3:00 p.m., June 12, 2003--Rob Palkovitz, a UD professor of individual and family studies, compares fatherhood to a long journey—like walking to Boston.
Palkovitz, author of “Involved Fathering and Men’s Adult Development: Provisional Balances,’’ said if someone knows he must walk to Boston to get a terrific reward, he’d probably start walking.
He might lose his way, backtrack, make mistakes and encounter obstacles, but if he persists, he likely would get there.
“If you keep at it and take enough steps, you get where you’re going,’’ the father of four said. “Every day, fathers have to say, ‘Where am I now? Where do I want to be? What steps can I implement to get there?’’’
Palkovitz’s advice to fathers and to adult sons who have regrets about their relationships with their dads is simple: “Stop focusing on the past, and focus on where you want to go.
“This isn’t really rocket science,’’ he said. “It’s how can you build your relationship. It comes down to stuff like the golden rule. How would you like to be treated?”
Here are tips Palkovitz has gleaned from his research, his interaction with his four sons and from his volunteer work with children with absentee fathers:
- Focus on things that are both true and positive. Think what a difference it would make to say, “Dad, I really appreciate how you worked to provide for our family,” without throwing in, “But it would have been nice if you were home more often.” Tell your kid, “It’s fun being your dad,” without adding, “But it’d be nice if you picked up your room.” You build relationships one step at a time.
- It takes years to build a relationship. Figure out where you are now and how you can build from there.
- Palkovitz remembers a motivational speaker who said life is made up of millions and millions of “right nows.” He asks fathers what they are doing to build their relationships with their kids right now.
- Parents of 18-year-olds still need to be on hand for the important transition to college or work. Palkovitz said parents help cast their children’s images of themselves and are the wind beneath a young person’s wings when he or she ventures away from home. He says it is important for 18-year-olds to feel their parents’ support, as well as earned independence.
- Some parents dig deep holes in their relationships with their children. Significant hurts take time and consistency to heal.
- Think ahead to what you want your child to say about you when he or she leaves home: “My dad was always….” However, you want them to complete the sentence is the way to start behaving.