Letter of the week #2: Actively engaged fathers a necessity in society

Posed photo of a father and his child.
Posed photo of a father and his child.PHOTO: TNP FILE

Fathers have come a long way. From being the traditional breadwinner and key disciplinarian in my dad's generation, fathers are today more involved, more affectionate and desire deeper connection with their children.

As a prison officer, I interacted with inmates from varying backgrounds - drug addicts and hardcore 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 fathers.

Fathers generally parent differently from mothers. Research shows that they 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 parents are involved in their children's lives. Major longitudinal studies on families have linked increased paternal involvement to higher educational achievement and occupational mobility among the children of those families.

Those who are close to father figures also tend to avoid high-risk behaviour.

However, with the pace of life and greater work demands, fathers struggle with time to maintain a strong connection with their family. A recent Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices study revealed that 97 per cent of fathers want to work for a company that supports them in managing work and family commitments. Dads do want to be more involved; sometimes, society needs 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 in the community 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 to grow in their role as engaged fathers.

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.

Jason Wong

Board Chairman

Focus on the Family Singapore