Dads matter

Father's Day is June 19, and it's more than just an excuse to buy greeting cards, power tools, novelty neckties and, yes, bacon-scented candles. It's a great time to recognize that dads really do matter. Moms are amazing and important, too, but we must remember what a vital role dads are meant to play in raising our children from day one.

According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, children without an involved, loving father's presence are statistically more likely to suffer abuse and neglect, have behavioral problems, develop obesity, and abuse drugs and alcohol. They're twice more likely to drop out of high school, at seven times greater risk of teenage pregnancy, four times greater risk of poverty and more often sentenced to prison.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 24 million children in America--one in three--live without their biological father at home. More than 18 million of them have significantly limited or no contact with their dads.

Moms and dads alike need to stay mindful of the important part fathers should have in the optimal development of their children's mental, emotional and physical health. And it is crucial we help ensure dads have the skills they need to raise healthy, well-balanced children and be an integral part of their families' success.

As a Fatherhood Engagement Specialist with Centerstone's Early Childhood Services, I've been trained to start at the beginning by teaching new dads how to build strong connections with their sons and daughters, families and community. We emphasize the importance of partnering with the mother, attending doctor visits, reading and singing to the child, changing diapers, taking on bath time and generally encouraging the infant's sense of security and attachment.

Simply put, fathers who care and are there for their newborns help babies grow up healthier. Research proves that little ones with a dad in the picture will breastfeed more regularly and have a healthy weight. As the baby grows, a father's positive presence more often leads to better performance in school, the ability to maintain positive relationships with other children, higher education, a satisfying career and so forth.

It's important to add that dads who don't live at home with their children can still be a steady part of their children's success. The quality of the relationship can supersede the quantity of time spent together when sharing the same residence full-time just isn't a reality. Likewise, in cases where a biological father isn't or can't be present, a loving father figure can embrace a supportive role.

So, support, encourage and appreciate all of the dads in your life this Father's Day and every day that follows. To be a dad is a great honor, a humbling privilege and an incomparable opportunity that must be taken seriously--even while wearing a wacky tie and burning a bacon candle.

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