Dealing with the “Empty Nest Blues”
June 21, 2019

By Dr. Matt Brown

When you read about parenting, you are most likely to encounter information targeting mothers. While that is changing rapidly, fathers are often left out of this important conversation. Why are fathers so important? Let’s take a look at some of the findings on the unique impact fathers have on their children.

A recent publication from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services synthesized the research on the impact of fathers on their children and found that children of involved, caring and playful fathers report the following benefits:

  • Higher IQs, academic readiness, verbal skills, intellectual functioning, and academic achievement
  • Better able to handle stress
  • More emotionally secure and confident
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Better social connections with peers
  • Lower rates of delinquency
  • Higher levels of self-control and pro-social behavior

It’s clear from this list of findings that fathers have a tremendous impact on their children! If you are a father like me, that list includes many of the qualities that I hope my children will possess. 

Yet, many of us fathers are in a unique predicament nowadays. We experience a social push to be more involved and have a strong desire to be there for our kids, but many of us don’t have a blueprint for how to do that because our fathers didn’t model this for us. So, how do we become these involved, caring and playful fathers? Here are some practical and research-supported ways to be the father your kids need you to be:

  • Have a positive relationship with your wife/mother of your children
  • Spend one-on-one time with your kids
  • Listen to their concerns and nurture them
  • Discipline them appropriately
  • Be their guide to the outside world
  • Protect them and provide for their basic needs
  • Be a positive role model

Now that we have discussed the impact of fathers on children, let’s talk about the impact of children on fathers. This is an often-overlooked, but crucially important part of the father-child relationship. 

Fathers, we need our kids. Many of us experience rejection after rejection throughout our day and many of us have learned to set emotions aside and power through. This is an essential skill as we operate in the world; however, we need experiences that allow us to feel and connect with others in deep, meaningful ways. Our kids are often eager to give us this gift. Think of the last time you came home or went to pick up your kids and heard an excited, “Daddy!” followed by an open and genuine hug. Kids have an incredible capacity to love, forgive and choose to be happy. We need to spend more time with our kids for their sake, but perhaps more importantly, for ours.

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