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Absent Fathers, Cycles of Neglect and why Simply Providing for Children is not Nearly Enough.

For many while growing up, daddy’s arrival into the home set a tone of fear. Children would wait for their fathers to enter the living rooms after work, greet them and then head straight to their bedrooms.

As a child, I came to understand very early on that most fathers were barely ‘in touch’ with their children. Since my father was not the breadwinner of our home, he made up for it by trying to constantly look after us, caring for the home and ensuring that affairs outside of work ran smoothly. In contrast, many of my friends described strained relationships with their fathers. Some explained that they would not see them for days on end. Many others said that their fathers did not know all their names or their birthdays. In cases where both parents worked, many also found that they were closer to the domestic assistants who were paid to be their caretakers. One thing that is evident in many Nigerian childhood upbringing is that many parents are not emotionally available. Some reasons for this may include social conditioning and socioeconomic status. However, growing up around people who had wealthy families, I realized that even in families with fewer financial worries, a lot of children still had poor relationships with their parents.

In many homes, building a solid personal relationship with children is seen as the woman or wife’s responsibility. She is expected to raise children with manners, love and responsibility while men get the privilege to slack off completely regarding these. Many people will argue that this is as a result of the man working to make ends meet. However, men who are the providers in their home have the spare time to create bonds with their own friends, or even forge adulterous relationships. It becomes a severe issue as they get older when they crave bonds with their offspring and are unable to get through to them as a result of childhood neglect.

I know that for many people, daddy’s arrival into the home set a tone of fear. Children would wait for their fathers to enter the living rooms after work, greet them and then head straight to their bedrooms. Many adults would say that this helps foster respect, as children know that they should be studying instead of playing around. Daddy adds a strict routine and solemn presence in the house that the other parent (mum) might not. However, for children, bonding is directly correlated to ‘play’ time. It is almost impossible to make friends with a child in a way that does not include fun, carefree attitude and relaxation. Once a child receives the vibe that they cannot relax or be comfortable around you, they check out internally.

In the future, confused fathers try to seek out relationships with children who are more or less strangers to them. A lot of children do not know their fathers and neither do their fathers know them. The relationship between child and father fluctuates between cordial at best and mortal enemies at worst. If the father is a bad spouse, which many Nigerian fathers are, then children also pick up on this. A bad spouse is not necessarily an abuser or a cheat, but the children may notice that their dad is neglectful of everybody’s needs but his own. Children may also notice that their dad is completely unaffectionate with everybody in the family. Hugs are few and far between, parents do not kiss and show love to one another which then permeates into the love they show towards their children.

In such cases, the best thing for fathers to do is to begin to evaluate the elationship they have with their children as early as possible. Even though the foundation is not there, it is important to build from whatever point you realize your relationship with your child is strained. Seek the approval of your children and be unashamed in doing so. Take your children out on little dates, either to amusement parks or child friendly restaurants. Hug them often and let them express themselves to the fullest. If they have left the homes, arrange holidays or get-togethers which bring them in close contact with you. Listen with intention to their stories and try not to get angry, interrupt or interject with ‘fatherly advice’.

Try not to stifle their passions or intimidate them as a result of strict parenting. Gain knowledge about them such as what gifts they might like or if they have any allergies. Update yourself on their medical information. It should be a shame to visit a hospital and be unable to get your child informed medical care without the presence of their mother. Do not let pride or toxic opinions from other ill-informed fathers dissuade you from showing your children tender love and care. Your child seeing you as an authority figure can be beneficial, but them genuinely loving you is even more important.

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