Children need both parents now more than ever
Today, the best outcome for a child in a divorced or separated situation is for both parents to agree, as best they can, on custody arrangements and co-parenting rules and protocols. Children who maintain healthy and quality relationships with both their mother and father following parental separation often experience better adjustments and more positive rates of development compared to situations where those relationships are absent.
According to the Pew Research Center, the U.S. has the world’s highest rate of children living in single-parent households. Of children under the age of 18, 23 percent live with one parent and no other adults. This is more than three times the average percentage (7 percent) for the rest of the world. Pennsylvania, as reported by Public Source, is among 21 U.S. states where single-parent households represent between 33 to 38 percent of family homes.
Now more than ever, there is an urgent need for both parents to be fully involved their children’s lives. Children with both their mothers and fathers present tend to have lower rates of drug and alcohol involvement, less truancy, delinquency, and trouble with the law, less gang involvement, and lower rates of educational underachievement. Such children also have fewer issues with self-esteem and depression, less anger and even less physical illness. Unfortunately, far too often fathers encounter systemic barriers that keep them from doing being there for their children.
The Dads’ Resource Center was established to promote the well-being and healthy development of children from separated or divorced families by helping to support and encourage fathers to be fully and actively engaged in the lives of their sons and daughters. We believe the courts and social service agencies have an obligation to ensure this happens so that dads can provide the time, input, emotional and financial support that their children deserve and require.
It is never a tough sell when we ask our dads to make the Fatherhood Four Commitments. This pledge comprises the primary responsibilities that all fathers have toward their children and is a touchstone to help them focus through the transition into a separated family.
1. My primary focus is on my children. Whatever complications or challenges may exist or develop, I will put the safety, health, happiness and well-being of my children first. This will be displayed not only in words, but consistently through my actions and deeds.
2. I will respectfully co-parent with my children’s mother. I will communicate with mom in a polite and courteous manner. I will make every effort to accommodate reasonable adaptations to parenting plans. I will never knowingly portray her in a negative light to my children and will do my best to support the mother/child relationship.
3. I will ensure the basic needs of my children. This includes financially, medically, educationally and developmentally. I will always ensure their welfare and safety.
4. I will be the best possible father to my children. I promise to be active in their lives. I will spend meaningful, quality time with them. I will actively communicate with them. I will be a positive role model and influence on their lives. I will teach and mentor them. I will strive to be as loving of a man and caring of a father as possible for them.
The breakup of a family is incredibly difficult for all parties and it takes a great deal of time to sort through their new normal. It is vital from the very outset that both parents keep the best interests of their children in mind as opposed to focusing on their differences. Parents should always strive to make this their shared mission.
The Fifth Annual SOC Symposium is being held virtually on December 8th and 15th from 2 to 4 p.m. The purpose of the symposium is to ensure better futures for our children through greater father family involvement. The Dads’ Resource Center is honored to participate in the event along with many other individuals and organizations championing fatherhood from across the Commonwealth, including the Allegheny Intermediate Unit and the Fathers Collaborative Council of Western Pennsylvania.
Parents are encouraged to attend to learn more about the role that they play in our society and how we as a society can continue to create systems in which mothers and fathers in separated families can continue to be the best parents they can be. We owe it to our children.
About the author:
Jeffrey Scott Steiner, M. Ed. is the executive director of the Dads’ Resource Center, the only statewide youth advocacy organization that promotes the well-being and healthy development of children from separated or divorced families in Pennsylvania. For more information, visit: dadsrc.org.