If your former partner has shared or full custody of your toddler or preschooler, you may have concerns about how your tot’s social development will be affected by spending a considerable amount of one-on-one time with his father. That appears to be one area where you can probably breathe a sigh of relief. Fathers can have an extremely positive impact on their little one’s social skills, according to ChildWelfare.gov, a website published by the U.S. Department of Human Services.
Encourages Social Development Through Physical Activity
Stereotypically speaking, a father is not generally seen taking his toddler to a “Daddy and Me” group to help his little one develop her social skills. A dad does, however, gently push his toddler or preschooler to develop her social and physical skills while helping her become more independent and self-assured. He is likely to accomplish these feats by encouraging his child to meet with other kids while joining in the fun in physical play that gives the heart a workout — like running around the yard throwing and catching a ball or playful wrestling.Advisor, Ally and Confidence Builder
A dad can act as a mentor as your little one makes the transition from preschool to kindergarten. He may introduce your child to a new sport like soccer or hockey, which will her help learn the meaning of teamwork. The effects of father/child activities, whether playing a sport, watching an age-appropriate video together or playing a simple card game, can have positive long-term benefits in the development of social, cognitive and problem-solving abilities, notes the Alliance for Early Childhood. A dad may ask his preschooler to reach out to house guests by giving them a confident, warmhearted greeting and a hearty handshake.
Don’t worry that your ex will steal your thunder when it comes to caring for and being sensitive to your toddler’s or preschooler’s needs — especially when it comes to a little girl. “Every woman was once a little girl,” points out Roland Warren, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative. Warren makes the point that, biologically speaking, a mom is still necessary because a father will never be able to fully understand a girl’s perspective. A dad may have to turn to his mom or sister for advice and support in some situations, like when he can’t understand what to do when his daughter won’t come out of her room when her hair doesn’t look right.
It would be a mistake to rule out a dad’s innate ability to nurture a child. Premature babies gained weight at a faster pace when their dads took part in their care. The same preemies scored higher on psychological and developmental tests one year later thanks to their dad’s nurturing role, according to David M. Hill, M.D., author of the American Academy of Pediatrics book, “Dad to Dad Parenting Like a Pro.”
The social development of your toddler or preschooler appears to suffer after a divorce, regardless of whether Dad or Mom is running the show. A study published in the June 2011 edition of the “American Sociological Review” found children of divorce tend to fall behind in their social and math skills, and the chances of catching up with their classmates are doubtful. Researchers followed 3,500 kids from kindergarten through fifth grade. Children from broken homes were also more likely to feel anxious, lonely or sad and be more prone to poor-self-esteem, compared with their peers whose families remained intact. Although the study didn’t specifically address the social development of toddlers and preschoolers, researcher Hyun Sik Kim, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, noted that the younger the child is when her parents divorce, the greater the impact of the split.