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Being an Engaged Father

“Longing for a Father”

By T. Martin Graverson, M.A. – Therapist

Engaged Father blowing bubbles with sonFather hunger is “the emotional and psychological longing that a person has for a father who has been physically, emotionally, or psychologically distant in the person’s life.” – P.B. Perrin

As a father of four children, I have embarked on one of the most difficult, yet rewarding, journeys of my life.  It is an enormous responsibility that many men don’t always fully understand.  We tend to feel pressure from many sources, including ourselves, to be this perfect father.  And we fail at accomplishing this unattainable goal.  And when we fail we sometimes retreat to the things of life that make us feel accomplished (i.e. work, sports, hobbies) or we just plain retreat and “check out.” We often learn best by what is modeled to us by our own fathers or father figures, and our own father’s presence or lack of presence can be a predictor of how present we are with our own children.  How our fathers parented us is what we were taught about parenting, it’s what we saw and experienced.  So to understand our own parenting style requires us to understand our father’s parenting style as well as his father’s parenting style and so on.

So what’s the big deal about fathers being emotionally and physically present for their children?  Children with engaged fathers (accessible, present, and responsible) tend to be more likable, autonomous, confident, and imaginative. They also develop positive self-esteem and healthy peer relationships.  I have found in my own life that I must make an effort to be present with my children, it doesn’t always come naturally for me.  The days that I walk into our home and I’m completely exhausted from work, my instinct isn’t always to engage with my children, but when I am able to engage with them despite what has gone on with my day they see that I am invested in them and their needs.  

To those of you that have embarked on this journey of fatherhood, be encouraged!  They will fail and so will you, so learn from the failures and let these failures be experiences that both of you can grow from.  You have been called to be a huge part of your children’s lives.  They need you, they need your support, they need you to engage with them, they need you to play with them, they need you to know them intimately.  Listen to them, talk to them, encourage them, share experiences with them, provide for them, protect them, but ultimately love them unconditionally.  

Creating a child takes no love or skill; being a parent requires lots of both. — Michael Josephson