A version of this Forum Letter was submitted and republished in the Straits Times Forum on 17 June, 2019.
Fathers have come a long way. From being the traditional breadwinner and key disciplinarian in my dad’s generation, today’s dad is more involved, more affectionate, and desires deeper connection with his children.
Serving as a prison officer previously, I interacted with inmates from varying backgrounds – drug addicts and hard-core criminals, among others. Through their stories, I saw the detrimental effects of an absent father. Many of them had no memory, or negative ones, of their dads.
Fathers generally parent differently from mothers. Research shows that we tend to play very “actively”, like throwing a child in the air or roughhousing. Children also often turn to Dad when they want to play, and to Mum when they are stressed or upset.
There are many benefits when we are involved in our children’s lives, also known as “The Father Effect”. Major longitudinal studies on families have linked increased paternal involvement to higher educational achievement and occupational mobility among their children. Those who are close to father figures also tend to avoid high-risk behaviour.
Behind a successful dad is a supportive wife. In light of distinctive parenting styles, mums can support their husband by giving him space to parent and do things differently.
However, with the pace of life and greater work demands, fathers struggle with enough time to maintain a strong connection with their family. A recent TAFEP study revealed that 97% of fathers want to work for a company which supports them in managing work and family commitments. Dads do want to be more involved, sometimes we as a society need to give them that opportunity.
Every family bears its own imperfections. Not all families have Dad and Mum living together. For families with absent fathers, some of us can step up to be a father figure. It sounds daunting, but it is a legacy our nation needs.
For men without a good fathering role model, becoming the dad their children need may be a great challenge.
As a community, we can strive to support fathers through building intentional friendships and sharing parenting resources. This is why Focus on the Family Singapore runs an annual ‘That’s My Dad’ campaign – to provide men with resources and encouragement they need to grow in their role as engaged fathers.
This Father’s Day, let’s encourage dads to be actively engaged. No longer just an option or a good-to-have, it is absolutely essential for society’s well-being.
Focus on the Family Singapore