Journal and Courier Article- Fathers, sons and stress

Fathers, sons and stress

Journal & Courier - Lafayette, Ind.

Author:

TAYA FLORES

Date:

Sep 20, 2010

Start Page:

B.5

Section:

RELATE

Text Word Count:

940

Document Text

Mike Walters of Otterbein remembers growing up in a family with a supportive and loving father.

"He always gave us advice on things and when we did something wrong he explained to us why it was wrong," the 67-year-old said. "He was just there for us. When we needed something he was there."

New research shows that men who had good relationships with their fathers as children react less to daily stress as adults compared to those whose relationship with their dad was poor.

"This is really showing that dads are essential," said study co-author Melanie Mallers. "When a dad is in a household, it's very important that he is available to his son."

The study was presented in August at the American Psychological Association's annual convention held in San Diego.

The study will be published soon in the journal Developmental Psychology.

"There is something unique in the relationship with fathers and sons in how sons learn how to cope with stress," said Mallers, who is also an assistant professor of counseling and human services at California State University-Fullerton.

She explained that when fathers interact with their children, they are more likely to spend time engaging with their sons.

Consequently, it's during this time where fathers encourage their sons to be open to taking risks. The fathers are teaching their sons to confront challenges and learn how to handle them, she said.

She said adult sons who had "good" fathers are able to reflect on his past and have a sense that his dad was available to him, supported his ideas and spent time with him doing shared hobbies.

"An adult male who remembers his father this way will have a very good sense that his dad was a good dad," she said.

Jim Walters said he remembers hunting with his father and going on short vacations. "He did a lot of remodeling of the house," he said. "He worked on his cars and he taught us how to do that."

After all these years, Jim and Mike are still close to their father Richard "Dick" Walters, who is 93-years-old.

Both visit their father, who lives at Cumberland Pointe Health Campus in West Lafayette, several times a week --just to chat or bring him his beloved cappuccino.

Richard said "sometimes you wonder," about whether or not you are a good parent. "But they turned out awful good --both of them and I'm proud of them," he said.

Mike said he remembers that his dad was "calm, cool and collected" during his childhood and adolescence.

"He was always an easy-going fun type of guy to be around," he said. "If he had stress I really didn't see it very often."

He said his father's demeanor has rubbed off on him. So as an adult, Mike does not let the daily stress of life such as getting stuck in traffic or having a sudden mishap affect him.

"It happens all the time," he said. "It doesn't bother me."

Jim said he doesn't remember his father being stressed out.

"Myself, I don't allow myself to be in stressful positions," he said. "If i don't have control of something I don't let it bother me."

FYI

Melanie Mallers, an assistant professor of counseling and human services at California State University-Fullerton, gives tips for how to be a better father to your son...

1. Fathers can recognize that they play a unique and critical role in their son's development

2.They should also know that this does not have to happen in some grandiose, superhero way (a notion that may scare off many men who feel inadequate), but often through the simple interaction of play and contact.

3. Fathers today can also learn to engage in generative fathering (responding readily and consistently to a child's developmental needs over time) with an eye towards providing for the next generation of men and women; as such, take a parenting class to learn about what children need.

4. Recognize that becoming a father can be a time for growth. Take this opportunity to resolve old issues and reinvent fatherhood, or at least try to become the father one always wanted.

5. Challenge traditional notions of masculinity and rigid expectations of "boyhood."

6. Seek out professional help in order to reconcile any anger or hurt feelings men may have towards their own dads.

7. Read contemporary books about fatherhood today and about what boys need to become healthy.

8. Spend time with other men. Develop a male kinship support system.

9. Focus on one's strengths as a parent, not one's weaknesses.

-- Taya Flores, tflores@jconline.com

Buck Black, a licensed clinical social worker with Heartland Clinic in Lafayette, said that the father-son relationship is important.

"When there is a good father-son relationship it teaches the person how to be a man who is able to control his emotions and be a good citizen," he said.

Black gives advice for how fathers can engage with their sons in healthy ways...

Show your son a broad range of emotions such as fear, happiness and disappointment -- avoid showing only anger.

"A lot of times boys have a difficult time showing fear because they don't want anyone thinking they are weak," he said.

Teach your son how to communicate and talk things through.

Don't rely on words alone, spend time with your son doing physical activities such as playing a sport, fishing, or participating in a club.

Help with homework. It not only shows your son that homework is important it furthers the relationship between you and your son. It also helps teach your son that school is a priority.

-- Taya Flores, tflores@jconline.com

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.

Abstract (Document Summary)

[...] it's during this time where fathers encourage their sons to be open to taking risks. Fathers today can also learn to engage in generative fathering (responding readily and consistently to a child's developmental needs over time) with an eye towards providing for the next generation of men and women; as such, take a parenting class to learn about what children need. 4.

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.