It is often observed in today’s globalized post-modern society that on entering teenage, 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.
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 demotivates 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.
As many of us grow old, we lose the zest for life that is characteristic in children. The father should attempt to regenerate that enthusiasm while interacting with his 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 paani”, “aanch machooli”, 4 corners, tag or regular sports or board games like chess, scrabble, snakes and ladders, ludo, etc. By playing with the child, the father is strengthening his relation with him.
Part of considering the father as a source of knowledge and wisdom comes when the father regularly engages in teaching them. He should not only help them with homework, but read to them beneficial books, take them to museums, science centers, libraries, book fairs, planetariums, zoos, botanical gardens, etc. When his 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.
The father should take his children outdoors to beaches or parks on a weekly basis. This not only refreshes the children who are locked up at home throughout the week, but also makes them realize the handiwork of our Creator all around us. By sharing in their amazement at marveling at the flowers, birds, trees, sea, sand, shells, stones, fish, animals, changing seasons, etc. he is implicitly emphasizing his natural relation with his children.
Lastly, a father should establish worship with his family. He should take his children for regular prayers to the masjid; make them participate in the Friday prayers, takbeerat of Eids, the taraweeh prayers, qiyaam ul lail, salaat ut tasbeeh, lectures, halaqas, etc. He should sometimes pray at home as an imam with the family praying behind him. By doing so a father sends the message to his family that he is in charge, but he too is 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 always make supplications for their children as the supplication of a father for his child is accepted.