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'A father’s love counts for a lot': Reflecting on dad’s influence this Father's Day


Father’s Day is the time to celebrate dads, and reflect on the influence they have on the lives of their children.

Registered psychologist Dr. Simon Sherry says dads add significant value to the lives of their children.

“Fathers play an important role in the lives of their children, and that comes across in two ways,” begins Dr. Sherry.

“First, fatherlessness, is very difficult for children and for families. In other words, if there’s no dad in a family, it can result in riskier outcomes for the children within that family.”

Research has shown a quality relationship teaches children to be less reactive to stress.

“Dads teach key lessons, such as self control, or fearlessness, or how to follow the rules. So dads have a very important role here.”

Quality, over quantity

Dr. Sherry stresses spending time with your kids doesn’t necessarily promote better outcomes, it’s what you’re doing with the time you have with him.

“The quality of the relationship matters,” adds Dr. Sherry. “So, if you are providing emotional support, if you’re mentoring your children’s activities, if you are involved in appropriate discipline, if you are consistently, reliably available to your child, those are the examples of quality interactions.”

Different dads

According to Statistics Canada, the average age of dads in Canada is increasing.

In 2021, dads were on average 33.6 years old at the birth of their child, which is nearly 3 years older compared with three decades earlier.

Dads aged 35 and older at the birth of child has nearly doubled in 30 years, from 20.2 per cent to 39.9 per cent. Dads aged 50 and older more than doubled during the same period, from 6.1 per cent to 14.1 per cent.

“This ‘fathering’ notion, I think we need to be very broad, and flexible at how we look at it” explains Dr. Sherry.

“For instance, we’re seeing more and more single parent families in Canada, that’s a demographic on the rise. We’re also seeing more stay-at-home dads. Regardless of the family format, a father’s love counts for a lot.”

A member of Dalhousie’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Dr. Sherry says Father’s Day also can cause upward social comparisons.

“They tend to compare themselves to a lofty and unrealistic – maybe an unobtainable standard. This “ideal” version of what a father should be. And no one is going to hit that ideal. So some people feel sad, or deficient, because of that social comparison. Instead of having a more realistic, and reasonable, expectation of what a father is, and what a family is.”

Complicated relationships

While there’s a lot of love for dad, Father’s Day can be very painful for those experiencing loss, infertility, or strained relationships.

“You can sit it out,” explains Dr. Sherry. “There’s a social conformity pressure around this that pushes us in a direction to acknowledge these days, but ultimately, you can opt out of these days, and spend your time elsewhere.”

How to celebrate

Gifts are nice, but Dr. Sherry says they won’t make a lasting memory.

“I think ultimately, a heavily commercialized, highly materialized holiday is an empty one,” says the psychologist.

“I think what you want to do is offer your care, and love, and attention on a day like Father’s Day, and that should be good enough for any day.”

Father’s Day is Sunday, June 16. Top Stories


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