Escola de Teràpia d'Integració Psico-corporal (ETIP) - Escuela de Terapia de Integración Psico-corporal

The right of the child to the presence of the father and his contact

By Jorge Cozodoy

The intention of this right is to defend the need of the child to feel and have contact with his/her father as early as possible, even when still inside the mother’s womb. From the moment of fertilization the child needs to feel the presence of the father and the earlier this bond is established, the stronger it will be over time.

Although today men have begun to share the domestic space with women, there is still a long way to go towards also sharing, in a real and profound fashion, the affective and emotional space with his children. Traditionally this has been the exclusive area of the mother, which is why fathers who consider living their relation with their children differently from the way their fathers did with them, do not have at their disposition any masculine references from which to draw support. It is also certain that, given the enormous power of the duo formed by mother and child, many fathers do not understand that even though they are not the main protagonists in the beginning, their presence is fundamental for the satisfactory psycho-emotional development of their child.

This bond should begin to develop right from the father’s initial desire to conceive his son/daughter. The ability to feel this desire is something that men should not renounce. On many occasions, it is the desire of the woman that pushes the man to accept having a child, when he still does not feel emotionally implicated. This situation will generate an unease that will condition the type of relationship the father establishes with his son/daughter.

Although during the prenatal period the father cannot directly relate to his child, he can activate an inherent aspect of his nature, which allows him to be protector, caretaker and provider of the family. In as much as the father has a good relationship with the mother and provides her with a safe and peaceful environment, the child will directly benefit from this. Therefore, the father, in securing well-being by caring for the mother, augments his presence in his child’s life.

Both during and after birth, the child has the right to feel an active attitude coming from his/her father, accompanying him/her during the entire process with attention, affection and participation. The man should not allow himself to be left in a corner of the waiting room, or kept in the background in the birthing room. He should defend the right of the child to be welcomed by its father and receive the warmth of his body and his emotions.

The first separation of the child from its mother occurs during birth. Yet, the relation of absolute dependence does not end with the cutting of the umbilical cord and it is very important for the healthy development of the baby to maintain this symbiotic relation with the mother for as long as he/she needs it. It is necessary for the father to facilitate this type of relation. For this he should procure a peaceful environment, support his partner when her lack of affection and/or tiredness may cause difficulties in the relation with her child, and also support her in order that she may carry out maternage and breastfeeding for as long as is necessary. All of this will manifest itself in a better psycho-emotional development of his child.

However, it is also important that the role of the father does not turn into mere affective and domestic support of the mother. The man should get involved with the care of the baby, not only to relieve the mother but also to create through everyday habits the absolute certainty in the child that the father is present and can be counted on. The father should not be an absent figure, neither physically or emotionally. The child needs a distinct space for interacting with his/her father, who with his presence, his type of contact and his specifically masculine energy creates an intimate relationship characterized by trust and nourishing affection.

The woman normally asks for the father’s help, but it is then often hard for her to accept that he does things differently, in his own way. She may constantly correct him, and the message, more or less subtle, is that only she is capable of correctly perceiving the child’s needs in every moment and knows the most appropriate way of satisfying them. The man has to confront the difficulty of creating his own space with his child without counting on help from neither his own father nor other male figures. On many occasions, he feels lost and ends up surrendering because he has no previous record of how to act and what to do. Confronted by this situation, fathers have to find references inside ourselves, try to be in touch with our feelings, with the child we once were, and maintain an emotional dialog with our son/daughter, which allows us to perceive what they are going through and what they need.

All of this should build familiarity and trust between the child and father that will be of fundamental importance, above all, when the child needs, for his/her maturing process, to begin to explore new worlds beyond the mother. From the time of birth, the child can satisfy many of his/her needs with the mother, but when he/she becomes a little older, during the oedipal period, he/she begins to establish a type of relationship with the father based on, in the case of a boy, competition and rivalry but also on cooperation and comradeship. In the case of a girl, the father becomes her object of desire. During this period the father helps the daughter to situate herself within reality when he transmits to her that he belongs to his partner, her mother, but that he does not reject her, on the contrary, he loves her deeply and values her as a woman.

The prominence that the father acquires in this stage helps both the boy and girl to stop focusing entirely on the mother and on the relationship of dependency they maintain with her. This signifies a great step in their maturity, since it favors the emergence in the child of the need to consider new objectives, such as how to delve into new areas and adopt other ways of relating. Therefore, a good relationship with the father gives the child sufficient confidence and security to navigate, without great difficulties, the passage from the mother to the social world. The child, through the bond established with the father, should be completely secure in the belief that he will support him/her in this passage, because otherwise, the child will remain attached to the mother without daring to nor having sufficient strength to explore new worlds, thus constraining his/her powerful vital impulse.

The male child has the right to build with the father, his equal, a relationship of deep trust and respect. Only if he first forms this with his own father will he later be able to do so with those of his own gender. The boy must receive from his father the identity, direction, strength and guidelines for a secure and healthy development.

The female child has the right to establish a bond with her father through which she feels appreciated, accepted and respected. This type of relation will enable her, when she becomes a woman; to not accept relationships in which she feels looked down upon, mistreated, disrespected or undesired. At the same time, she will be able to establish relationships with men based on cooperation and equality of conditions.

Through his father, the boy differentiates himself from the feminine world that surrounds him and the girl will learn to understand other ways of functioning different from her own.

The role of the father, as we can see, is that of propelling his children towards independence and self-esteem, fundamental aspects in their development as people.