A male role model is vital for a child’s wellbeing, learning and development.

Fathers or father figures, such as grandfathers, step fathers, older brothers, uncles, cousins, educators, coaches and/or youth leaders, significantly influence a child’s social, cognitive (brain function and thinking ability), emotional and physical wellbeing from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood.

A University of Western Australia based not-for-profit team of professionals, The Fathering Project, which aims to provide support to fathers, identified that children with high levels of father involvement had more advanced cognitive and social skills, a greater capacity for empathy, self-control and high levels of self-esteem, positive interactions with siblings, fewer education difficulties and better academic results.

The Fathering Project suggests there is a strong link between involved fathers and positive outcomes for children. According to their research, an absence of a father or father figure could impact a child’s education; resulting in a negative attitude to school, lack of academic or school involvement or respect for educators, increased levels of truancy and disciplinary issues and likelihood of bullying, health; with a greater incidence of substance abuse and mental health issues such as depression, and juvenile crime.

It is important to recognise the crucial role a father or father figure plays in a child’s development and within the family unit. There has been a societal shift in attitudes to fathering and traditional parenting roles, due largely to changed work practises. Last year’s Australian Bureau of Statistics figures revealed that there are now 39,300 stay-at-home dads. Additionally, more men are directly participating in a child’s upbringing rather than solely through a financial contribution.

While both parents play critical roles in their child’s wellbeing, learning and development, the father and mother figures can enrich a child’s life in different ways to enable them to gain a well-rounded understanding of their identity and world. Where mothers tend to take on a more nurturing role, fathers are more likely to be involved in play, particularly active play and rough-and-tumble play. These play experiences develop a child’s gross and fine motor skills and social and emotional competencies as they learn to manage and self-regulate their emotions and interactions through physical activity. A positive relationship with a father or father figure fosters a child’s independence, self-esteem, confidence, encourages learning through trial and error and an exploration of the outside world.

Father’s Day is a chance for educators to engage fathers in the learning community and inspire children to demonstrate their appreciation to their fathers. Educators can discuss with children the sorts of activities they like to do with their fathers or father figures. Educators can use these discussions to facilitate rich experiences for both children and their families and encourage a father or father figure to become more involved in a child’s education and care. Initiatives such as an open day, where resources are provided to promote meaningful play and leisure experiences encourages and builds positive child-adult interactions and relationships.

Invite fathers to make suggestions of activities or initiatives they might like to be involved in at your centre, group or school to create an inclusive learning environment that promotes active, ongoing participation from all family members.

Read our tips to involve fathers in the learning community http://www.edex.com.au/blog/dadtips/