In today’s globalized society, we often see that upon entering teenaged years, kids become strangers to their parents, especially the father. This was not the case in the past, as demonstrated by the relationship between Prophet Yusuf (as) and his father. We see that even as a youth he confided his secrets to him and came to him for advice. Why are our teenagers ignoring their fathers today? Perhaps it is due to some deficiencies in the ways fathers connected with their kids in their early years.
Listen to Them
Perhaps the most important factor is for a father to listen to his children. He must try to understand their psychology and unique personality. He should endeavor to understand what motivates and discourages his child. By doing so, the child will develop a trust for his father. He will see him as someone he can turn to for comfort, advice, guidance, support and empathy.
Play with Them
As many of us grow old, we lose the zest for life that is a vital characteristic in children. Fathers should attempt to regenerate that enthusiasm, while interacting with their children. While visiting a public park in New Jersey, I read a sign, which said: “Families that play together stay together!” Play can be traditional games like Oonch Neech, Baraf Pani, Aanch Macholi, four corners, tag or regular sports, or such board games as chess, scrabble, snakes and ladders, etc. By playing with children, fathers are strengthening their relationships with them.
Part of considering a father as a source of knowledge and wisdom comes when the father regularly engages in teaching children. He should not only help them with homework, but read to them beneficial books, and take them to museums, science centres, libraries, book fairs, planetariums, zoos and botanical gardens. When the child asks him for something he does not know, he should admit his ignorance and research the topic with his child using references and the internet. Among the subjects he teaches, he should not neglect religious subjects, as most answers to difficult questions that a teenager goes through are found in our beautiful Deen.
Take Them Out
Fathers should take children outdoors to beaches or parks on a weekly basis. This not only refreshes the children, who are cooped up at home throughout the week, but also makes them realize the handiwork of our Creator all around us. By sharing their amazement of marvelling at flowers, birds, trees, sea, sand, shells, stones, fish, animals and changing seasons, a father implicitly emphasizes his natural relationship with his children.
Worship with Them
Lastly, a father should establish worship with his family. He should regularly take his children to Masjid for prayers, and make them participate in the Friday prayers, Takbeerat of the Eids, the Taraweeh prayers, Qiyam al-Lail, Salat ut-Tasbeeh, lectures and Halaqas. He should sometimes pray at home as the Imam of his family. By doing so, a father sends the message to his family that although he is in charge, he is also ultimately answerable to Allah (swt).
We do not know what destiny Allah (swt) has written for each child, but by taking the above steps, fathers will be assuring themselves that they have attempted to fulfill their responsibilities in the child’s early years. The only recourse left after that to fathers is to make supplications for their children, as the supplication of a father for his child is accepted.