Christian Counselor Seattle
A Chip Off the Old Block?When I was a teen I tried to impersonate my dad. Not everything about him, just his voice mostly, especially his phone-answering voice. I worked for my dad in his business and answered the phones among my other duties. I used to take pride in answering in such a way that the caller would think I was my dad. He was well-liked and respected in our community and I wanted to identify with him. But in other ways, my dad was a mystery. He worked six days a week, twelve hour days, and was physically and emotionally exhausted on his day off. Sundays were given to golf, TV viewing, or newspaper reading ̶ and not much else. I remember wondering about him on those days as he sat for hours, perhaps even the whole day, in his easy chair in front of the TV: “What’s he thinking? How does he feel about me?” He seemed in his own world, oblivious to others, and I was left to draw my own conclusions. I didn’t realize until later that such unanswered questions had left a wound in my heart.
The Powerful Influence of a Father
Much has been written, sung, and depicted about the effect a father has on his child or children. It’s been argued that there is no single man who is more influential in our lives. Dr. David Stoop, a clinical psychologist, writes: “Our fathers, whether they were present or absent, have played a major role in shaping our lives.” (Making Peace with Your Father, 12) A father’s unique impact cannot be under-stated. Statistics make it clear that there is a “father factor” in our nation’s greatest social problems. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America, one out of every three, live in biological father-absent homes. Nine out of ten American parents agree that this is a “crisis.” The National Fatherhood Initiative, a non-profit organization that aims to improve the well-being of children through the promotion of responsible fatherhood, notes: “In a study examining father involvement with 134 children of adolescent mothers over the first 10 years of life, researchers found that father-child contact was associated with better socio-emotional and academic functioning.” The results indicated that children with more involved fathers experienced fewer behavioral problems and scored higher on reading achievement. This study showed the significant role that fathers play in the lives of at-risk children, even in case of nonresident fathers.
The data clearly demonstrates the positive impact of a father’s presence and involvement. The same study revealed that father absence contributes to poverty, maternal and child health problems, incarceration, crime, teen pregnancy, child abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, educational problems, and childhood obesity.
The Ways Our Fathers Miss Us
A father’s absence can be the result of several situations. His physical absence can be caused by death, desertion, or divorce. He can be emotionally detached due to his own personal problems, through withdrawal due to a faulty understanding of parenting as “women’s work,” or through an unhealthy involvement in a child’s life (e.g. through abuse). The effect of a dad’s absence depends on the time of life and whether it was experienced by a daughter or a son.
If cut off from a dad’s healthy and active engagement early in their lives, both daughters and sons can become fused with their mothers and find themselves unable to define their own identity as a separate individual. In such circumstances, a daughter can grow to mistrust men, idealize an absent father, and suppress the development of her own femininity. She feels insecure and unprotected, and continues to yearn for her missing father in ways that often intrude into her adult relationships with men. A son who missed his father in early childhood may also experience gender insecurity, become passive-aggressive, and be perpetually disappointed with the men in his life. For daughters, the absence of a dad in the elementary school years may lead to perfectionism, adult promiscuity, withdrawal from men, or people pleasing. A son whose father was missing in the elementary school years of childhood may become overly aggressive toward people and passive toward challenges, fearful of intimacy with women, and have difficulty with work superiors. For daughters, father absence during adolescence may give rise to eating disorders, sexual problems, depression, and a yearning for a father’s blessing. The effects on sons can lead to compulsive behaviors, emotional detachment, passivity, emotional immaturity, lack of commitment, struggles with authority, and a yearning for the father’s blessing.
Hope for the Father Wounded: The Role of Christian Counseling
These wounds are real and their effects are sobering. But are we necessarily ill-fated if this has been our experience with our family of origin? Not if God has anything to say about it. In fact, He says, “I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:18). How can Christian counseling help you to address issues with your father? Work with a trained Christian counselor can provide a framework in which you can make peace with your father, whether he is still in your life or not. By providing a safe place to understand and process emotional losses and wounds, a Christian counselor can point you to a Perfect Father who can replenish what was lost in a relationship with both Himself and His people. Christian counseling can help on your healing journey. My father’s death at a relatively young age and my own early parenting of my children pointed me to Christian counseling, which helped me to process and heal and change. We all need a Perfect Father who can enable us to take the next steps on our healing journey so that we can one day bring good to others. If you sense a need to investigate what this healing journey could be, I welcome the opportunity to explore the possibility of joining you and God in this vital work.
Howard, K. S., Burke Lefever, J. E., Borkowski, J.G., & Whitman , T. L. (2006). “Fathers’ Influence in the Lives of Children with Adolescent Mothers. Journal of Family Psychology,” 20, 468-476.
Provided by freedigitalphotos.net: “Old Business Man Embraces a Teenager,” courtesy of photostock, #10034037;
“Rear View of Two Little Kids. Boy Holding His Sister,” courtesy of stockimages, #100177586;
“Father and Son” courtesy of Ambro, FreedigitalPhotos.net, 10063269
DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE
The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this article are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please contact one of our counselors for further information.