Five Ways Fathers Can Improve The Mental Health Of Their Children

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Mental health issues are always a touchy topic in our society. All too often, we see stories in the news about children being bullied, suffering from anxiety, and harming themselves or others — often as the result of issues which could have been detected and resolved under difference circumstances.

With Father’s Day just a week away, I wanted to share an article I recently came across, which features five tips from San Francisco State University psychologist Jeff Cookston, on how dads can have a positive impact on the mental health of their children.

According to Cookston, “Kids are actively trying to make sense of the parenting they receive. And the meaning that children take from the parenting may be as important, or more important, than the behavior of the parents.”

He goes on to say:

I don’t think a lot of parents give these ideas about meaning much thought. You may think that you’re being a good parent by not being harsh on your kid, for instance, but your child may view that as ‘you’re not invested in me, you’re not trying.’

I think as parents we definitely aim to teach our children how to be in this world via our action and our words, but we can’t always control how our children perceive these lessons.

Cookston offers the following five tips taken from his studies, and shared in the Journal of Family Issues:

Check in with your kid.
Talk to your child about your relationship. “Fathers should ask, ‘Am I more or less than you need me to be?'”

Be supportive.
Cookston says “children of fathers who emphasize their emotional relationships with their kids are less likely to behave in aggressive and delinquent ways”.

Change course, if necessary.
It’s never too late to change. “Parents need to be constantly adapting their parenting to the development and individual needs of the child.”

Be a team player.
Even in situations where parents are no longer together, Cookston says that children are more likely to feel open to talking to their parents, if “they agree on parenting decisions”.

Aim high.
In addition to being present and a provider, dads need to aim high when it comes to “engagement, involvement, and quality interaction” with their children.

Photo courtesy of Dewayne Neely.