Growing up without a dad is a big deal. Just ask Oprah. On her network, she has a show called “Oprah’s LifeClass.” Seven of the ten episodes on her website deal with issues surrounding fatherlessness. The stadiums are packed with people—grown people—who talk about how their lives were damaged by having a dad who walked out on them or a dad who never wanted to know them once he knew of their existence. Daddyless daughters. Fatherless sons. There are fewer things more painful than knowing you are supposed to have someone in your life as a role model, someone to rough and tumble with, and not having that person around to fulfill that role.
If you don’t believe Oprah, just take a look at the latest statistics. According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, one in three kids in America grows up in biological-father absent homes. They are four times more likely to grow up below the poverty level. They have higher rates of aggressive behavior and are at higher risk for incarceration. They are also at higher risk for abuse and neglect, teenage pregnancy, and marriage before even earning a high school degree.
Those issues are big deals. Those hurts run awfully deep. So, what’s a kid (or a grown man or woman) to do?
- Talk with someone about the pain of your own father wounds. A professional counselor would be a good place to start. You must be able to examine the impacts of fatherlessness in your own life in order to be healthy enough to move forward in your own personal relationships and in preparation for your own family someday.
- Look for healthy role models in your life. Take a look around your school or your sports fields or your churches. If you’re a man, find men of character and integrity and immolate them. Get to know them. Talk with them about how they learned to be who they are. We all learned from someone. Find a good role model and then follow their lead. If you’re a woman, find a Godly couple with a strong marriage and examine the qualities you see in those relationships and begin to look for someone who shares those desires.
- Think about the things you missed out on and vow not to repeat those same patterns. Fatherlessness is a vicious cycle. If you don’t know what it was like to have a dad around, you may not know how to be a dad. And, when faced with adversity, it may seem easier to you to turn and run than to stand in the gap and figure it out.
- Ask for help. Read a book on fatherhood. We aren’t meant to walk this human journey alone. Look for a men’s group in your church or community and talk about the things. Men—you may even have to talk about your feelings with other men. A little uncomfortable? Maybe, but well worth the vulnerability. Ladies—encourage (that is not code for “nag”) your husbands in their relationships with your own kids. Daddies will parent differently than Mommies and that’s normal and okay. If they don’t always do it your way, ask yourself, “In the big picture, is this something that really matters?” If the answer is no, let it go and let Daddy do his thing. Just because he doesn’t do it your way doesn’t mean he’s always doing it wrong.
- Invest in your own kids the way you wish you had been invested in. Make your kids a top priority. Give them the time and attention they deserve. Quality time isn’t enough. Kids need both quality and quantity time. Invest in them physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. They need it all to grow up to be well-adjusted, healthy members of society. Give plenty of hugs, kisses, snuggles, talks on the way to school or practice, and family dinners around the dinner table. Dream together. Ask lots of questions about their friends and school. Take them to church and talk about the things they are learning there and how to apply those lessons to their everyday lives. Apologize when you mess up. You will be amazed how those seemingly small things will add up and leave your child feeling loved and valued. You can’t put a price tag on that…