The church has been a dynamic support to the African American community, but I believe it can do better. With churches on seemingly every corner in some communities, they have been successful at delivering services and support to African American women and children. But they have fallen short-far short-in reaching out to and engaging African American men. And without these men, they are missing a key contributor to the overall health of the African American family and community.
Turning Hearts to the Children
In many ways God has blessed our nation. We are world leaders in many areas including economy, medicine, science and military might. However, there is one area that is a shame that we are world leaders: fatherless-ness. Tonight more than 40% (25 million) of our children will go to bed without a father in the home. In Kansas City more than 160,000 children are growing up in homes without their fathers.
Turning Hearts to the Children
Being a father is more of an art rather than a science. Science involves facts of the mind but the art of fathering involves feelings of the heart. And at the core of these feelings is the love of God expressed through being a godly father. Science is about what you know, but art is about what you do.
Prior to joining the National Center for Fathering, I worked in various capacities with students on three college and university campuses. During that time, I noticed two common struggles that should be meaningful for all fathers of young adults: One, students of all backgrounds experienced some growth anxiety and uncertainty about their future. Second, many students did not get the support they desperately needed from their fathers.
Challenges in Education
Few would argue that education is one of our children's supporting pillars of success. Yet many of our public school systems across this nation are in need of help. This was a key issue in last year's presidential campaign for both candidates and materialized as the President's "No child left behind" education campaign.
Elyce Wakerman's father died when she was three. Her loss propelled her to study the plight of young women who had grown up without a dad in their lives. In her book Father Loss, Wakerman surveyed over 700 women who had lost their fathers by either death or divorce during childhood. Wakerman was eager to find out exactly what a father contributes to his daughter's well being.
Fatherly rough-and-tumble play has many developmental benefits for children, particularly boys. Research shows that physical engagement—like wrestling, roughhousing (when not carried to an extreme) and warm, playful interaction—helps boys learn to regulate and control their behavior, deal with a range of emotions, and adapt to a variety of situations.
Visitation. Even the word sounds ominous, like something you might do with a prisoner. If you’re a divorced dad who gets the kids maybe twice a month, I know this is one of the greatest challenges you face. You don’t have free access to your kids, and when you do see them, there’s pressure to make the most of your time together. Unfortunately, kids sense that pressure and it changes things.
Anita recently sent us this e-mail:
I'm a single mother, and by chance I ran upon your web site. The information scared me—not for myself, but for my 2-year-old son. His father left when he was born, and he's had no contact with him at all. I feel this is for the best because his father doesn't care and has no desire to spend time with him. He is very irresponsible and I'm personally happy he is out of our lives. We are surviving. I want my son to be happy and healthy, and I would love nothing more than to meet a good man to be a father to my son. But until that special person comes along, it's just the two of us.
When children are involved, a divorce isn't an ending. It's just the beginning of a long, challenging cooperative effort to do what's best for the kids in a tough situation.
I hear from divorced moms and dads who are frustrated and angry. They have a whole list of complaints against each other which leads to a total lack of communication and no healthy give-and-take. And the kids suffer.
Are you there for your kids? Really there? Or are you just going through the motions? I want to share with you how dads—even divorced dads—can establish a "consistent presence" in their children's lives.
For too many fathers, home is where they eat, sleep, and do their best to keep the noise level down. Day-to-day parenting is often left to their wives. These dads have convinced themselves that their presence or absence has little impact on the family.