Dads must be involved in the education of children
The China Post news staffAlthough we live in a family-oriented society, later marriages, long working hours and soaring divorce rates now pose a serious threat to our definition of “family values,” and beyond that, to Taiwan's ever-declining birthrate.
August 11, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
To address such issues the government has devised new policy initiatives aimed at providing better financial support for families and providing working parents with young children more seats in local daycare centers. Yet, no strategy of action has been pertained specifically for working fathers who often fail to get involved with the education of their young children. That is wrong.
According to a survey by the Child Welfare League Foundation (兒童福利聯盟) published on the eve of Chinese Father's Day — Aug. 8 — more than five in 10 children said they speak less than 30 minutes with their fathers every day.
A majority of respondents also said that their fathers are usually not at home for dinner, while 24 percent acknowledged that their fathers only make it home for dinner less than two nights a week. Another 34 percent said they usually fall asleep before their dads come home. Asked about the most worrying things about their fathers, four in 10 cited overwork, whereas more than three in 10 named health problems and bad habits, such as drinking, smoking and gambling.
That's worrisome news, but it is not too late to start changing things. In Germany, the introduction of parental leave, based on the Swedish model, has helped change the trend. The father (or mother) can take leave of up to 12 months and receive up to 67 percent of his salary to a maximum of 1,800 euros per month. In France, parents of two or more children can take a leave or reduce working time after childbirth and receive a flat-rate childcare benefit for up to three years.
In Taiwan, mothers are considered the primary determinant of the child's health. They are entitled to maternity leave, parental leave and other benefits, but public policies always keep fathers in a secondary role. Even when they are included in the government policies, like the three-day paternity leave following childbirth, no practical way is proposed to achieve the ultimate objective: reinforcing the bonds between a father and child.
Experts who engage in family research claim that a father's involvement during pregnancy reduces the risk of obstetric complications at birth and infant mortality, while their involvement during breastfeeding contributes to the initiation and continuation of breastfeeding for a longer period.
Children who have regular interaction with caring fathers have better educational success. Nurturing fathers result in higher IQs in young children/infants, as well as more advanced cognitive and linguistic skills. Having a strong paternal and maternal relationship will enhance a child's self-esteem. Children will feel happier and more secure in a family situation. They will also learn proper behavior, understand guidance and discipline, as well as associate their dads' actions with those of “a role model.”
In the words of Marie Hartwell-Walker, editor at psychcentral.com, fathers should: embrace their responsibility, be there throughout their children childhoods, respond to the needs of their kids (and wife), balance discipline with fun and do their financial share.
But as today's fathers are more involved in the care and education of their children, it is time for the health authorities to acknowledge that a father's commitment is just as crucial as that of a mother's. Otherwise, we will further fail to improve the physical, cognitive, emotional and social development of children, as well as a father's determination to spend time with their children and family, instead of work.