The door shuts. “Leave me alone! What do you know?” fumes Angie as she retreats into her room. Kevin kicks himself for another row with his teenaged daughter. He cannot come to grips with why Angie responds this way. He is merely trying to show concern about her time online and homework.
To Angie, Kevin may sound impatient, but he really cares for her safety. First, he is unsure who she interacts with on Facebook. Second, Angie’s grades have been dipping.
Like Kevin, many dads find it hard to connect with their teens about various matters. How can you, as a family member or friend -also known as a Dad Supporter- rally round a dad?
Listen and Encourage
• Respect His Reticence
It is often difficult to talk about what is happening in the family, unless a dad feels that he is in a “safe place”. This is especially so for Asian dads. Essentially, it takes time for trust to be built before people can talk about matters close to the heart.
Therefore, recognise that a dad may not be ready to talk, and respect this “space”. Trying to probe or advise will just make him clam up.
According to Mr Glenn Lim, Chairman of Architects of Life, if men have a tendency to be reticent about talking about their inner world, they may be nonetheless, using the time to process their thoughts and emotions about a matter.
Therefore, do not rush into speaking to the dad directly about his relationship with the teen, advises Glenn who is also Chief Executive Officer-founder of GLC Pte Ltd which provides consultancy work for youth and corporate services.
• Value Him as an Individual
Glenn shares that a man needs to be respected as “an individual first, before being thought of as a Dad.” As such, a dad should be “valued and supported first, and not put on a guilt trip.” Do not inadvertently overstep boundaries by questioning his skills or authority.
Rather, take time to listen and understand his point of view. By listening, you become a “sounding board” –most of us think about a matter more clearly after talking about it. More often than not, he can come to a resolution on his own. You are called to be a “careful-listener” not a “problem-solver”.
Even if you do not fully agree with what Dad says, continue to listen as he attempts to express himself. It does not mean you condone or accept everything he says. Listening is an indication that you respect him. It validates him as a person as well as a dad.
Help Him to Build Bridges with His Teen
Give suggestions on how Dad can work on being a friend to his teen by engaging in relaxing or purposeful activity. For example, Dad and teen can take up a sport that both enjoy together; start a home-improvement project; or organise a community event. This will create that “safe place” for them to connect and talk.
Give ideas on how to let his teen know that he is not alone. For example, get Dad to share about the tough experiences many people go through – including his own.
Point Dad to helpful reading materials or resources. (See list at end of this article).
Bring Out the Coach in Dad
Cheer Dad on in a “new arena”. As he begins to open up to you, share that his teen is in many ways no different from others. For example, what Dad views as a challenge to his authority, may just be the teen trying to establish an identity.
Often, fathers find it difficult to deal with the changes in their teens. Reframe the situation by helping Dad see that his role, too, is changing -he is no longer parenting a child but someone developing into an adult. Dad’s role is increasingly that of a coach and friend.
Spur Him On to Stay Connected
Spur him on to connect with his teen. Help him stay involved. If Dad shows signs of reticence, let him understand that his teen may misread it as coldness, disinterest or indifference. Rather, encourage Dad to engage with his teen through active listening to build trust and openness between them.
A father who listens attentively can empower his teen with the courage to be himself or herself, while still under supervision.
In conclusion, deep within every dad is a desperate love for his children. Help him set into motion a virtuous circle of listening –father to his teen and vice versa. Show Dad the value of listening and give him the comfort and courage to persevere in staying connected to his teen. And, in doing so, build a relationship founded on trust and mutual respect.
- Architects of Life (AOL) reaches out to at-risk youths through programmes designed not just to manage their behaviour, but also to empower them to be leaders, moving them from being high-risk to high-yield individuals. In addition, AOL provides training to parents, schools and organisations on how to reach their youth.
- At-Risk-Youth Programs. How can you tell if your teen is “at-risk”? Check out this website to see if your child is struggling with any of the issues. Alternatively, complete a questionnaire to see if your teen is at-risk and find resources to help him or her.
- Concern SG is a community-edited directory, with a comprehensive listing of websites in the social services sector in Singapore. The contents are organised into intuitive sections or “clusters” for easy reference. Go to “People Cluster” to find further sub-grouping like “Youths”, “Families”, “At-Risk-Youths”
- Centre for Fathering is a non-profit organisation with a mission of “turning the hearts of fathers towards their children and the hearts of children towards their fathers.” Primarily the Centre equips fathers by organising programmes such as Father-child bonding events and parenting talks or workshops.
- GLC Pte Ltd specialises in consultancy work, curriculum design, training and programming for youth and corporate services. Its vision is to multiply transformational strategies in the youth, family, corporate and community sectors. Find out more about its Youth or Family Life Programmes.
- Parenting Teens, About.com Guide is a useful United States-based web resource that is focused on helping dads and mums understand more about teens and their issues today –comes with practical parenting tips.
The website also features fun and insightful quizzes.
- Focus on the Family (1997) Complete Book of Baby and Child Care, From Pre-birth to Teen Years, Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Wheaton, Illinois USA
- Wayne Parker, What Teens Wish Their Dads Knew About Them, About.com Guide retrieved 19 March 2012
- Health & Parenting, WebMD retrieved 21 March 2012
- Denise Witmer, Quiz: Do you spend enough time with your teen? About.com Guide retrieved 24 March 2012
About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.
First published on 02-04-2012.