By the time Father’s Day takes place, the school year is usually over.
In many ways, that’s an apt metaphor for how divorced fathers – or fathers who don’t live with their children – get treated by their children’s schools. That is, they’re often simply not seen as part of what takes place at school. These fathers are often viewed as irresponsible and uninvolved.
I learned this by talking to 20 fathers as part of my research. I found that divorced fathers, especially those who don’t share a residence with their children over 50% of the time, can find it challenging to remain involved in their children’s academic development. Several fathers told me about how often teachers and administrators at their children’s schools fail to recognize them.
“My son’s school never calls me,” one father told me in a statement that could be emblematic of the plight of noncustodial fathers.
Many schools simply assume mothers are the primary parent to contact regarding schooling. Consequently, I found schools tend not to send information to both parental households or inform nonresidential fathers about how their children are doing in school.
Divorced dads also told me that they often found out about school events at the last minute – if at all.
When schools treat fathers like they don’t exist, it’s not serving students well.
Academic and social benefits
Children who have more involved fathers also tend to be psychologically, cognitively and physically healthier. When fathers take active roles in reading with and to their children, support their academic outcomes and are involved with their schools, children tend to graduate high school and have financial stability as adults.
The difference that involved fathers make begins early. For instance, children with fathers who spoke more words while reading to them as children grew up to have stronger vocabulary and math skills compared to peers whose fathers spoke less.
Fathers can also disrupt some of the negative influences in the community – such as crime, dropping out of school and earning less money – when they are more involved in their children’s education.
Being involved in children’s education is even more critical for children of color as compared to white children because of systematic racism some parents of color experience.