The Role of Fathers and Well-being
The positive impact of expressions of gratitude on our well-being is well documented in research. The ongoing changes and challenges brought to us through the pandemic also provide an opportunity to sit back and reflect on the goodness in our lives. Recognising the source of such goodness helps us connect: be it to others, the natural world or something beyond (www.health.harvard.edu, August 2021).
Last week, I expressed gratitude that we were able to join as a Loreto community to celebrate through our annual Father- Daughter breakfast. It was an opportunity for our fathers and father figures to connect with each other and with their children. The competitive spirit was certainly in evidence as we participated in a light-hearted trivia competition which followed a delicious breakfast.
Michael Grose, parenting expert, has acknowledged that the role of father has changed significantly over the years, moving away from the traditional role of breadwinner and disciplinarian to a far more complex one. Across different cultures and even within Australia, it is clear that there’s no one ‘right way’ to be a dad.
Michael Grose wrote that ‘the parenting advice industry is often skewed toward mothers as the direct or primary carers’. He outlined that fathers of adolescents need to continue to engage in play with their children; activities such as pizza nights, camping or bonding through humour are vital to maintaining positive relationships. Oxytocin, the bonding chemical that strengthens relationships, is released through such activities.
Grose also outlined the important roles father have in helping their children develop resilience and academic independence. Oliker (July 2021) has also outlined the impact of positive child/father relationships on children’s cognitive, behavioural and psychological development.
I am reminded of Mary Ward (the founder of Loreto) and the relationship she had with her father, Marmaduke Ward (c.1550-1606). In 1595, Mary’s father rescued her and her siblings from a house fire which burned down in an anti-Catholic riot in Mulwith, Yorkshire. Her father had also expected that Mary would marry, which would have helped secure some strategic alliances between prominent Catholic families in England. Instead, Marmaduke Ward supported her education and her vocation to establish an order of nuns in Europe; he was no different to contemporary fathers who almost universally want the best for their children.