BY LISA GREY
As Christians, we have been taught that God is our Father. Those of us who have had a loving, interactive dad in our home have been blessed with a glimpse of God’s love for us. Yet so many children today have no idea what fatherly love looks like. They are neglected or abused — or feel they are nonexistent in the eyes of their biological parents.
Other children struggle with the role of a stepparent or another male resident in the home. Should they accept that man as a parent? What should they call him? Does he love them? With so much confusion about the true meaning of fatherhood, these children cannot even fathom what it means to say that God is their loving Father.
The Book of Proverbs tells us to:
“Train the young in the way they should go; even when old, they will not swerve from it” (22:6).
Many people attribute this verse to parents only. But the author does not specify it as parents-only advice. Children at that time learned not only from their parents, but also from extended family members and other adults in the community. The same is true in modern times. Today’s Catholic men have a unique opportunity to serve as surrogate fathers or grandfathers, painting a picture of God the Father in a child’s life.
So what does this involve? When we examine Proverbs 22:6 in its original Hebrew language, this verse conveys so much more than merely teaching a child the facts about God. Rather, “train” implies that the teacher — whether it be a parent or any other role model — should consider who that child is as an individual in regard to personality, talents, and personal strengths or challenges. In other words, shaping a child in a positive moral direction requires investing in that child as a unique person.
If a child is unfamiliar or unknown to you, how do you reach out to them as a unique person? Consider Deuteronomy 6:4, 6-7 in which God instructs his people — not just parents, but all of his people — how to help children to know his commandments:
Hear, O Israel! …Take to heart these words which I command you today. Keep repeating them to your children. Recite them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up.
In other words, in any given moment of the day, there is an opportunity to help children know their heavenly Father. Applying that concept to children in today’s world, we need to consider the moments that make up their days. Each of these moments is an opportunity to show love, encouragement, and support.
It is often easier for children to talk about things that are on their minds while they are on their minds while they are completing a hands-on activity. Here are 10 practical ways for catholic men to reach out to fatherless children. These opportunities will help you to model godly behavior, while also allowing plenty of time for conversation. The more of these moments we share with fatherless children in our communities, the more we lead them to understand the love of their heavenly Father.
1. Be a Homework Helper
Your local after-school program would love to have an extra hand to help students with homework. This is a great opportunity to model enthusiasm for learning and achievement. After homework, children often get to have play time — so you can get to know them further by shooting hoops or playing an organized game with them.
2. Assist a Coach
You don’t need to be a former all-star to help with coaching. Having an extra hand will enable the coach to break the children into smaller groups for warm-ups. Players will then get to know their teammates better, which gives you an opportunity to model cooperation and encouragement.
3. Commit to a Clean-up
Check your community’s website to learn about volunteering to clean up parks or other public areas. Invite some local fatherless children to form a clean-up group. Then agree to volunteer as a group on a regular basis. This sets the example of stewardship of God’s creation.
4. Maintain Mom’s Car
Offer to teach children basic auto mechanics or car-washing skills on one-on-one basis to take care of their mother’s vehicles.
You can also help organize an event at your parish where single moms are blessed with oil changes, car washes, and easy repairs.
Encourage their children to help. Not only are you teaching children valuable skills, you’re also modeling how to take care of others.
5. Build Something
There’s nothing like hands-on labor to teach a child a sense of accomplishment. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It could be as simple as hanging some shelves or building a skateboard ramp. Whatever the project, there will be lessons learned about success, failure, and trying again.
6. Sow Seeds
Gardening teaches patience and perseverance. If this is one of your strong points, help a child to grow something that will benefit the whole family. Even if there is a lack of yard space, you can create a patio garden. Research ideas online together. Once the garden is built, keep in touch weekly to provide tips and measure progress.
7. Bond Over Breakfast
This does not require anything fancy. Most children love basic breakfast foods, and odds are they will care more about the extra attention than the menu. Before eating, say grace. After the meal, pray the rosary together, even if it’s just one decade. You could also try a children’s Catholic devotional such as Living Faith Kids (LivingFaithKids.com).
8. Serve Others
Volunteer with a fatherless child to serve in the community on a regular basis. Helping those who are less fortunate encourages generosity. This is so important in our selfie-focused culture; self-absorption tends to dwindle when children see how hard life is for others.
9. Get Out
Are you great with a rod and reel? Do you enjoy hiking, photography, or biking? Share your skills with fatherless children. Introduce them to the values of peace and solitude. Help them to become aware of God’s presence in the quiet moments.
10. Choose a Charity Walk
Being in the company of so many other participants is a fantastic illustration of people working together for a common, worthwhile goal. You will also set an example of determination, perseverance, and finishing what you start.
Fatherless children by the numbers
According to a 2017 population survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 25 percent of all households with children in the nation are fatherless. That means roughly one-quarter of American children will not experience hugging their dads good night on a regular basis.
The National Center for Fathering (Fathers.com) says the consequences of growing up in a fatherless home are severe in comparison to children who grow up in a home with two parents.
Fatherless families are 44 percent more likely to raise a child living in poverty, and 90 percent of all homeless and runaway children are fatherless.
Of teens who abuse alcohol or drugs, 71 percent come from fatherless homes.
80 percent of adolescents in psychiatric hospitals are from fatherless homes and are twice as likely to commit suicide.