Children send ‘missing you’ father day messages

6 June 2003

Hundreds of children have posted special Fathers Day (June 15) messages to their dads, many recording how painfully they miss their fathers.

The messages -texts, emails, prose and poems – have been posted on the Fathers Direct website – www.fatherhoodinstitute.org – in an initiative sponsored by the Department for Education and Skills. The "Message for Dad" competition reveals how children want more time with their fathers and details the loss many children bear when they cannot be with dad. To support children, more than 150 leisure attractions – including Legoland, Chessington World of Adventures, Alton Towers and Oakwood have agreed concessions for dads and their children on the Fathers Day weekend. A map on www.fatherhoodinstitute.org shows children and parents what is available in their area.

One 11-year old boy, Daniel, introduces himself for the first time to the father he has never met. "You might not remember my mother," he writes, "but I think about you all the time." 11 year old Dunia asks her father, whom she does not see, to look at the sky at night so he will see there are no more stars, "because every time I miss you a star falls from the sky.", Liu, 11, says: "I might not have seen him for 8 years, but I love him every single day and night." Charlotte, 11, writes; "I only see you once a week…Some small things I ask: Please come to my school plays and to parents’ evening to see how I’m getting on."

One of the schools involved, Kensal Rise Primary in north London, is also organising a special "Bring Dad To School Day" on Friday June 13. Dads will spend the entire day at the school, helping with science, maths and computer workshops, finishing with "Match of the Day" games of cricket and football and a prize giving for participating fathers.
Joyce Page, head of Kensal Rise Primary, initiated a programme to work with disruptive children and found that many had absent parents. So she set up the "Fatherhood Project" which supports the children’s relationships with their dads. She said: "We don’t see many of our dads. But we know they exist and this is a good time to give children a voice to say how they feel about dad, whether he is at home or absent. Emotional literacy is important."

Gareth Todd Jones, head teacher of Pen Pych Community Primary in south Wales, one of the participating schools, said that the "Message to Dad" project had revealed great sensitivities in children. "Some children have raised issues that we as adults can find very difficult. But we have a duty to allow children to express their feelings and to get alongside both parents to support them and their children."

Duncan Fisher, Fathers Direct chief executive, said: "It is important to listen to what children are saying about their need to spend time with their dads. Their voices reinforce compelling research showing the benefits to children of dad being closely involved in their lives."

Ivan Lewis, Minister for Young People and Adult Skills, said: "The involvement of fathers in children’s lives can make a real difference to educational achievement. The ‘Message for Dad’ competition lets us hear what children need from their dads, while the events around Fathers Day turn it into a time when fathers and children can really enjoy each other’s company. We’re backing these initiatives because it vital to harness every resource available within families to bring the best out in young people.

Legoland, Madame Tussauds, Alton Towers, Oakwood, Cadbury World and the Eden Centre in Cornwall are providing free family tickets to the best entrants in the Message For Dad competition, who will be presented with their prizes today (June 9) by Ivan Lewis, Minister for Young People and Adult Skills.

Many children have made more practical demands of their father in their messages: "Please lose some weight as you are getting fat," says Jonathan, 10, to his dad. "Stop giving me chips all the time. stop swearing". Jessica, aged 11, says "Dear Dad.Please stop smoking because I wouldn’t want anything to happen to you."

A typical message is from Jamie, aged 10. "Dear Dad," he writes, "I’d like you to take me to a football match, because I have never been to one and it looks cool.I would like you to arrange for me to see Beckham and get his autograph. It would be fun. Then we could have hot dogs and coke at half time."

A research paper, What Good Are Dads? (2000) by Charlie Lewis, Professor of Developmental Psychology at Lancaster University, found that there are many benefits from the involvement of their fathers: post-natal depression in mothers is reduced, children have better social skills when they first go to nursery, they are more successful at examinations at 16 and they are less likely to have a criminal record at 21.

Gareth Todd Jones, head teacher at Pen Pych Community Primary in south Wales, has encouraged father-involvement as an important factor in regenerating the fortunes of a deprived community in the Rhondda Valley. He has established a "Superdads" project at his school which, a year on, involves more than 20 fathers who run sports clubs, camping trips, do cooking with the children, woodwork, sewing and making weaving frames.

Mr Todd Jones said: "There has been a definite improvement in the performance in the classroom. The children with active fathers tend to have good social skills."

More than 500 children entered the "Message for Dad" competition, through their schools. Many will read out their messages at a conference on fatherhood to be held today (June 9) in Cardiff. The entries can all be viewed at www.fatherhoodinstitute.org

Fathers Direct recently published Dad, the first men’s magazine for fathers, which is being delivered to new dads via maternity units. Details about the magazine can be found on www.fatherhoodinstitute.org

Notes to Editors:

Fathers Direct is the national information centre on fatherhood. A charity founded in 1998 by a group of fathers and mothers, it supports good relationships between men and their children. It is financed through professional training and publishing as well via grants from public, private and charitable sources including the Home Office.

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