By: Natasha Archary
With more than half of the country’s children under the age of eighteen growing up with absent fathers, single fathers have a bit of a reputation – “deadbeat dad”. But this is changing, albeit slowly.
Revolutionary changes to family law in the country is shifting the dynamic in the parent-child relationship. The law now no longer blindly favours mothers, instead it looks to take into consideration what benefits the child as opposed to mother versus father.
With many single fathers having little to no contact with their children, most have realised they have rights and have opened cases to grant them more access to their children. The National Office of the Family Advocate has seen an increase in fathers fighting for access to their kids in recent years. While the a thousand odd number of cases may seem insignificant in comparison to the status quo, this still means that there are dads who are being kept from their children unlawfully.
YOUR ROLE IN YOUR CHILD’S LIFE
A child needs both parents, actively involved in his or her life and making a significant contribution with both time, love and finances. This ensures that the child receives the best care possible and all basic needs are met. Clothing, food, healthcare and education fees aside, a child needs to feel loved, cared for and supported everyday.
A father’s role is no longer defined as secondary in relation to a mother’s. Roles are reversing, some dads being the primary care-giver in instances where the mom is no longer in the picture. Life is not as textbook as it was years ago and with gender roles being redefined, it’s not fair to use a child as leverage against a parent. Unless a parent is a risk to the child ie. abusive, dealing with substance abuse, mental health issues, a criminal etc. legally a mother should not prohibit visitation, access and involvement.
IT’S MORE THAN NAPPIES AND FUN TIME
Psychologically, a child who grows up without a father-figure is more likely to have deep-rooted “daddy issues”. Watered down, this means growing up feeling rejected, unloved and inadequate and causing trust issues that get filtered down into their own personal relationships.
According to Cape Town based clinical psychologist, Jenny Perkel, paternal function is crucial and one cannot have a normal life without it. A dad’s presence offers a different energy and there are valuable life lessons from a dad that a mom cannot replace.
Teaching a child that strong doesn’t necessarily mean a gender isn’t an easy task and while moms take on the role of natural nurturer, dads give children a sense of security, protection and big shoulders to cry on. Being there emotionally and physically reassures your child that they are a priority. Little people have feelings too.
In a previous post we touched on ways to encourage co-parenting for the benefit of your child. We cannot stress this enough. Often parents are selfish and, because of personal differences, angry words and unresolved feelings, we project this onto the child. But not giving a child the option to see their father and denying a father access is not the way to go about things. If your child’s father is making an effort, meet them halfway and encourage a relationship between your child and him.
You’re raising a little human, arm them with everything to make a positive difference. It starts with you, be the change. Happy father’s day to all dads.