Dear Mr. Dad: This Father’s Day is over, but what advice do you have keep dads involved every day?
A: As someone who spends a lot of time doing research on and writing about fathers—and even more time trying to be a good dad—I agree that the fact that the one day per year that’s dedicated to dads has passed doesn’t mean that dads are any less important the other 364 days of the year.
Duncan Fisher at the Family Initiative in the UK recently put together a Global Fatherhood Charter that clearly and eloquently lays out the many ways fathers are important to children and families as well as what men, women, and society can and should do to support them. Fisher had help from more than 20 child development and fatherhood researchers from around the world, many of whom have been inspirations to me, including Michael Lamb, Ross Parke, Phil and Carolyn Cowan, Rob Palkovitz, and Kyle Pruett. Here’s the text of the Charter:
1. The loving care of a father is a foundation for his child’s wellbeing and creates a life-long relationship.
2. The loving care of father can be as powerful and important as that of a mother.
3. All fathers, both biological and non-biological, have an innate ability to bond with their babies from the first days. A father’s brain changes when he actively cares for his child, generating enhanced capacity for care and empathy.
4. Loving care takes many forms. Each family and each father-child relationship is unique.
5. Fathers are family, and family carers are among the most important influences on children’s development, wellbeing and health. This is so even when fathers do not live permanently with their children.
6. A harmonious community of care around a child, with parents and carers supporting each other, is a foundation for the child’s healthy development.
7. Fatherhood, like motherhood, is a journey. Fathers need time and practice – to care for, nurture, play with, and teach their children.
8. Loving fatherhood means respect for and collaboration with the mother and the absence of violence.
9. To provide the care and form the relationships that children need, fathers need support and validation from their partners, families, communities and society.
10. Maternal and newborn health services, early years services, and economic self-sufficiency services should offer, and encourage the use of, support for fathers and other family carers in ways that engage creatively with the local culture and socioeconomic conditions. They should provide information and help about how to support maternal and child health and child development. They should support family carers’ relationships with their children and a harmonious community of care for children within families. They should offer support for all carers to meet their children’s financial needs. This support should be accessible to fathers even if they live apart from the mother.
11. Workplaces and employment laws should honor and support the caring responsibilities of both fathers and mothers.
12. Fathers’ involvement in the first 1,000 days of their children’s life should be a focus of international early childhood development strategies.
13. Promotion of gender equality needs to include support for fatherhood. Equal economic opportunities for women and men must include the opportunity to share the care of their children.
14. Men are inherently loving and caring beings. Men’s caring instincts and emotional life should be celebrated as part of what it is to be a man in today’s cultures.
15. Loving fatherhood and men’s caregiving of all kinds should be recognized and celebrated as an inspiration to other fathers, mothers, grandparents and carers, in this generation and the next.
Previously published on Mr. Dad