Chris Oaks spoke with Kenneth Braswell, director of the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse.
Q: Father’s Day is Sunday, and there is growing research which proves what we’ve really always known, that involved fathers lead to successful kids.
A: It’s true. When fathers are involved in their lives, children have better academic achievement, lower delinquency rates and are less likely to become involved in substance abuse. And, you’re right, it’s something we know inherently.
A recent Pew Research study finds six in 10 Americans say involvement of fathers in the family unit is extremely important. So, from our standpoint, it is good to see fathers get the credit they are due, but it also presents a challenge to fathers who aren’t there already to become more involved for the good of their children’s future.
Q: There’s an old saying that “anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.” And that’s what you’re really talking about here, fathers who do more than just the stereotypical male duties in the household.
A: Absolutely. We certainly don’t discount the man who takes seriously the responsibility of providing for his family financially. That’s obviously very important.
But, unfortunately, the “Johnny Lunchpail” who works very hard to provide the best for his family, send the kids to college and so on, often misses the opportunity to connect on an emotional level with those children. Time and time again, kids tell us the big vacations, the fancy cars, the latest computers and smartphones are not nearly as important to them as time spent with dad. Playing catch, a day at the park or just having a heart-to-heart and offering some fatherly advice are the moments that have the greatest lasting impact. And they don’t cost a dime.
Q: We often take our cues from the way we were raised, and in previous generations fathers often weren’t as emotionally attached to their families because “that’s not what men do.” What advice do you give to fathers who believe they don’t know how to connect with their kids on that level?
A: Just do it. I know it’s not as easy as that statement sounds, but that really is the key. We all want to give our kids everything we never had. But, because what they want is something much simpler, we need to learn to stop thinking so much about the high-level things and instead bring it down to their level.
And take comfort, because even though you may not always do it right, there may be awkward moments in the process, your kids will respond and they will appreciate the effort.
Q: In today’s society, the reality is that many fathers don’t have the same opportunities to connect with their children because they aren’t living under the same roof. How does a dad overcome that?
A: In the age of technology, it’s never been easier to stay connected. Social media can be one tool. You can also pick up this thing that we all used to rely on called the telephone. Or even something that pre-dates the phone: a pen and a piece of paper.
If I was a little boy with a dad that lived in a state halfway across the country, who I could only see once or twice a year, a letter every week to say “I love you” would mean the world to me. Yes, there are some challenges for fathers that are not in the household, but it’s not rocket science. We all have obstacles, but we have many ways of overcoming them to be the dads our kids need us to be.
Q: Does the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse have resources to help dads become more involved and connected with their children?
A: Absolutely. Our “Take a Moment to Make a Moment” campaign at www.fatherhood.gov features ideas and tips for making those moments happen, and features stories that will make you smile or cry, but most of all will make you think.
I’m hoping that putting these stories out there will encourage many of us as dads to spend the most precious time possible with our children. They need it. Frankly, we need it. And, collectively, the future of our country depends on it.
“Good Mornings!” with Chris Oaks airs from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays on WFIN, 1330 kHz. He can be reached by email at chrisoaks@wfin.com, or at 419-422-4545.

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