Absentee fathers contribute significantly to the negative influences that impact the lives of their children, President George Maxwell Richards said yesterday.
He made the point while delivering the feature address at the Ministry of National Security’s Fatherhood Fair at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port-of-Spain. The theme of the event — the ministry’s second instalment — was “Embracing Fatherhood, Strengthening Families.”
Noting the changing role of women in the society, who, unlike years gone by, are no longer strictly home-makers, but are expected to contribute financially to the home as well as to the upkeep of their children, Richards said the trend has somehow allowed men to become negligent in their responsibilities as fathers.
“Women’s own assertion of self has sometimes created situations with which many of our men do not seem to have come to terms and which seem to influence behaviour to some extent, but this is not an excuse by any means,” he said.
“This is a matter for behavioural scientists, among whom I am not numbered. But whatever the findings, it is no gain saying that absentee fathers have left large spaces for all sorts of negative circumstances to take over the lives of their sons and daughters.”
Richards, however, acknowledged that while the role of father was a daunting one, men should not enter into relationships lightly, nor father children without consideration of the consequences.
He said: “I hope I am not misunderstood when I say that being a man is not all that easy. Being regarded as the stronger sex, expectations of us have always been high. There was a time when role models provided much of the blue print and the patterns were not so difficult to follow.
“The gender balance is now somewhat different and the roles of women have of necessity changed, as they are making their contributions to nation-building in numbers and in ways that have challenged what at one time was the established order.”
He said in cases where the fathers were present in the home, but had not provided the nurturing and support, “disaster has ensued for successive generations.”
“But we can turn the tide as we put in place the support structures to repair damaged relationships where they exist, create new ones, and, as we hold up as guiding lights, those who are getting it right, we have a chance to create an environment in which fathering is not just a biological act,” Richards said.
In an obvious reference to the recent upsurge in serious crime, Richards urged fathers to reclaim their families in the face of adversity.
“We must be relentless in our thrust to take back our families from the grip of terror which is the reality in many cases. We must determine to be fathers worthy of their name and our women must help,” he said.
In his address, Richards also noted the decline of sound family values at the expense of modern technology.
“Family life has tremendous influence on the lives that we lead,” he said.
“We ignore that fact at our peril and while modern technology has its many advantages, it has invaded family life to such a degree that many of our children are being brought up by television and Internet devices to the detriment of the parental role.”
Yesterday’s event featured booths from the several security agencies and non-governmental organisations.
Among those attending were Chief Justice Ivor Archie, Minister of National Security Brig John Sandy, Minister in the Ministry of National Security Collin Partap, Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs, Roman Catholic Archbishop Joseph Harris and Senate President Timothy Hamel-Smith.
By COREY CONNELLY
Trinidad and Tobago News Day.