How can you encourage dad’s involvement at your setting

PIP Dad's the Word

The important role men play in children’s lives is increasingly recognised. Anne O’Connor explains how settings can better involve them…

Baby Orson is one week old. His dad was there at the birth and has played a full part in his care from the beginning. Although mum, who is breastfeeding Orson, is his primary care-giver at this stage – and likely to be his primary attachment figure – his dad, and his older brother, are both actively involved in bonding with him as important secondary attachment figures. Dad has just changed Orson’s nappy and is making the most of this precious time for interacting and engaging with him while he is awake. Both are focused on each other, with Orson showing great interest in Dad’s face. Dad mirrors Orson’s tongue movement and Orson responds by repeating the action. The dance of attachment has begun.

1 If settings are to involve fathers in a positive way in their children’s daycare, then they need to appreciate the varied roles fathers play in the lives of their children.

Men are increasingly involved in the day-to-day care of their own children, their partner’s children, or as childminders, and yet they often report that they feel marginalised in schools, settings or parent groups.

The traditional family of a mother, father and their biological children is no longer the norm. Just think of the variety there can be in family composition, for example: lone parents; step-parents; extended families where older siblings or grandparents are prime carers; same-gender partnerships; adoptive and foster-care families; separated parents with shared custody; parents with limited access to their children. Yet we still tend to think of the mother as the parent who deals with the children and this is often reflected in the interactions settings have with parents and families.

Good partnerships with parents need to acknowledge the different ways there are to bring up a family.

We also need to take notice of the research that tells us that the positive involvement of fathers has a powerful impact on children’s later emotional well-being and life chances. Guidance for Children’s Centres also makes clear the requirement to involve, engage and support fathers in the community.

2 There are several barriers to the involvement of fathers in early years settings. These include the presence of a largely female workforce.

Although settings should do what they can to recruit male practitioners, it would be unrealistic to assume that this is the only way to address the issue. Indeed, settings with mixed teams still need to make sure that fathers aren’t encouraged to relate only to the men on the team, or that male practitioners are seen as the ‘expert’ on fathers.

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Article written by Anne O’Connor and published in Nursery World ©

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