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Absent-Fathers

Fathers, Make Your Kids Feel Safe

By Denise Shick – BarbWire guest contributor

“Fathers should make you feel safe.” – Karen Cushman, The Loud Silence of Francine Green

“It’s time we stand up and demand more of the fathers of this world. It’s time we stop buying into their rationalizations and their sorry explanations. It’s time we give our kids a fighting chance.” – Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing

A mother’s job is primarily to nurture and to provide comfort. A father’s job is primarily to provide a safe environment and to cultivate emotional and spiritual wellness in his children.

Too many fathers are failing to fulfill their primary role. As Dan Pearce observed, it’s time to “demand more of the fathers of this world.” Fathers, create an environment that makes your children feel safe and meets their needs. Failure to do so will harm your children, and that failure will flow out and harm others.

I know this to be true from personal experience. My father grew up in a home in which he didn’t feel safe or nurtured. Neither was he comfortable enough with his father (my grandfather) to share the hurt and rejection he experienced. Those insecurities drove him to deny his true identity. He spent much of his life pursuing his dream of becoming a woman, trying to find a place where he felt truly loved and safe.

My father’s insecurities and futile searches not only harmed him but also damaged others. Choosing to ignore his problems for a while rather than face them directly, Dad married and had children. He tried to keep his crossdressing and related behaviors secret. But eventually the secret was too much for him to bear alone, so he confided in me—when I was just nine years old. His behavior harmed me when I was a child because I put my dad’s needs above mine and tried to take care of him. Even before Dad transitioned, I often felt abandoned and unwelcome. But when he left our family to begin that transition, we felt orphaned. It was as if he no longer existed. I tried to pretend it didn’t hurt, but my pretense was futile. I’d lost Dad. Many decades later, I can see more clearly the harm I suffered because of his actions.

Kids are resilient, but parental rejection is devastating to any child. Recently, I visited with a young girl named Joy. She started the conversation by saying, “My dad did what yours did.” The pain in her eyes revealed the harm he had already inflicted on her even more powerfully than her words. Such problems tend to be generational. The abandoned child doesn’t know how to relate, so when he has children, he—literally or emotionally—abandons them.

Someone needs to step in and help to break that cycle. Churches can do that—if they learn how. If you learn to recognize the signs, you might notice some emotionally abandoned kids in your neighborhood—or your church. But you will have to pay attention. As an insecure nine-year-old,

I wasn’t about to announce to my friends or neighbors that my dad secretly wore women’s clothes and makeup.

Those insecure, emotionally abandoned kids need that safe place their fathers have failed to provide. If your church provides that sense of safety and security for them, you have a starting point. You can then begin to invest in those children’s lives.

Once you have begun, offer relational opportunities with the children whose dads have left them to pursue a different identity, such as becoming a woman. Gather the people in your church and ask a few to come forward to be examples of godly fathers; ask them to take some much-needed time to invest in the life of a son or daughter who is suffering alone. Discover what the child likes to do and support that interest, whether it is fishing or attending a car race. You may even have the opportunity to take a little girl to a father-daughter dance.

Does your church have some strong, confident, godly men who can make children feel safe? Are there men who can mentor boys and young men so they can one day make safe homes for their children? Are there godly men who can instill worth in precious little girls who may struggle to embrace their value as a girl?

If you’d like to learn more about how your church can help men become the fathers children need or how mentors can be instrumental in the lives of children, contact us at Help 4 Families.

Denise Shick is the author of My Daddy’s Secret and Understanding Gender Confusion: A Faith Based Perspective.



 

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