Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace (Psalm 144:12).
According to Fatherhood.gov:
When fathers are involved in the lives of their children, especially their education, their children learn more, perform better in school, and exhibit healthier behavior. Even when fathers do not share a home with their children, their active involvement can have a lasting and positive impact.
when non-custodial fathers are highly involved with their children’s learning, the children are more likely to get A's at all grade levels.
Other studies have shown that approximately 85 percent of a child’s brain is developed by age three, and preschoolers with actively involved fathers have stronger verbal skills (a must for every parent!). Thus it is extremely fair to say that fathers, whether married or single, play a crucial role in a child’s brain growth and development, and overall academic success.
Making the Time Count
As a non-custodial father myself, I am well aware of how quickly our parenting time can fly by. I also realize how valuable that time is; but that should never be an excuse to let us off the hook when it comes to investing in our children’s academic future. Use that time wisely: get homework done first (when applicable) or take advantage of a wonderful opportunity for some quality Daddy time through age-appropriate reading, puzzles, and activities.
If you are the primary caregiver, then I am sure you are comfortable with a set homework time. If you don’t have one in place, it is definitely your responsibility to establish one. For us non-custodial dads, I have found that games such as Hangman (or other learning games) are a great father-child way to pass the time, all while stimulating your kid’s brain activity. Over the summer, 15 minutes a day of reading and problem solving will help to keep their minds engaged so they can hit the ground running the following school year. In past years, I have even attached a small financial reward system based on how well my daughter does on each test I create ($1 for 10 out of 10; 75 cents for 8-9 correct, etc…). No matter what method or avenue you decide to take, be sure to uphold your God-given fatherly duties and get the homework done first before playtime. Of course, use wisdom and discernment and don’t become legalistic over it either.
Single parenthood is already challenging enough, and perhaps even a bit confusing at times (that may be an understatement). So why as single fathers should we engage in school time activities─especially if it may eat up some of the already minimal time we share with our kids?
But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD (Joshua 24:15).
Serving the Lord implies both to the natural and supernatural areas of life. Our circumstances may not be perfect; and although there may be brokenness from a previous relationship with mom, our dedication to both God and our kids must remain constant. Failure on our end to help prepare our kids academically leaves us falling short of the mark as one of their primary life leaders. As the above statistics state, our involvement now goes above and beyond just good grades. Kids with active fathers exceed in almost every social and emotional area. Our current efforts today will only reap long term benefits and prepare them to be strong, confident, and thriving adults who will be able to stand strong when the storms of life hit. Of course, we can only give what we have; so that makes our personal relationship with Christ and consistency in our own lives that much more imperative.
I understand that many of you moms reading this may not have an option when it comes to Dad’s participation in your son’s or daughter’s life. My heart truly goes out to you and I encourage you to stay encouraged. Just know that many schools may already have mentoring programs established in them for at-risk students or ones who need a little extra help. I can tell you of one program in particular here in Michigan that when a student has a mentor, grades and attendance increase and negative factors such as in school suspensions decrease─and that’s only after spending one hour a week with their mentor!
Even if your child’s school does not offer an in-house program such as this, it would be a good idea to seek out someone who can help with your child’s schoolwork─perhaps a good family or church friend, or a coworker you can trust. I would also challenge anyone reading this article that if you know of or have the opportunity to invest into a young person’s life through a mentoring relationship, to seek out God’s will concerning that through his Word and prayer.
Men, whether full or part time, when our kids are on our watch our job is to be “Dad” and cover their every need (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually) to the best of our ability during that time. All of those little shifts, over the years, will build a lifetime of love and responsibility for them and will leave a lasting legacy for us.
Matt Haviland is the founder of A Father’s Walk single dad ministry and the author of the book, A Father’s Walk: A Christian-Based Resources for Single Fathers. He currently lives in his hometown of Grand Rapids, MI, is the co-founder of the Grand Rapids Single Parenting Expo, and is a single dad to a beautiful little girl himself. For more information on the ministry and how to form a single dad small group in your own church, please visit www.afatherswalk.org.
Publication date: August 14, 2014