A new school year for dads is an important time of transition. This is just as true for fathers experiencing the first day of preschool as it is for more seasoned dads with young adults driving to high school.
Lazy summer routines halt as new schedules rise in their place. Some emerge solely from the struggle of this time of transition: a new school year demands new clothes, supplies, backpacks, and shoes — needs one father may take for granted that another may struggle to provide before the first bell rings. Other routines emerge early in the year and persist until summer’s return: childcare arrangements, practice schedules, weekly visits at lunch or daily check-ins at dinner.
The relationship between father and child crystallizes in the moment summer folds into school, whether a dad is rigid and distant or shares perennial back-to-school weepiness. For one father, each new grade might mean meeting new teachers, signing front pages of handbooks, and volunteering. For another, it might mean serious discussions about daily transportation options or regrettably hasty academic decisions with long-term implications.
Back to school time goes straight to the heart of fathers everywhere, a kind reminder to always learn more. The best lessons are lifelong lessons, though, as the strongest learners are lifelong learners. Valuing the diversity of men’s experiences as parents helps us all understand how we can help shape stronger communities for children.
One father’s university credits, on-the-job training, or even picking up a book on parenting shows his strides in a proactive evolution toward his family’s better life. Meanwhile, another father looks to progress in therapy, staying clean another month, or simply learning to listen as he unfolds new beginnings for a family once in crisis.
Childhelp works with plenty of children who have incredible dads, but also with children who are better off without a father around at all this back-to-school season. Even dire family relationships can improve, but sometimes families simply fall apart. Sadly, in some instances that phrase — “fall apart” — is more delicate euphemism than apt description. In cases of abuse, abandonment or domestic violence, an absent father may leave room for grandpas, uncles, and family friends to stand in as father figures, mentors and guides.
Broadening the concept of what makes a “dad” reveals that no two fathers are alike, and no two families are either, not only in terms of character and composition, but in terms of changes within them, and around them too. Think about the hundreds of thousands of fathers still in high school, the ones stationed abroad, single fathers, and those who work from the road.
Family arrangements, schedules and routines are unique from family to family. What’s important is to figure out what works for yours.
What are your family’s school-time routines and first day traditions? How do you engage with your child’s academic life? What challenges do you face and what victories can you celebrate? What could you stand to learn, and what do you teach without even knowing it?
Our friends at All Pro Dad have some great ideas about how to make the transition more exciting and how to help your child get the most out of the first days of school. All Pro Dad encourages dads to be more involved in the lives of their children at school.
For more downloadable resources that can help you get through the sometimes overwhelming moments of the back-to-school season, or for professional assistance with a licensed counselor, visit Childhelp here.