Fathers, Families And The Future Youth Forum

  • Tony Ryall
Youth Affairs

"My dad is the best dad ever. I would kiss a pig for him." - American 1st Grader

Michael Fowler Centre,

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Today some 400 young people from high schools and youth organisations throughout Wellington have come together to look at their views on fathers, fathering and families. A similar forum was run in Christchurch last year.

Today ?s forum is the first of three strands under the Fathers, Families and Future banner. The second strand is a Festival in Civic Square on Saturday.

And, the third is a Social Policy Forum taking place next Monday. At that event, the findings of this young peoples? forum will be presented.

The organisers are hoping to achieve two things: Get the youth perspective for the Social Policy Forum next Monday; and, bring these ideas together with Christchurch?s to present a national view of youth on fathering.

And, you know, those views are going to fascinating. I downloaded a few interesting quotes from an American essay writing competition, where young people talked about their fathers. Here?s three:

"Fatherhood is a lifelong commitment. I have seen through my father's actions, words, and decisions that he will be committed to me and my life from the second I was born, almost 13 years ago, to the day I die....Even if you assembled the most brilliant team of scientists and artists there was, there still is no possible way you could duplicate my father." 7th grader

"Although we have a firm foundation, there is one thing I would like to hear more of. . .I wish my dad would say that he loves me more often. I know he does through his actions. I mean, what kind of dad would do all this for someone he didn't love. But every night before I go to bed I say: `Night Dad. Love You. See You in the morning.' And he says, `Uh huh!' I wish that sometimes he would say I love you back." 9th grader

But my favourite has to be:

"My dad is the best dad ever. I would kiss a pig for him." 1st grader

When young people enter adolescence, they experience some pretty drastic ups and downs. So do fathers.

What goes up for a dad?

Food bills, car insurance premiums, the stereo volume, and his frustration level: "All right, who used my razor to shave her legs?!"

Other things go down: free access to the bathroom mirror, the number of one-on-one touch games that you win, the petrol gauge in the car.

One very significant drop during this stage takes place in fathering satisfaction. Research at the National Center for fathering in the United States shows that a typical dad's satisfaction reaches its lowest level during his children's adolescence, then swings back up. Researchers call it a true linear curve, but at the bottom of the swing, most fathers just call it frustrating. Or difficult. Some call it quits.

This period is marked by great change, and change means stress from having to adjust. Parents spending a lot of time worrying and wondering: How do you respond when your son's value system seems to go against everything you've tried to teach him? How do you show affection to a daughter who looks more like a woman than a "little girl"? It can be unsettling.

A changing teen and a changing father will have a changing relationship-or else a very strained one. We must grow and adapt if we want to maintain a strong connection.

You need to know that fathers spend as much time worrying about how to be good fathers as you spend wishing they?d get off your case! Today you?ll come up with ideas on how fathers can do even better by you.

I became a father 15 months ago. It's the greatest thing that has ever happened to me, after marrying my wife. But its also the most worrying. Because you know just how important fathering is to your child?s future. And you learn just how much trouble and heartache you caused your own father!

You?ve got some really big topics to talk about today. If we?re serious about parenting for the future, parents have got to hear from you, the parented.

Please be open and frank with what you think. There?s a lot of interest about today and people want to listen to what you?ve got to say. Thank you for being part of this.