Black dads matter in a lot of ways. They provide love, stability and protection for black families. Black dads need to succeed at fatherhood and that’s why they need support too.
June is here, and Father’s Day is almost upon us. Father’s Day has grown in prominence and is almost on par with Mother’s Day in many households around the world.
The growth in celebration of Father’s Day is a good trend that could be attributed to a change in norms, attitudes, and beliefs about what it means to be a father, which goes beyond seeing fathers as mere breadwinners or disciplinarians.
This is especially true for the notion of black fatherhood.
Today, many black dads embrace non-traditional roles within the black family such as caregivers, emotional supporters, playmates, and all-round-fun-hang-out dads. Some are even taking advantage of paternity leave options provided by their place of work.
Fathers are important and we have come a long way in recognising and celebrating that but we need to recognise that black dads need support too. There’s still much work to be done because black fathers often do not get the support they need to help them be the best fathers they can be.
We know from our own lives and research that fathers are important to children’s development. Research tells us that when fathers are more involved in their children’s lives, they have better academic and employment outcomes, and mothers who fathers support are more likely to breastfeed.
Why is Supporting Black Fathers Important?
Support for black dads should be a major topic of conversation because, like black motherhood, black fatherhood comes with its unique challenges like mass incarceration, racism, financial and emotional struggles, often with very little social support.
Fathering is not something a black dad is just born knowing how to do, no father does. Black fathers are and want to be involved in their children’s lives. They know what their roles are but often, they do not get the support they need.
Why do Black Dads Need Support?
Researchers at the University of Oxford found some major reasons why fathers need support.
1. Black fathers want to be involved in their children’s lives, but they often feel pushed into the traditional role of provider.
2. Black fathers face mental health issues that affect their fathering abilities. Many fathers experience depression before and after the birth of their children.
3. Fathers report feeling left out of the bonding process with their children.
4. Black fathers also struggle between balancing their role as providers and being involved in their children’s lives.
What are the Barriers to Support for Black Dads?
For many black dads, there are more than one barriers to support. For example, in Jamaica, fathers have reported experiencing certain barriers that in some ways are similar to the experiences of other black dads worldwide. Some of these barriers include:
1. Most parenting programmes are designed for mothers and are typically facilitated by women; this creates a barrier for men as they are more likely to talk about their challenges with other men than with women.
2. Black dads sometimes do not have access to parenting programmes such as parenting classes and group workshops because they are often at work during the facilitation of these programmes.
3. Fathers who are not in relationships with mothers are sometimes excluded from having a relationship with their children. This situation is often made worse for some fathers when they move on with a different relationship.
4. Additionally, fathers are least likely than mothers to have their rights recognised by the Courts.
What Can We do Better to Support Black Fathers?
Knowing the challenges that black fathers face and their importance to the black family, here are a few suggestions for increasing fathering support for black dads.
1. Design more support programmes for and by black fathers.
2. Train health professionals to be more mindful of the needs of black fathers and include them in more activities that are typically geared towards mothers.
3. Offer fathers paternity leave.
4. Increase advocacy for fathers’ rights to be recognised by the Courts.
5. Increase public education on the importance of the father’s involvement in child development.
6. Encourage and train black fathers to build their support and community groups.
7. Provide online solutions to fathering support for those fathers who are not able to attend physical meetings and groups.
8. Recognise that black dads matter not only to their children but also to society.
9. As we recognise and celebrate our fathers in June, let us think about ways to support our fathers to be the best they can be for our children because black dads matter.
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