner not sure if he should take their order or wait. Her friend signaled the waiter and asked for two Mimosa's. That should help he thought. She put on her 3D glasses and leaned back in the red cushioned chair. All she could think about was the doctors last few words: "I would give you 6 weeks." It repeated over and over again like an echo in her head. She didn't even notice the waiter leaving the Mimosa and asking if she needed anything else.
Kids Send Nude or Revealing Images:
22% of teen girls and 20% of teen boys have sent nude or semi-nude photos of themselves
22% of teens admit that technology makes them personally more forward and aggressive
38% say exchanging sexy content makes dating or hooking up with others more likely
29% believe those exchanging sexy content are “expected” to date or hook up
Revealing photos can be resent to a vast audience
Sending a sexual image to a minor is illegal
There have been some high profile cases of sexting -- including High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens, who sent a nude picture to her co-star/boyfriend, Zac Efron, that ended up all over the Internet and made headlines. And in July 2008, Cincinnati teen Jesse Logan committed suicide after a nude photo she’d sent to a boyfriend was circulated widely around her high school, resulting in harassment from her classmates.
Why It Matters
In a technology world where anything can be copied, sent, posted, and seen by huge audiences, there's no such thing as being able to control images. Even if a photo was taken and sent as a token of love, the intention doesn’t matter -- the technology makes it possible for everyone to see your child’s most intimate self. And in the hands of teenagers, when revealing photos are made public the subject almost always becomes the object of ridicule and name calling. Furthermore, sending sexual images to minors is against the law, and some states have begun prosecuting kids for child pornography or felony obscenity.
Advice for Parents
Don't wait for an incident to happen to your child or your child’s friend before you talk to your kids about the consequences of sexting. Sure, talking about sex or dating with teens can be really uncomfortable, but better to have the talk before the fact.
Remind them that once an image is sent, it can never be retrieved -- and they will lose control of it. Ask teens how they would feel if their teachers, parents, or the entire school saw the picture, because it happens all the time.
Talk about pressures to send revealing photos. Let teens know that you understand that they can be pushed or dared into sending something. Tell them that no matter how big the social pressure is, the potential social humiliation will be hundreds of times worse.
The buck stops with them. If someone sends them a photo, have them delete it immediately. Better to be part of the solution than the problem. Besides, if they do send it on, they're distributing pornography -- and that’s against the law.
If you can’t deal with this, have your kids go to ThatsNotCool.com (and you should go yourself). It’s a fabulous site that gives kids the language and support to take texting and cell phone power back into their own hands.