OPINION

Supporting fathers' involvement with their children

Supporting fathers' involvement with their children

The day is here again when we celebrate fathers in Australia. Happy Father's Day to all the amazing fathers and father figures - the role you play in your children's lives cannot go unnoticed. We are proud of you.

Current research evidence shows that fathers' involvement not only improves the health and developmental outcomes of children, but also benefits the fathers themselves, their partners and the family as a whole.

Involvement means the father must be available and accessible to respond to their children's needs; be engaged with their children through listening interaction, paying attention to their needs with interest, and being actively involved in doing activities with them.

The crucial role fathers play in their children's lives underscores the need to identify better ways of supporting involvement.

As we celebrate Father's Day, let's reflect on activities that have been identified in research to have the potential to improve outcomes for children and fathers.

Father-infant massage: has the potential to not only improve the emotional bond between a father and his young child, but can also bring feelings of competence, sensitivity, enjoyment, warmth, acceptance and responsivity among fathers.

Father-neonate skin to skin contact: This is an activity that requires skin-to-skin contact of the baby's belly to the dad's chest. The baby is then covered with a blanket or cloth. Just like massage, this activity increases attachment between fathers and their newborns.

Father-child co-physical activity: has the potential to improve their health and wellbeing, and prevent overweight and obesity among children and fathers.

Father-child play interactions activities: play dates, toy play, video game, puzzle, drawing and painting. These activities have the potential to improve the cognitive, language, social, emotional and physical outcomes of children as well as parenting efficacy and skills.

Research shows that not all fathers are actively involved with their children, mainly because of a lack of time due to work commitments, and the perception that they lack parenting skills or have low parenting self-efficacy.

Policies and programs that promote and support fathers' involvement are needed. Increasing paid paternal leave days and providing flexible work arrangements could help to promote work-life balance for fathers, as well as increase the time that fathers spend with their children or participate in parenting programs.

Working four days a week has already shown positive results in not only increasing employees' satisfaction and productivity but also promoting work-life balance in some international companies like Microsoft in Japan.

Fathers' involvement requires support from government, non-governmental organisations, schools, employers, researchers, and other partners.

We all have a role to play to support fathers. Happy Father's Day.

Dr Fatch Kalembo is from Curtin University.

This story Supporting fathers' involvement with their children first appeared on The Canberra Times.