Sunday, June 22, 2008

5613: Throwing The Book At Fathers.

From The New York Daily News…

Promoting responsible fatherhood

By Bill Cosby and Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint

Last week, Sen. Barack Obama spoke out at a black church in Chicago about the importance of father involvement with children and families. He knows that many men, including the poor, are struggling with the challenges of a new model of fatherhood, one in which they play a greater role in child rearing.

Obama is right to shine a spotlight on these critical questions. Now, we must broaden the conversation to make sure we give every father the opportunities and the tools to be a good dad.

Men benefit from the satisfaction of being involved with their little ones. But many obstacles remain.

Some men complain that mothers shut them out. How do we change that? If the father has been cruel or indifferent to the mother or to the child, how can we ask the mother to give the man a second chance? It’s never easy for anyone involved. Still, if a mother has a difficult—but not violent—relationship with the baby’s father, it is important to get counseling to help them work through their issues for the sake of the child. Parents should not use the children to manipulate each other. There are counselors in churches, health centers and community agencies who can help parents learn to work together.

If the father is physically abusive and refuses to change, the mother has no choice but to shut him out. And the father should honor any legal restraining orders until he gets his act together and convinces the authorities that he has. In the meantime, for her children’s sake, the mother should try to find “substitute” fathers among relatives and community organizations.

The fact that a father is unemployed or underemployed should not disqualify him as a parent in the mother’s eyes. These men can play an important role in the home. If fathers take on more child care and household responsibilities, it lessens the burden on mothers. By participating in the life of the family, men can help relieve the stress that is frequently found in low-income families, as well as strengthen their children’s development.

Children who spend time with their fathers will develop closer family relationships and will benefit from the individual attention as they share in day-to-day activities. Kids feel hurt and abandoned when fathers are not part of their lives.

Finding ways to enable fathers to connect with their kids is crucial. As should be obvious by now, men often have to overcome some very real hurdles to bond with their children. These include child support difficulties, custody battles, incarceration, lack of education and unemployment.

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