Sunday is Father’s Day, a time when many dads will be treated like kings – and rightfully so! A healthy and positive father-child relationship provides countless benefits for kids of all ages, from babies to teenagers.
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“Benefits include better emotional and social development, better academic development even less risk of obesity,” says child psychologist Kate Eshleman, PsyD.
The benefits go beyond the home. They have impact on the child in the classroom, too.
Research shows that kids at risk for behavior issues had less behavioral issues and higher reading scores at school — especially in reading — when fathers were more involved in their lives.
Another study finds that kids are more likely to get mostly A’s in school if they have a father who is highly involved in school activities such as parent-teacher conferences and volunteering at school. This is true for fathers in two-biological parent families, for stepfathers and for fathers heading single-parent families.
Bonding starts at birth
Many new or young dads will admit to a little awkwardness with their babies at first. That’s not uncommon, and it’s usually just unfamiliarity with the situation. But starting the bonding process early on is important.
“Bonding with a child starts at birth,” Dr. Eshleman says. “You do this by holding young babies, looking into their eyes, making skin-to-skin contact. Talking and singing to the baby helps forge a connection, too.”
As a child gets older, a father’s effort at building a bond should continue in order to cement a strong lifelong connection.
There’s many ways for dads to keep on bonding with their kids through the years. When they are young, for example, spend time playing with your children at their level, such as stacking building blocks or dressing up in costumes. As they get a little older, engage them in physical activity, such as playful rough-housing or sports.
It’s important to remember to let your child guide the activity, Dr. Eshleman says. Adults rule so much of children’s lives. So let them take the lead on decisions during play.
“When a dad engages with his child, it allows him to enter the child’s world,” Dr. Eshleman says .
Lastly, make sure you set aside time to talk to your children. Then listen to what they say.
“Learning about friends, what they’re doing at school and their favorite activities are good topics,” Dr. Eshleman says. “The more the father knows about his child, the better the father and child are going to get along.”
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