MARK Davison believes teaming up with daughter Gabby each week to focus on their health has strengthened their already-close relationship and improved her self confidence.
Mr Davison and his daughter, 9, were participants in the world-first Dads and Daughters Exercising and Empowered (DADEE) program, run by the University of Newcastle’s (UON) Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition.
“This program really opened my eyes up to how important it is to spend one-on-one time with each of my three kids,” Mr Davison said.
“She’s a lot more self confident, learned a lot of new skills and joined the school soccer team – her older brother has always fancied himself himself as a sporting member of the family and it’s good for her to be able to compete with him.”
Lead investigator Phil Morgan said less than 20 per cent of Australian girls were sufficiently active and fewer than 10 per cent were able at the start of high school to adequately perform basic skills including kicking, catching and throwing.
Girls also entered sport two years later and dropped out six times faster.
During the eight week course, fathers learned evidence-based parenting strategies to optimise their daughters physical and mental health, while engaging in games and challenges.
“The study findings were outstanding for both fathers and daughters,” Professor Morgan said.
“The biggest impacts were the daughters’ improvements in self-esteem, resilience, physical confidence and emotional control.
“The social-emotional outcomes were among the best we’ve seen in research internationally.
“After participating the girls felt better about themselves, had stronger relationships with their fathers and were more active within the family. We also saw dramatic improvements in sport skills and participation and newfound confidence.”
Professor Morgan said fathers also increased their physical activity levels and parenting skills and reported a better understanding of their influence on their daughter’s wellbeing.
Mr Davison said the pair relished the regular training sessions with other participants and following the handbook of suggested physical activities and discussion topics, which included body image and gender stereotypes.
“It’s let me talk to her on a different level,” he said.
“I’m hoping it lays a foundation – that she will always have in the back of her mind – that she can come to me about anything in the years to come.”
The UON and Hunter Medical Research Institute are seeking expressions of interest from fathers and daughters who want to participate in the wider rollout of the program. dadee.org.au