In this episode of Blended Fatherhood, host James Ferriss discusses the importance of father involvement in the lives of children. He acknowledges that this is an important topic and will be delved into more deeply in future episodes. He explains that children who feel close to their fathers are more likely to have successful outcomes such as entering college or having stable employment after high school. They are also 75% less likely to have a teen birth, 80% less likely to spend time in jail, and about half as likely to experience depression symptoms. Father involvement can have drastic changes in the life of a child, and this is why it is so important for parents to stay engaged.
Questions or comments please email James@blendedfatherhood.com
[0:00:23] James: Hello and welcome to Blended Fatherhood. I'm your host James Ferriss and on today's episode we're going to be talking about father involvement. Today's episode is going to be probably a little bit of a shorter one. My voice is pretty sore because we're doing a we have a couple of performances for my first graders and second graders at my school and so I've been trying to make sure that that is going well and it's been using a lot of my voice. But either way, this is an interesting topic and something that's super important. So we will delve way deeper into this one in a couple of later episodes. Specifically, how do you deal with engaging in the life of a daughter or a stepdaughter versus a stepson and that sort of thing. So this one's going to be pretty general, but it's super important and something that we need to think about because it can have drastic changes on the life of your step kids if you are involved versus if you're not involved. What I mean by that is that children who feel a closeness to their father are twice as likely as those who do not have a closeness to their father to enter college or find stable employment after high school.
[0:01:25] James: They are also 75% less likely to have a teen birth, 80% less likely to spend time in jail, and about half as likely to experience multiple depression symptoms. Those are some pretty drastic statistics to me. Like, you're 80% less likely to spend time in jail if you have a decent closeness to your father. Now these are all related to being biological fathers. And so for us who are fathers in blended families, not all your kids are your biological kids.
[0:01:54] James: And so then how do you relate and how do you make sure that your non biological kids don't fall into one of these statistics right here? And the reality is that it might not be the case. It's possible that these things will happen and that's okay, life is messy, life is not perfect. But we, again, as fathers who are trying to lead our family to be the best people they want to be and make sure that they're safe and protected, it's a good idea to just have these ideas in mind and to kind of do the best we can to make sure that they don't happen.
[0:02:26] James: So how do we do that? Or what does that look like? Being an involved father is relatively simple. And if I were to say that it seems common sense to me, that's exactly how I would think. And that might come off like, really kind of rude. I'm not saying that if you don't know what's going on or how to do this, then you are dumb. That's not what I'm saying at all. What I'm saying is that the basic principles like spend time with them seems pretty normal.
[0:02:54] James: The hard part is figuring out, well, how do I spend time with them when they hate me? Right? Or how do I spend time with them when they think that I'm just getting in the middle of their relationship with their mother? And you can't always avoid those feelings from your step kids, but you can do things that help mitigate and in the long run, make those issues kind of go away. So let's talk a little bit about that. It's a little bit easier the younger they are most of the time. If you have a teenager, which is already hard parenting enough, add in the fact that they are not your biological teenager, son or daughter, that's a very hard task.
[0:03:34] James: And it's not something that's just going to be like overnight. They are going to like you or accept you. You're going to have to work at it. And it might be years, and they might become sort of an adult stepchild by the time any of this actually happens and you have a good relationship to them. But some general principles work regardless of you're in that situation or you're in a younger situation.
[0:03:54] James: So spending time together and it doesn't necessarily need to be like a lot of time. Studies kind of show that even good small chunks of quality time are better than less quality, but more so. Quality is better than quantity in this aspect. So you want to make sure you're spending good quality time with your step kids. And if that means that you need to learn a hobby or pick up something that they really like to do, I would go for it. You might not be the best at it, but if they're really into underwater basket weaving or they're really into knitting or sewing or something, take a semi interest in that. I'm not telling you that you need to learn how to sew or become the best crochet or ever, but if they like tennis, go play tennis with them. If they beat you.
[0:04:43] James: Oh, well, if they like riding bikes, ride a bike with them. If they like playing catch, play catch with them. If you're not good at catch, oh, well, it doesn't matter. The main concept is that you're saying, hey, my time, which is, again, the most precious thing that we have, is my time is worth it to spend with you. And that's what you're saying to them when you do these things. The other thing is that you can be an open ear and lend emotional support even if they don't like you.
[0:05:11] James: Just having this idea of like, I am open to listen. And actually when they talk to you about anything, actually listen and knowing and hearing them is going to be really important. So a situation could arise where they say something to you and you might not think that it's actually the most important thing, but you need to make sure that you're thinking and remembering those things that they tell you because if they ask you later and you're like, oh, did you say that? Oh, I don't remember that signals basically it's like what I said wasn't important to them. And that goes for almost any interaction with anybody.
[0:05:46] James: But in this relationship that you're trying to build that's already tense because you're the outsider. You're the one who's taking place of dad. You're maybe someone who accidentally did some discipline early on that kind of rubbed the step kids the wrong way. Like you've already kind of established this idea that even if you didn't do it on purpose, that you're not someone who's fully involved and fully integrated into the family. There's an ambiguity to the stepfather role that kind of blemishes in a sort of negative light just immediately, right?
[0:06:20] James: And so you want to make sure that you actually don't make that worse. So pay attention. Listen to them. Okay? The other thing is every day give assistance or every day make sure you generally ask how they're doing, regardless if they like you, it's those perceived small things or like the non obvious things that do the best work and the most work for your relationship. Now, we are guys, so we're stepfathers, right? So statistically and I think reality shows that this works for both biological and stepfathers. We're more involved with a boy's life than a girl's life.
[0:06:56] James: There are things that we don't understand with the girl's life that we're not going to understand. And so it's easier for us to relate to our sons. My son plays baseball. I know what baseball works. I know how baseball works. I like baseball. Great. My daughter is into sewing. I know nothing about sewing. I don't think I'm going to learn anything about sewing. I don't know how to relate to that. And I'm not saying that your son could not like sewing. Your son could totally like sewing. Your daughter could like baseball.
[0:07:29] James: Great. Either way, there are just differences between a boy and a girl that are going to make this a little bit differently. And statistics show that we relate more to our sons probably because we know what it's like to grow up as a young boy. So how do you relate to the different if you have a stepdaughter versus a stepson and it's relatively the same spending time together. If they're older, younger, you also have to think that through. So the younger they are, the easier it is. You can be involved in everyday life, right? You can go to school performances, you can ask them about their grades. You can pick them up from school. You can know the name of their teachers, you can know the name of the friends that they have at school, you can drive them to school, all that stuff. So let's say you have a teenage daughter. So I did when we got married, my daughter, she was 15 and a half or so, almost 16.
[0:08:22] James: And honestly, I didn't know how to relate at all. The most I'd related to teenage girls was teaching them in drum line, and that was a different it's not something that you're not like, parenting them, right? All you do is get to know some random couple of different information about them and then you make sure that they're really good at playing their instrument. That's it. Right. That's not something that's like dealing with sort of the intricacies there. But the main idea is to show that you love them regardless of the time spent together or even when you have no idea what is going on in life in their head, right? So you're all about showing love.
[0:08:59] James: If that means that you ask your wife or their mother what their favorite candy is, and you just drop them off their favorite candy. Or you can go about it a different way and just make sure that you know about what's going on in their life by asking your wife about their life because she should know what's going on, and she can tell you and you'll know that information. And if you know that information about what's going on in their life, you'll be better prepared. You'll also just tell them that, hey, I'm paying attention to what's going on in your life because I care about your life.
[0:09:27] James: I remember this was we hadn't been married yet. We were still dating, and I think it was close to Valentine's Day. I'm not 100% certain on the date, but I remember that my now wife, she texted me and said, hey, our daughter's boyfriend had broken up with her, right? And you're a teenager. That can really be really bad if you've dated or you were in a relationship. When you're a teenager, you know, that first sort of heartbreak. And even if you've had other heartbreak too, that can be really devastating. And I had remembered that a my daughter really likes Red Bull. She loves Red Bull. But I also remember that she had mentioned something about Reese's, like cups. And so before I went over to hang out with my wife or do what I was going to do with I think we were headed to church later.
[0:10:17] James: I remember I stopped and I just got those two things and I just dropped it off in the apartment. I said, hey, here you go, I hope you're okay. No questions. I didn't need to know do details, nothing. I just was saying, hey, look, I'm thinking about you. Very simple, okay? And it doesn't have to be anything different from that. It's a very simple ways to show that you care just by knowing a couple of different details and then again, giving your time away so they know that, hey, I love you. My time is worth it.
[0:10:46] James: You are worth my time. That's the biggest thing that you can say to any of your step kids and say, hey, you're worth my time. I want to be involved in your life. Even if we don't have the best relationship right now or you don't think I'm the best person, I'm going to sit here in however long it takes and just constantly say, you are worth my time, period. Hopefully when you're in that position where you're continually putting 1ft in front of the other and making those continuous promises that says, my time is worth it, my time is worth being spent on you, your relationship will grow.
[0:11:22] James: It's not just a one time off where you remember, hey, they like Reese's cups, I'm going to get them. Reese's cups, I'm done. You have to continually do it day by day and kind of not slack off on that and eventually the relationship will grow and you have to be patient. But if you're in a position that says and always says, my time is worth it, and you're showing that to your step kids, your relationship will grow.
[0:11:45] James: But if you slack off and you don't do that and you kind of tell them, hey, you know what, I'm busy, it's not worth it, it's going to spiral and take way longer to get to a place where you want to be. Thank you so much for listening. I know this was a little bit of a shorter episode and we didn't delve super deep into the topic at hand, but we will in later episodes of Blended Fatherhood. On next week's episode though, we are going to be talking about the specific role of the stepfather and how to actually fit in that role. It's really easy to feel super ambiguous and feel like you are an outsider. And so we're going to be talking about ways that you can fit inside your family and make sure that you have a defined role for yourself and how to feel comfortable in that role as stepfather.
[0:12:31] James: Because if you feel super ambiguous, then being able to kind of lead is not going to be something that is going to come naturally or easy for you. Again, thank you so much for listening. Please think about subscribing following the podcast. If you have any questions, comments, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you again. See you next time.