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A Man in Your Child's Life

Dear Debi,
I'm a single parent. I'm worried that my daughter doesn't have a father to look up to. What can I do to make up for this?
Martha Perez
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Boys & girls with supportive fathers or father figures often do better in life
  • A father figure may be a family member or good friend
  • Consider being a father figure to a young child
Expert Advice
George Williams
George Williams
Marriage & family therapist
There are things a mother can do if the father of her baby isn't involved in the child's life. First, if the father isn't living with the family and if there isn't an issue of safety, the father should be invited by the mother to participate in the life of the child. If, for some reason, the father isn't around because of death, abandonment, imprisonment, or any other reason, the child's mother should seek out an extended family member whom she trusts to become involved with her children. Whomever the mother decides to ask to take the role of a father figure should be someone stable, trustworthy and someone who will be around. It's confusing and distressing for children to bond with an adult and then suddenly they are no longer in the child's life.

Father figures are important for both girls and boys. Fathers and father figures provide role models for boys, but they also provide an example for girls of how a man acts toward other men, women, and children. They help girls form opinions of how men should treat women. A positive male role model will help girls grow up with the self-esteem they will need when they start dating.

If you don't have a relative living nearby, then the father figure you choose should be a stable man who is willing to invest time and sometimes resources in the life of the child. The person needs to be someone who cares about the child and family; someone who will invest quality time in the relationship; someone who will telephone regularly; someone who will attend the child's sporting events, school plays and such. He should be someone who will participate in activities that interest the child. This man could be a long-term friend of the family, a man from the family's faith community, perhaps a co-worker, or a member of a mentoring organization. A retirement community may be a great place to find a man who has time and experience and willing to share their time and wisdom with a child.
Child Care Provider Comments
Doneisha Beard
Doneisha Beard
Single mother
When I had Kamhai, I used to live with my parents. Kamhai and my father have a strong bond. They are best friends. They get along so well despite the age difference. I live four exits away from my parents. Kamhai sees them about twice a week. He sometimes spends the night or they will come over here to visit him. Their favorite thing is music. They will listen to music for hours at a time. My son is in love with it. He would rather listen to music with my dad than play with his toys. When my son gets older and has those questions about dating girls or body changes, he has a male figure in his life he can go to.
Robert Lester
Robert Lester
Grandfather and father figure
All these kids need is someone to depend on. They don't need someone to tell them what to do, they know right from wrong. They just need someone to listen. They will tell you their problem if you just listen. That is the secret. Most of the time, we don't hear what they say. My grandson thinks I am his superhero.
Mark Woodsmall
Mark Woodsmall
Father of two
The reality is that a father raises a child differently. Dads tend to do structure and set limits. The parents can work together, so one isn't always the tough one. It is a shared responsibility. The man is sometimes the nurturer, too. The most successful model is where the parents can do both roles. My wife is a stay-at-home mom, so she spends a good deal of time managing the kids' day-to-day activities. I like doing the reading of the stories or errands. I take them to the hardware store, things that my wife doesn't do naturally. Dads should reinforce a child's self-esteem, so they know they can do anything they want in life.

Activities for Kids & Their Father Figures Featured Activity:
Activities for Kids & Their Father Figures
A Man in Your Child's Life Featured Video:
A Man in Your Child's Life
Topic: Social & Emotional Development
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