He walked into my office and posed a question to me. “What is more important? Do I sacrifice my time with my kids so that I can have love in my life or should I sacrifice having a girlfriend/wife to love and give all my time to my kids?”
I was first of all surprised at his candor in this question since I have only known him for a little over a month. But I could tell he was really struggling with this question. He then pulled out a picture of his 5 year-old little girl (one of 7 children I might add) and played the audio of her desperate plea for daddy to not go away and instead stay with her. She started to cry and said, “I miss you daddy, please don’t go daddy, I love you daddy!” It was heartbreaking.
We got more involved in the question and about his little girl and it was obvious that he loved his little girl, but he was struggling in this decision even more because his girlfriend from another relationship wanted him in her life. That would require him to move farther away from his little girl, therefore seeing less of her.
So I in return, posed a question back to him and this was what I said. “Did you know that one of the reasons why teen pregnancy is so high in this country is because that young girl didn’t have enough of her daddy time?” I continued, “When a young girl doesn’t get that validation from her daddy, she will go looking for it through another man and it doesn’t matter how old he is or what he looks like or even if he treats her good or bad. All she wants is attention and love from that man and if her daddy won’t give it to her, someone else will.”
He was speechless. All he could say when I finished was, “Really?” over and over again. He walked away and not even five minutes later, he was standing in front of me shaking his head in disbelief. “What you just said to me really got me thinking and I never knew how much of an impact that I could have until now.” he said. “This is giving me a lot to think about.” he continued.
We talked some more and he did visit me a few more times before he left, but I believe he now sees his role quite differently since that talk. At least, that is my hope and prayer.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a father to a daughter or son, your role does have a major impact on your children’s lives. But let’s just say you aren’t the birth father and instead are a step-father, adopted father, foster father. How do you play that fatherly role?
Be involved in their life! It doesn’t matter where, what or how, but just be there. Give them notes of encouragement and leave it on their mirror in the bathroom or tuck it inside their favorite book or sports equipment. Always praise them, even in the little details. If they’ve been going through a major struggle, let them know how proud you are of them and how far they have come or that they haven’t given up.
Do something fun and unplanned. Admit your mistakes and that you are not perfect but also let them know that you are responsible for them and have to do what is best for them even if they don’t like it sometimes. Maybe you have to get tough and disciplinary, but always, always be in communication with them. Don’t give them all the bad critiques of what they did or didn’t do but instead share where they need some improvement. When they have improved let them know that you will support them (and really mean it when you say it). Don’t offer empty words.
Part of not having a permanent daddy from the beginning also shapes their thinking of not being wanted. Sometimes teens will say mean things because in a way it is a test. They already feel that they were rejected and part of them wonders if they act out or behave in a negative way, how much will you love them anyway or how much will you reject them.
They may even go so far to say, “I hate you.” or “You’re not my real parent.” or “I wish you weren’t my dad!” Remember, this is a hurting teen talking. They are speaking from their hurt and part of them is thinking, “Well, I’m already worthless, I might as well see if he’ll reject me just like others do in my life.” You’re the adult. Rise up from getting your feelings hurt.
Lastly, if you want your teen to have a relationship with God, it has to start with the relationship they have with their dad. It is very hard for children and teens to accept God as their Heavenly Father or to have an intimate relationship with God in their life if they haven’t experienced true fatherhood on earth now. Their mind can’t grasp this. So pray for a closer relationship with your son or daughter.
And if you’re a single parent, find a mentor in the family such as an adult brother or grandfather or close friend whom you can really, really trust with the use of boundaries. This might not be too much of an issue with a boy, but for a girl, I would suggest doing outings as a family and let the father figure have an input in that setting instead of alone time which might make it very uncomfortable on both sides.
Either way, pray for God’s wisdom, discernment and guidance as you make the changes to improve your teen’s life because they’re worth it!