Michigan State University researchers found that fathers impact their children language and cognitive skills as toddlers to social skills in fifth grade. Researchers surveyed 730 families at 17 Early Head Start programs across the United States. They found that parental stress and mental health issues impact how parents engage with their children, which ultimately affects childhood development. Parenting-related stress that fathers experienced had negative effects on children’s cognitive and language development when the children were 2-3 years old, even when the mothers’ influences were considered. Gender mattered – a father’s influence had greater effect on language development of sons over daughters. The mental health of both mothers and fathers similar affected toddler’s behaviors. As a child grew, a father’s mental health contributed to differences in children’s social skills like self-control and cooperation as the children were fifth grade. Contrary to what might be expected, a father’s symptoms of depression influenced a toddler’s social skills more than a mother’s symptoms of depression. Here are three parents can engage with their child:
- Read books with your child. Visit the library or head to the bookstore. Reading to and with your child creates quality time between a parent and child.
- Play with your child. Get on the floor, go outside, toss a ball, ride a bike, play chase. It doesn’t matter what you do, just spend devoted time with each other.
- Sing songs together. Whether you’re crooning Adele or singing about the Wheels on the Bus, songs are a fun way to bond, be silly and share favorite tunes with one another.
If you are in need of mental health services, please contact a therapist or counselor.
Jann Fujimoto, MS CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and owner of SpeechWorks LLC, a provider of on-site speech therapy in Dousman, Pewaukee, Hartland, Delafield, Watertown, Oconomowoc and Ixonia. SpeechWorks helps children become confident communicators and empowers parents to be advocates for their children.