Food for thought: Father’s Day without a dad

Fifteen million children—that’s one in three kids—live without a father. That’s according to the Washington Times, which also reports that the number of children with…
Food for thought: Father’s Day without a dad

Every family’s situation is different, so there’s no “one size fits all” way of dealing with those emotions or getting through Father’s Day. (Shutterstock)

Fifteen million children—that’s one in three kids—live without a father.

That’s according to the Washington Times, which also reports that the number of children with fathers at home has decreased significantly in the last half century: in 1960, 89 percent of children had a dad at home. Today, only two-thirds do.

As Father’s Day arrive this Sunday, June 15th, many kids will be struggling with how to celebrate. For those whose parents are divorced, maybe it’s not so hard: kids can spend the day at dad’s house instead of mom’s.

For others, whose fathers may be permanently absent, unknown, or deceased, the holiday can bring with it a host of emotions ranging from grief to anger to resentment.

Add to that the statistics about poverty and crime that are associated with a fatherless upbringing—they’re staggering—and we begin to get a picture of just how tough life may be for kids going without a dad this weekend.

If you know a kid without a father, or if your son or daughter is in that position, give that child some extra thought this Sunday as the world around him or her celebrates dads.

Statistics: Poverty, violence, and behavior

According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, growing up without a father increase the probability of trouble later in life.

Kids without dad at home are:

  • Four times more likely to live in poverty than kids with two parents at home.
  • More likely to show aggressive behavior than others.
  • More likely to end up in jail, with a Department of Justice survey showing that 39 percent of inmates came from mother-only households, even after controlling for income.
  • At increased risk of anger problems and behavior disorders, with 85 percent of children with the latter, in one survey, coming from fatherless homes.

While, as mentioned, problems persist even without regard to income, money is still the largest factor in determining the quality of life for children without fathers. According to the Washington Times, single mothers make less than half of what the average married couple makes, meaning that their children are far more likely to grow up in poor neighborhoods without amenities or attend schools without resources.

That may contribute to the increased probability of behavioral, emotional or criminal problems.

What to do on Father’s Day

Even if children have a comfortable life and aren’t plagued by the statistics cited above, Father’s Day can be a difficult time.

Lynne Hughes, a grief counselor at Comfort Zone Camps, noted that when children lose a father—or when they’re reminded of a loss, as they may be this Sunday—those children have to deal with “adult emotions that they can’t harness or understand…all they know if that they hurt inside and they don’t like feeling that way.”

Every family’s situation is different, so there’s no “one size fits all” way of dealing with those emotions or getting through father’s day, especially if emotions are mixed as to how a child feels about his or her father. However, a few tips may help:

  • If dad passed away, take time to recall good memories. If your child is able, you might make a meal that dad liked, go to a place you used to visit together, or look at pictures.
  • If dad wasn’t ever present, make sure your child has a loving adult—you or someone else—to spend time with on Father’s Day. If there’s another adult male in your child’s life and it seems appropriate, spend time with him.
  • Let your child choose an activity for you to do together.
  • Don’t be afraid to express your own emotions, be they anger, sadness or confusion.
  • Encourage artistic expression: this might be writing, drawing, painting, making music or anything else your child can use to channel his or her emotions.