Throughout our lives, we all long to hear a few important truths from our fathers. Children need to hear “I” statements from a father like, “I love you”, “I believe in you”, and “I will protect you”. We need to hear our Dad say, “you belong to me”. These statements from a father are nourishment.
You probably have an image in our mind of what food famine does to children. We’ve all seen the pictures of fragile children with frail limbs and bloated bellies. In a world with more than enough food for all of us, famine destroys children.
With Father’s Day approaching, I want to tell you about a different famine. It’s “father hunger”.
Father hunger happens when a child has no relationship with his or her father, when a child is fatherless. Father hunger has a devastating impact on children.
The list is long but here are a few consequences of “father hunger”:
- 85 percent of youth in prison had an absent father
- 90 percent of runaway children have an absent father
- fatherless children are 5 times more likely to experience physical abuse
- fatherless children have a 100 times greater risk of dying from physical abuse
- being fatherless knocks four years off a child’s life expectancy
If we left it there, we could all say in the dispassioned response that often happens when we see starving children on TV, “that’s so sad, but there’s nothing I can do about that.” Wrong!
We cannot leave it there! Men, you can do this:
1. Be aware. Look around you. Fatherless children are everywhere. These are not children who are far away. They live in your neighborhood.
2. Be a role model. Be a good father and your children’s friends will know it.
3. Be inclusive. Invite fatherless children to participate in your own family’s activities.
4. Be involved. Play ball in the streets. Walk around the block. Meet your kid’s friends. Encourage your own friends to think about ways you can stand together in the gap.
5. Be present. Let your own children know that if their friends ever get in a bad spot, you’re willing to be helpful.
6. Be accepting. Like all who hunger desperately for something, a fatherless child may be a little rough around the edges.
7. Be careful. Openly communicate with the child’s mother or guardian. For example, make sure you have the mom’s approval before you take a child with you on your family zoo trip.
Children without fathers need men who will step up to the plate and pinch hit for kids. You can do it in your neighborhood. You can also do it as a volunteer for organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters.
However you can, do something to end “father hunger” for a child. You will nourish a life forever.