The days of dad coming home from work and immediately sitting down at the dinner table are long gone. Dads are more involved than ever in their children’s lives.
In just the last three decades, the amount of time that fathers spend with their children on weekdays has jumped 65 percent, according to a 2014 study. Dads are taking on more household duties — such as cooking and cleaning — especially in dual-income homes.
“We’re definitely seeing dads more in the picture now than you did in the past. They want to be better parents,” says Noel James, a senior therapist with Parent-Child Center based in Riviera Beach.
And that’s a huge benefit to kids, according to a 2016 report by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Mounting evidence shows fathers’ interaction with their children reaps huge health rewards that complement the mother's role.
"Fathers really have a quite impressive impact on their children's health, including how well they do in school, how well they get along with friends, and whether children run into problems like substance abuse or delinquency," says Dr. Michael Yogman, co-author of the report and chair of the academy’s Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health.
The academy suggests fathers and father figures:
- Are more likely to introduce new words, which can speed language development. In fact, a father’s communication with his 3-year-old can predict language development.
- Initiate rough-and-tumble play, which may encourage exploration and taking safe risks. (Calmer interactions with mothers provide safety and balance.)
- Keep kids safe. Pre-teens and teens of involved fathers are less prone to high-risk behavior and to suffer from depression. Girls show a decreased risk of early puberty, early sexual experiences and pregnancy.
Dads, though, are less likely to ask questions about raising a child, avoiding situations where they could be potentially embarrassed.
That’s where programs funded by Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County can help.
For future dads and new dads, there’s the all-male groups of Community Voice. Community Voice is a grassroots campaign that arose to address the black infant mortality rate in the United States, which is two times higher than the white infant mortality rate.
Community Voice has five weekly sessions where men learn about the vital role they play in prenatal care and raising an infant. Pregnant women with supportive partners are more likely to have deliveries without complications, studies show.
“There are a lot of programs educating mom about the process, but not many for men,” said William Cooper, program coordinator for Community Voice. “We help give you the tools to not only be a supportive father, but to feel good about this life that has come into your life.”
Community Voice classes are offered in Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, Lake Park, Riviera Beach, West Palm Beach and in the Glades area.
For dads of children up to 12 years old, there’s Triple P (Positive Parenting Program). It’s available to all dads in Palm Beach County, offering seminars, groups and one-on-one sessions. Dads can learn tested strategies to help address issues such as temper tantrums, poor sleeping, disobedience and toilet training.
“Parenting is difficult. When you bring a child into this world, it’s a responsibility,” says Justin Piatt, a therapist with Parent-Child Center, which offers Triple P. “As a dad, you can be involved with your child as much as the mom. You can be as caring and affectionate as a mom.”
Triple P works with dads to establish routines and create common-sense plans in dealing with behavioral issues.
For dads of teenagers, there’s Teen Triple P. This program is available to all dads in Palm Beach County.
With teenagers, it’s vital to keep the lines of communication open, says James. That could be as simple as scheduling a family meeting once a week where everyone has a chance to talk about what’s going on with them.
With Teen Triple P, dads can learn about the power of “descriptive praise” — a technique to encourage your teen to do the right thing. There’s also the strategy of “assertive discipline” — providing immediate consequences for problematic behaviors.
To learn more about these and other programs to help you become a better parent, call:
Community Voice: 561.833.3113
Parent-Child Center: 561.841.3500 ext. 1087
Center for Family Services: 561-616-1222