Fathers can also greatly benefit from mindful communication with their children.
Being present and practicing mindfulness with children is easier said than done. While new mothers are traditionally expected to be mindful, fathers are often understudied and overlooked when it comes to the relationships they form and nurture.
While there is little research that specifically assesses the impact of mindfulness on father-child relationships, a multitude of twin-parent studies shows that there are immensely beneficial aspects of open communication between fathers and their children.
The following benefits of mindfulness are directly correlated with an enhanced relationship between dads and their families. As such, mindful communication among fathers should be studied, practiced, and honed daily.
1. Mindfulness enhances emotional connections between fathers and their teen children.
When it comes to parenting, there are countless resources detailing the positive and negative impacts of different parenting styles on newborns and young children. However, teenage relationships — and the parenting tactics and techniques that help teenagers grow and thrive — are far less understood.
Fortunately, the research that does exist shows that fathers who practice mindfulness often have a more positive bond with their teenage children than those who do not. Further, teenagers whose dads engage in mindful communication with them notice and appreciate the communication change at a higher rate than those who experience mindful communication from their mothers.
The reasons for this are not entirely clear, but traditional social responsibilities do seem to play a role: While teenagers may expect mothers to practice mindfulness, it is perhaps less common — and thus, more rapidly recognized — when it occurs in fathers.
Whatever the true cause for this disparity, this phenomenon means that dads may have the most to gain from incorporating mindful behaviors into their communication techniques. In doing so, others will notice and respond more frequently and positively.
2. Mindfulness in fathers can reduce child aggression and other problem behaviors.
In addition to improving the bond between dads and their children, mindfulness among fathers has been documented to help reduce aggression and other problem behaviors in teenagers. Teenage children whose dads practiced mindfulness were more likely to show their fathers open, positive communication based on mutual love and kindness.
This may be because practicing mindfulness can lead to fewer instances of angry parenting, such as judgment, criticism, hostility, anger, and suspicion. By avoiding these behaviors, teenagers form a more positive relationship with their fathers and engage in more trust-based behaviors that lead to lifelong emotional connections. These connections, if fostered, can help dads continue to be a positive force in the lives of their children as they grow into adults and their roles and responsibilities begin to adjust.
3. Mindfulness helps strengthen the bond between mothers and fathers.
While research is less clear in this area than between fathers and children, there is reason to believe mindfulness in fathers can also lead to a better relationship between fathers and mothers. Parents who practice mindfulness often engage in healthier parenting styles and strategies, leading to a sense of shared responsibility and trust that builds and grows over time.
After all, a mindful parent is an attentive parent, and mothers whose spouses are open, honest, and present with their kids are much more likely to perceive their partners as effective.
4. For fathers, the risk of non-mindfulness is simply too great.
The benefits of practicing mindfulness among fathers are enormous. As such, the consequences of dads who refuse to engage in mindful communication are significant: Without open and honest communication, relationships between fathers and their teenage children can lead to hostility, aggression, and little to no affection. At the same time, a failure to engage in mindfulness can fray relationships between mothers and fathers.
If you are a dad looking to improve your bond with both your children and spouse, consider practicing mindfulness techniques today. The road to mastering mindful communication is long, but — as studies show — it is most certainly worth it.
Anthony Cupo is a Trained Mindfulness Facilitator (TMF) from the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. He is a co-owner of Stepping Forward Counseling Center, LLC and has been meditating for over 30 years. Our article is also published in ParentingOC’s Magazine!