Dads and Drugs: the importance of being a positive role model

There are many reasons why a good father figure is important for a child’s development

These days families come in a lot of different shapes and sizes some with only one parent, some with two or more genders and others with two parents of the same gender. Regardless of the shape and size of your family, one thing that remains true, is that parents can have an incredibly strong influence over the type of person their child turns out to be.

With Father’s Day having just been and gone for another year, what better time to explore the roles of father figures in families. So often we focus on mums and their roles: how they discipline, how they teach and how they comfort, that it can be easy to forget the very important role a dad can play in bringing up a child who is strong, confident and who ultimately makes positive decisions.

At NCPIC, we get thousands of calls, emails and social messages each year from parents who are concerned their child is having problems with cannabis use. While many of the callers to our helpline are mums, 20% come from concerned fathers looking for strategies to help their son or daughter. These calls have really highlighted for us there are a lot of caring and involved dads out there but the ratio also suggests maybe some aren t aware of just how much their interest, behaviour and example helps their children grow and prosper.

Building strong father-child relationships

While the world is changing and traditional roles are evolving, most of the time we don’t automatically think of a dad as being the lead in educating and nurturing their child. This is emphasised by the fact that often when we use the word maternal we are referring to a woman who is a natural, warm, supportive mum, but when we hear paternal we think of lineage or tests for parentage.

But the truth is, children benefit in numerous ways from having a secure, supportive, sensitive, nurturing, and warm relationship with their father (or a father figure). And luckily, with the ongoing evolution of gender stereotypes, more-and-more men are embracing this side of themselves when it comes to parenting.

Research studies have shown the importance of a father who is actively involved and engaged with his children. Children with involved fathers (who do things like take an interest in their day and pay attention to their peer relationships) do better at school, have less behavioural and mental health problems, and are less likely to get in trouble with the law compared to kids who don t have such a good relationship with their dad.

It s important to note that this father figure doesn t need to be a biological father. It can be an adopted father or an important man in a child s life. The father doesn t even necessarily need to be living with the child to develop this important relationship.

Fathers, parenting and teen drug use

One reason a strong father-child relationship is very important, is it can open up communication and help your child feel more comfortable with you. When your kids are small, this means they will be able to satisfy their curiosity by trusting you to provide the answers to their endless stream of questions. As a teenager or young adult, it can provide valuable opportunities to discuss topics important to your child s well-being and future.

Drug use can be a really difficult conversation to have with your kids whether you re simply educating them and opening up dialogue, or broaching the subject because you re concerned they may be using. A lot of the time, we assume these conversations are led by mums, but given the volume of calls we receive from dads, this may not be the case.

As a father, you can play a big role in educating your child about drugs and a strong, trusted relationships can help ensure your message gets through and your conversation is meaningful. If initiating a conversation, be non-judgemental, honest and calm, and always remember a conversation is two sided so foster the open nature of the relationship you ve built by discussing and answering questions.

If this is more than education and you re worried your child is using drugs, the time and effort you ve invested in building something trusted and special with them will pay off. If they trust you and respect you and if they don’t feel judged or patronised by you they will be more likely to talk about what is going on. Remember to show them love and support, to emphasise you re concern and how much you care for them, and offer them any help they need.

Fathers can also be great leaders in encouraging their teenagers to embrace the independence they crave during their transition into adulthood, while still offering support and guidance through difficult teenage issues.

Fathers don t just have to be the disciplinarian or the bread winner, the partner in crime or the lift to soccer practice, they can and often do play very important roles in helping kids grow into adults. If you re a father (or a mother) and want some advice about talking drug use with your children, or just need some support, call our national cannabis helpline on 1800 30 40 50

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