There’s something about African men; tough exteriors, zero emotions and toxic masculinity. Okay. Not all African men but I swear, almost all of them! Especially our dear beloved Kenyan brothers.
Granted, the toughness they harbor is necessary for the world we live in. They have to show that they are men enough even though it costs them sometimes. Take for example my brothers who just last year went on a rant on Twitter last year claiming they’d rather die than wear pink shirts, lick ice cream, eat bananas, tell a fellow brother goodnight etc. Although it was all in good fun, there was some truth to it.
So how did they get there?
Conditioning! I dare say!
In our society, boys are taught not to cry. Not to show their emotions. They are taught to toughen up even though they are physically hurt or emotionally in pain.
That’s why I can count only 2 times that my dad has hugged me. He just, in our grown state, told us he loved, which caught us off-guard btw, and he rarely shows his emotions.
The normalization of being tough has created a disconnect and strained relationship between African men and their children. I know I am not alone when the discussion of dads and their kids plus emotions is brought up. We have experienced next to none!
Oooh I should add that the emotions we have experienced as African kids is that of the wrath of our fathers. The beatings, the verbal abuse and the time they even killed us is probably the only emotion our dads showed us. Never a hug or kiss. Never a ‘I am proud of you’. Never a chance to express yourself. And ole wako if you made a mistake or failed your exams; you ceased being their child and belonged to your mother! Shaaa! They were dictators those ones. But we still love them either way!
So how can our generation and the generations to come do better at trying to create a much needed bond with their kids? Children need the love and affection of both parents. Father-child bonding and relationships are also important just like the bond of a mom. It helps in raising a well-rounded, emotionally confident and strong child.
The following are ways that an African dad, especially in this generation, can do to ensure a close bond with his children!
- Prioritize time for the kids
The best and probably the most important thing a man can do is prioritize time for his children. We have witnessed many men losing out on their kids’ lives because they were never present.
Unlike moms who mostly spend time with their children, dads have to create time to spend with their children. This time can be spent doing activities and getting to learn about each other and create that bond.
This time helps in building a strong relationship and showing the kids that you are there for them. Children, from the get-go will appreciate a dad who is/was there.
They say the best gift a parent can give their children is the gift of time.
- Setting a good example
Another way of cultivating a bond is by showing a good example. Children often emulate what their parents do. When dads set a good example on almost everything, their children not only end up being good humans, but they see their dads as reliable and straight people that can be approached.
Due to this, many children feel closer and safe talking to their dads who have proven to show them the right way rather than a dad who is absent or engages in questionable activities.
Communication is an integral part in the building of any relationship. It fosters healthy and open relationships. When a father communicates with his children, it creates a bond of trust and openness.
Communication enables both the father and children to teach, learn and grow in their respective capacities. A father who communicates with his children opens a gateway of dependence and a space where the kids can feel free to approach him and talk to him without fear.
- Do an activity together
Participating in an activity together guarantees a strong bond between father and child. These activities are important not only to learn and improve the skills of a child, but also create a nice bonding opportunity with their dad.
These activities can include doing a sport, encouraging a hobby, participating or volunteering in school activities. A father can also encourage shared interests like music, cooking, outdoor activities and games.
- Be keen on their emotions
A parent should endeavor to be keen with their child’s emotions and pay attention to how they are feeling. A dad should pay extra attention to his child’s emotions and help them accordingly. Showing empathy and being kind to their children without belittling their child’s feelings is a great way to help them with their problems.
Most African dads do not show emotions and leave anything emotional for the mom to handle. This takes away from how the children view him. As someone who is hard and cannot understand them. Instead, a dad should ensure they are keen on what their children are going through, offer advice and just be there. This way, when the child is not okay, they know they can always count on their fathers.
Similarly, to create a lasting bond, a dad should endeavor to listen and offer an ear to his children. Everyone has something to offer, including children. Kids have ideas, stories, sentiments and able to make their own choices and decisions.
A father who listens to his children gives them the confidence needed to be expressive and encourages dialogue. African dads are known to give orders and assume children don’t have a say. A good dad encourages their children to express themselves.
Listening should be done without judgment, giving them full attention, stopping what you are doing and reflecting on what your child has said.
- Show affection through touch
African dads are the worst at physical emotions and touch. Touch is a powerful instrument in creating a bond between parents and their kids. Giving hugs, holding hands, giving a tap on the back is essential in promoting the wellbeing of an individual.
Non-verbal communication like body language plays an important role in all kinds of relationships. A father who hugs his children, carries them and plays with them makes the kids not only feel loved, but also safe.
- Be trustworthy and honest
A dad who shows trust and honesty automatically gets respect from his children. Engaging in activities and dialogue that entail honesty is one sure way for a father to create a tighter bond with his children. A dad who keeps conversations private or secret wins the trust of his children.
Accepting his own mistakes and shortcomings also helps build a stronger bond with his children.
- Make your child feel significant.
Children need to be assured that they are good enough or that they can do whatever they set their minds to. A dad who constantly makes his children feel that they are enough creates a lasting bond with them.
Words of affirmation, giving them a chance to express themselves, supporting their dreams and choices are all great ways a dad can do to ensure their children know he loves and supports them.
All in all, African dads can endeavor to do more in their kids’ lives and ensure they raise well rounded children who can come to them in good and bad times and also provide a safe space for them through out their lives.