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What is emotional availability and why is it important?

We know that parents need to spend as much time as possible with their children, but why is it important? In this blog we will explore why it is important for fathers to be emotionally available for their children.

As a parent, being involved in your child’s life has been shown to be important for their well-being. However, being with a child is not enough. While a present father may be involved, they might not be concerned about making the interactions worthwhile. Meanwhile, an engaged father pays attention to the quality of the interaction with their child—they provide affection and support. It is not only the quantity of time spent with the child, but the quality of those interactions, that are important for the child. When a child feels the involvement from the relationship that they have with their father, it has positive impacts on their cognitive and social development.

What makes a father more engaged?

A common misconception is that biological bond is important for fatherhood (e.g. a genetic parent). A 2008 study by Professor Bzostek of Princeton University, found that a good father-child relationship, regardless of whether or not they are biologically related (could be step or adopted), had a positive impact on the child’s well-being. The study defined a good relationship through the average number of days a week the father participated in activities with their child. These activities included:

  • Reading and telling stories

  • Singing songs and nursery rhymes

  • Hugging

  • Telling the child they love them or appreciate something they did

  • Playing with toys or imaginary games

What is emotional availability?

In the context of parenting, emotional availability means that the parent is able to meet their child’s deepest needs, relate to them, and provide support and comfort when needed. Research finds that emotional availability is critical for children's development of their emotional regulation, learning ability, and behaviour.

So how do we practice emotional availability with our children? Therapist Paige Dorn provides eight techniques that any parent can use to show their child that they are emotionally available:

  • Showing your child love with gentle touch and warm interactions

  • Saying “I love you” to your child every day

  • Providing structure by setting boundaries and rules that have age-appropriate consequences

  • Listening to your child’s emotions and feelings and empathizing with them

  • Playing together

  • Making yourself available for your child every day without any distractions (texting or calls)

  • Eating meals together

  • Creating parent-child rituals (such as a regular trip to the park or a favourite cafe

We at fatherli want to support you to become more involved in your child’s lives. To receive more information and support designed by psychologists and parenting experts, sign up to our newsletter.

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