By Amy Chariton
Growing up in a family with 9 kids – 8 girls and 1 boy – my dad did everything he could to meet our needs and to keep us safe. I remember when I was young, my dad would go around the house late at night after everyone was home to lock the doors. This was just one way my dad worked to keep his family secure and protected. He was there for me through thick and thin and I knew he always had my back. My dad spent countless hours with me at the kitchen table helping get through high school math! I remember feeling safe, cared for, and even more importantly, deeply loved when he was around. His influence on me and our family was profound. He was kind, involved, and worked hard to provide for and protect our family. He strove for continual improvement in his life and loved my mother fiercely. I couldn’t be more grateful for my daddy.
I realize that the scenario I grew up in is not the reality for a large number of children growing up in the world today. I also realize that there are many amazing single moms among us raising their children to the best of their ability. Regardless of their hard work, single parenthood is still is not the ideal for families. Children thrive very best with a mother and a father to care for and raise them.
Witnessing the impact of dads in the schools
Dads are needed in the community as well. In 2012, I was the PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) president for my children’s elementary school. I loved being involved and wanted to make a difference. I was introduced to a program called (Watch D.O.G.S (Dads of Great Students) that I brought to the school. It was amazing to see the difference this program made in the school and community. Each week dads (or grandpas or uncles) would volunteer to help around the school and in the classroom. The kids loved seeing their “dads” proudly wearing their Watchdogs t-shirts, walking down the halls, smiling and giving all the kids high-fives. Students would follow them around as if these dads were rock stars—and they practically were! Kids would line-up to sit by them at lunch, beg for their assistance in the classroom, and light up when they saw them as they came and went to school each day. Everyone wanted the “dad” on their team at recess. Every day I noticed that the Watchdog Dad was a force for good! This program powerfully illustrated to people at the school and the in community the immense importance of fathers and men in the lives of children.
When dads are missing
Unfortunately, the influence of fathers in the home, community, and world is rapidly diminishing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 19.7 million children, more than 1 in 4, live without a father in the home, and this is a problem for children.
Fatherlessness is at the root of many of the problems kids face today. The statistics are heartbreaking. Research shows that when fathers are absent in the home children are significantly more likely to live in poverty, experience behavioral problems, suffer abuse and neglect, commit crimes, and go to prison. These children are more likely to become pregnant as a teen, abuse substances, and have academic problems.
On the other hand, children whose fathers spend a lot of time with them and build a strong emotional bond have higher levels of happiness and better social adjustment than children who don’t consider their relationship with their father to be particularly strong.
Supporting the role of dad
Kids don’t come with an instruction manual. Fortunately for today’s dads, there’s no shortage of fabulous programs to help fathers be all they can be for their families. We need to acknowledge the indispensable role of dads in our families and homes. As we each do our part to promote and strengthen fatherhood, we, in turn, are strengthening children, families, and communities.
Amy (from Orem, Utah) is currently finishing her undergraduate degree in Marriage and Family Studies and following graduation wants to pursue a master’s degree in Marriage and Family therapy. She is married to her sweetheart of 20 amazing years. They have 4 kids: ages 18, 17, 14, and 12 who are her whole world.
Her hobbies are trail running, hiking, backpacking, and anything in the Utah mountains. She also enjoys traveling, creating, and eating yummy food, and CrossFit. She is passionate about marriage and family and wants to help others improve theirs. Amy believes that weekly date nights and overnight getaways are a must to help her marriage thrive.