How can you join the millions of fathers making a positive difference around the world?
Eighty percent of men will become fathers in their lifetime, but nearly all men will have the chance to be involved in the life of a child. We strive to support the diversity of fatherhood and caregiving around the world, from fathers in nuclear families, to same-sex families, to men who take on other caregiving roles, such as coaches, brothers, or friends.
For all of these fathers, fatherhood is made up of hundreds, if not thousands, of small decisions – decisions that are made each and every day by men all over the world. So we asked ourselves: If we could try to encourage fathers to do more, to be more caring, to be more engaged, where would we start?
Here are ten things fathers can do to make a difference in their lives and the lives of their families. And that’s just the beginning. As an involved and caring father, you become a positive role model for your children and an agent of change in your community.
You can play a critical role in ensuring a safe, comfortable birth for your children and for their mother.
Childbirth continues to be dangerous for too many women around the world. When men are present in caring and sensitive ways in the birthing and pre-natal phase, women experience less stressful deliveries and are more likely to have access to the best available health care. Studies also find that men who are present from the prenatal phase through childbirth are more likely to be connected and attached to their children from the earliest moments onward, with benefits for women, children, and men themselves.
When you share the care work, everyone wins. And you’ll discover that being a dad gets even easier (and more fun).
Globally, women spend two to ten times more of their average day on unpaid care work than men do. This inequality continues even as women have entered into out-of-home paid work in unprecedented numbers in recent years, making up 40% of the global formal workforce. The fact that women do most of the care work is one of the key reasons that women’s wages are lower than men even when they work in the same kinds of jobs. When men share the care work, they set the stage to benefit their children, their partners, and to create closer connections and positive health benefits for themselves.
You can be a man who earns the respect of your community and family. It’s easy – just be a proud father.
Too often the only role society recognizes or expects of men is to be providers. But societies and families also want and respect men who are caring, involved fathers. Research finds that men who report close, caring relationships with their children live longer, report lower rates of mental health and other health problems like high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, and show lower rates of alcohol abuse. Men’s connected relationships with children also provide benefits for their social networks and connections to others, help to reduce stress related to family conflict and separation, and, in violent settings, decrease young fathers’ involvement in gangs.
Take care of your children’s health. You can help make sure your children grow up healthy and safe from easily preventable illnesses.
Too many children continue to die from preventable illnesses in early childhood. Men play a major role in whether their children have access to critical health services, either by controlling transportation or having greater power over household income. They can support their children’s health by taking them to check-ups, and by taking care of their own health as well. Men can also support their children’s health and nutrition by sharing a greater load of household work, so that the mother can focus on breastfeeding. In families that use formula, or can bottle breast milk, men can help by feeding the baby themselves. Throughout children’s lives, their health needs may change, but an involved father can be there along the way.
You know that play is serious business. Take the time to laugh and play, every day.
Close to half of the world’s fathers say that they provide some kind of daily care for their children. The most common daily activity that men carry out with children: playing. While playing with children is only one part of care work, and the burden of most household duties often lies with women and girls, it should still be encouraged. For younger children, playing is the way they learn, the way they internalize and learn their culture, and the way adults and other children pass on their family history and expectations. Play is necessary for children to develop motor skills, to learn social skills, and to grow and thrive physically. And playing with children helps men as well. Through play, men connect and bond with children. They learn what children need, and they learn to interact with children in nonviolent ways.
You can give your child a great gift, so send them to school and teach them at home.
Fathers are a key asset in promoting and achieving educational attainment. Research clearly confirms that children with involved, caring fathers generally do better in school and show improved social and emotional development outcomes, which is essential for learning. In spite of this evidence, fathers and men are often discouraged from carrying out key activities with children, such as reading to them, following their progress in school, and interacting with and knowing their teachers. However, this involvement can lead to great results. Completing primary and secondary education are globally recognized as being key to a country’s development and to children becoming thriving, productive, empowered adults.
You have a chance to be a father who cares deeply for those he loves. That’s a rare thing in today’s world.
Many men and women think that fathers cannot be affectionate, and that they should be stoic enforcers of rules. But showing affection and demonstrating emotions and caring are among the most important things that fathers can do. Children who have emotionally close fathers are more likely to do better in school, to be involved with their communities, and to show better mental health. Emotionally sensitive fathers can also help when mothers are stressed or have physical or mental health issues that can negatively affect children. Staying connected to children’s emotional lives when they reach adolescence is equally important. Contrary to popular belief, men can and should sooth a crying child – regardless of the child’s age.
You know that a gentle arm over the shoulder is more powerful than any act of violence.
Global studies find that 25 to 40 percent of the world’s adult men say they have used physical violence against a female partner at least once. The single most important factor related to this use of violence: having witnessed a man use violence against a woman in their families when they were growing up. Many boys and girls also experience physical violence growing up, in the form of corporal punishment. Humiliating and physical punishment by teachers and parents does not teach respect; it teaches fear, engenders anger and resentment, and produces ongoing cycles of violence. Educating through dialogue, setting limits without using violence, and using nonviolent child-rearing skills are key to breaking the cycle of violence.
You can give your child a bigger, fairer future when you teach them about respect and equality.
Simply by being present in the lives of children in caring, responsive ways, men are contributing to gender equality and respect. Involved fatherhood contributes to more empowered girls and more gender-equitable boys. By seeing men doing the care work that is too often stereotyped as women’s work, girls and boys learn that both men and women can care for children and that both men and women can also be politicians, community leaders, and business owners. Fathers, like mothers, are also key to promoting respect for sexual diversity. By teaching and living respect and acceptance of diversity, caregivers play a key role in reducing homophobia and all forms of discrimination.
You always have the choice to respect the mother of your children. Make the right one, every day.
In some parts of the world, discussions about engaging fathers have been mired with debates about custody arrangements concerning separated or divorced men. Such debates have too often held gender equality back. Regardless of whether a father lives with the mother of his children, showing and living respect of the mother or other co-parent must be seen as a key to gender equality. Involved, caring fatherhood means showing support and respect for the child’s mother. The quality of a parents’ relationship – conflictual or respectful – directly affects children’s development.