Family-sized support.

Involved Fathers Provide Key Benefits to Kids

Fathers can have a lasting impact on their children’s wellness by being consistently involved in their upbringing. Studies show a connection between well-adjusted children who perform well in school and fathers who have had an encouraging and supportive presence in their lives.

Fathers who are actively involved in their children’s lives contribute to their emotional health, overall wellness, social development and self-respect, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dedicated and responsible fathering during infancy and early childhood also contributes to emotional security, and improved math and verbal skills.

How Fathers Play a Critical Role

Fathers have a unique and important part in the development of their children. Fathers provide their kids with a mental map of how to respond to difficult situations. That’s why learning the art of self-control is key to interacting with children.

Studies suggest that loving, encouraging fathers who respond calmly when their children misbehave or get upset raise boys who are less aggressive and girls who are less negative with their friends.

With infants, studies have shown that fathers who respond to their babies’ cries, hold and hug them often, and participate in their basic care (e.g., feeding, changing diapers) tend to have a positive effect on their children’s self-confidence and behavior.

Young children with fathers who praise them when they behave well or accomplish something, hug and kiss them often, and comfort them when they are sad or scared are more likely to do well in school compared to children who have uninvolved fathers.

This rings true for adolescents who receive praise from their fathers, especially when they achieve significant accomplishments. There are also many benefits for children who live with their biological fathers, or who spend a lot of time with them, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Even when fathers do not share a home with their children, their active involvement can have a lasting and positive impact.

Tips for New Fathers

Babies can attach and bond with fathers just as they can with moms. When infants and toddlers receive love from both parents, they feel safe and supported, and these benefits last a lifetime.

Here are some things to consider for new fathers:

  • Build trust. Holding and cuddling your baby starts building trust and will help your baby for the rest of his/her life. Singing and reading to your baby strengthens and increases your closeness.
  • Be there. Think about going to check-ups and other appointments. This comforts your baby by showing Dad is there and supportive in different places and experiences.
  • Ask for help. If this is your first baby, consider spending time with and learning from other dads. Ask your doctor for resources. Take classes on changing diapers, swaddling a baby and other important skills dads need.
  • Help out. Fathers can hold their baby as the mom gets ready to breastfeed and then burp the baby afterward. Dads can be especially good at calming a fussy baby; a supportive touch and deep voice used for singing or humming can be comforting.
  • Have fun. Find a favorite activity you and your baby can do together. You’ll both look forward to this special bonding time.

Benefits of Dads Spending Time with Their Kids

  • Helps a father build close relationships with his children
  • Allows a father to get to know and to be known by his children
  • Helps a dad discover his children’s strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears, and goals and values
  • Lets fathers become more caring and sensitive to their children’s needs for love, attention, direction and discipline
  • Lets children see, through time spent, their parent’s love
  • Teaches children how to explore the world
  • Teaches children how to keep aggressive urges in check
  • Fosters psychological well-being and self-worth in children
  • Provides children with a healthy model of fatherhood
  • Helps protect girls from prematurely seeking the romantic attention of men
  • Makes children less likely to live in poverty
  • Makes children less likely to use drugs
  • Makes children less likely to experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems
  • Makes children less likely to be victims of child abuse
  • Makes children less likely to engage in criminal behavior than their peers

Fun Activities for Dads and Their Kids

  • Research suggests that active pursuits like tossing the football, playing basketball, hiking or going to the library are more valuable than spending time in passive activities such as watching television.
  • Studies show benefits to participating in productive activities with children, such as household chores, washing dishes after dinner or cleaning up the backyard.
  • These types of shared activities promote a sense of responsibility and self-worth in children that is, in turn, linked to greater confidence, academic and career success, and mental well-being later in life.
  • Research also suggests that educational activities like reading to children helps to promote their intellectual growth.

Watch This Video for Fun Ideas to Strengthen Bonds:

Additional Resources

For more information about the importance of a father’s role in the lives of their children, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Fatherhood website.

Fatherhood.gov offers parenting tips and activity suggestions provided by fathers themselves.