Fatherhood and Co-Parenting

 Home / Fatherhood and Co-Parenting Blog

Fatherhood and Co-Parenting Help RSS

Fatherhood, Co-Parenting and Child Support information. Get a better of understanding of your rights as a parent before you go to court. We will also give you information on how to be a better father and co-parent with the mother. Our goal is to increase father's involvement in the family structure.

HOW THIS BLACK MAN IS CHANGING THE NARRATIVE OF FATHERHOOD ONE POSITIVE IMAGE AT A TIME

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Friday, June 26, 2020

How This Black Man Is Changing The Narrative Of Fatherhood One Positive Image At A Time

SEAN WILLIAMS AND HIS DAD GANG ARE SHINING A LIGHT ON LOVING BLACK FATHERS.

You’ve heard them all before, endless jokes and memes about absentee fathers, women with daddy issues, and men whose involvement with their kids don’t go past that one night of passion that created them. But for this Black man, these jokes are far from funny, especially not when it comes to his definition of fatherhood.

For Brooklynite Sean Williams, fatherhood is a job that he takes very seriously. With three beautiful children of his own, Williams finds pride in being hands-on and heavily involved in his children’s lives. Yet, he once struggled to escape the overwhelming narrative that Black fathers are non-existent dudes who breed and dash aka impregnate and vanish. After weeks of strolling his daughter around his predominantly white Long Island neighborhood, William noticed that he was constantly being congratulated by random people who was glad he “stuck around” and didn’t “split” on his children. After one too many unsolicited comments, Williams decided enough was enough and The Dad Gang was born.

The Dad Gang is a movement with a mission to change the narrative of Black fatherhood one positive image at a time. With over 36,000 followers on Instagram alone, Williams and his ‘gang’ have encouraged and supported men across the country to be “better” fathers and redefine their individual definitions of fatherhood. ESSENCE recently caught up with the Head-Dad-In-Charge to talk about changing the game, being #dadgoals, and learn why for The Dad Gang and their children, the sky’s the limit.

What is The Dad Gang and what led you to start it?

Sean Williams: The Dad Gang started as an Instagram page focused exclusively on reflecting positive images of active Black dads, in an effort to shatter the negative stereotypes that have shadowed Black fathers for years and still affects us today. When my youngest daughter was about 15 months old, I worked from home five days a week, so I spent a lot of time with her running my daily errands and living my best dad life. I also live in a predominately white suburban neighborhood, so while on our daddy-daughter errand runs, I was met with two reactions from strangers: either complete shock and awe at the ease and attentiveness I had while handling my baby or a barrage of “wow, good job dad” compliments.

PHOTO CREDIT: KEVIN JEAN-JACQUES

It was cool at first until I realized this happened everywhere we went without fail. I felt like these people had seen a unicorn. You could almost hear necks breaking as we practiced naming all of the fruits in the produce aisle. But the compliment that broke the daddy camel’s back came from an elderly white woman who stopped us and began by saying she was so disgusted with the way that cops treated “my people” (I wish she would’ve stopped right there), then she went on to say that she was also “glad to see that I stuck around for my baby because most Black men would’ve split. *insert jaw drop here.*

PHOTO CREDIT: KEVIN JEAN-JACQUES

“Excuse me, ma’am?” I’m pretty sure my daughter felt the heat rising off my body. The woman looked confused, not realizing that what she said was the furthest from a compliment. At that moment I realized that a lot of people still bought into the whole Black dads are deadbeats nonsense. A lot of these people that hurled compliments at me left and right had still never seen a young Black dad like myself loving and living my best dad life. So instead of getting upset, I created The Dad Gang page that night. It has since evolved into a conscious social community of dads on a mission to change the way the world views Black fatherhood by getting together, capturing real dad moments, sharing useful parenting tips and hosting fun, socially impactful events centered around celebrating active dads and their children.

What’s the biggest misconception about Black fathers

The biggest misconception about Black fathers is that most of us are inactive and uninterested in raising our children, or just straight up deadbeat dads. This couldn’t be any further from the truth. In 2013 the CDC did a study that revealed Black fathers were actually the most active fathers of all ethnic groups.

PHOTO CREDIT: KEVIN JEAN-JACQUES

What are some standout memories from your childhood with your father?

Definitely giving my father a back massage, as a kid, by walking all over his back, which is something that I do with my kids now. I also remember my sister and I hanging from his arms as he spun us like a helicopter.

What are some differences you’ve noticed between the older and younger generations when it comes to fatherhood?

Since becoming a dad and observing the way my friends and I are raising our children, I’ve noticed that our generation does not hesitate to educate ourselves and break away from our family’s traditional way of doing something if the new information obtained, whether via social media or by asking google (we’ve all done it), proves to be more effective or beneficial for the child and parent.

PHOTO CREDIT: KEVIN JEAN-JACQUES

Gone are the days when the reason for doing something when it pertains to raising our kids can be justified by saying “Well that’s the way my dad did it and his dad did it, so that’s how I’m going to do it.” Sure, they may say that we’re “letting the internet raise our children,” but it definitely beats some of their pre-historic ways of doing simple things.

PHOTO CREDIT: KEVIN JEAN-JACQUES

What does being a Black father mean to you?

I’ve always thought that the phrase having a chip on your shoulder was a bad thing until I looked at it thru the lens of Black fatherhood. Due to this negative stereotype that has haunted Black dads for generations, the Black fathers of today have something to prove. Many of us are parenting with a huge chip on our shoulder, whether it be from a negative relationship with our own dad or from mainstream media constantly depicting Black men as unfit fathers. So that chip on my shoulder that only a Black father can have, actually makes me a better dad. That’s what being a Black father means to me.

PHOTO CREDIT: KEVIN JEAN-JACQUES

What legacy/memories do you want to leave for your children?

Aside from being financially sound, I want my children to understand the value of building strong relationships. I want them to remember the effort I put into cultivating an individual bond with each of them like my mother did for my sisters and me.

PHOTO CREDIT: KEVIN JEAN-JACQUES

How does The Dad Gang go about inspiring absentee fathers to get more involved with their children?

I truly believe that a major part of an absentee father’s problem is that he hasn’t bonded with his child. It’s easy to be selfish or absent when there isn’t a strong bond to hold on to, and for some, these bonds are difficult to create. They don’t just happen out of thin air or share obligation.

PHOTO CREDIT: KEVIN JEAN-JACQUES

To try and get absentee dads to be more involved, we try to share a lot of content that specifically highlights the relationships that other dads were able to create with their kids and show how over time they’ve grown into the best friends you’ll ever have when these relationships are properly cultivated. We also repost captions where dads describe how their kids make them feel. Words are powerful. Last but not least, most of our events are heavily focused on father and child participation, like our “Dope Dads Karaoke Brunch” where we urged dads to do duets with their kids for prizes, which is one of the most incredible things you’ll ever see, and by far the most fun you’ll ever have with your kids at the brunch table.

READ MORE

Black Dads Need Therapy. They’re Not Getting It.

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Monday, June 15, 2020

Black Dads Need Therapy.
They’re Not Getting It.

We need to have difficult conversations.
Doing so without mental health support is nearly impossible.

By Damon Brown Jun 11 2020, 10:21 AM



Most cognitive behavioral therapists start by asking a simple question: “Where do we begin?” When you’re a black man in America, the answer is never as simple as “childhood” or “adolescence.” There is present trauma — a video of someone who looks like your cousin being asphyxiated slowly under a blue polyester blend-covered knee —  but also historical trauma. There’s what your parents told you and what their parents told them and, back further, what your emancipated great-great-grandfather imparted to his children. 

And then there’s what you tell your kids. That leaves a mark as well. The conversation,, the one about the looming threat of police violence, takes place in the painful present. It requires a level of honesty that takes time to muster. I had the conversation with my six-year-old just a few days ago, but I’d been preparing for years.

How had I prepared? I did something too few black men and far too few black fathers do. I put myself in therapy. And I’m not talking about “the gym is my therapy” or “I have therapeutic chats with my bro.”; I’m talking sit-your-ass-down, $100-an-hour therapy.  I’ve been going as needed for decades. 

While all dads probably should have an emotional sounding board, black dads need more significant support. We must work through our fears of state-sponsored violence, our experiences with institutional bias, and our own internalized attitudes about our worth in order to exist in the world with the same reassuring confidence so many of our white friends inherited from their fathers. We must learn to handle backhanded compliments about “sticking around” to raise our children and our neighbors’ fetishization of our difference (particularly in the suburbs). 

Unfortunately, only half as many black people receive mental health counseling or treatment as white people. And the number may be even lower among black men. Why? Distrust. Lack of Access. Cultural misunderstanding.

“In my family, there’s no such thing as therapy,” says Mitchell S. Jackson, author of the autobiography Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family. “I know my mom needs it. Everyone in my family has trauma. My mom’s mom died at five. I have relatives in prison. And no one I know of went to therapy.”

“There was a tacit understanding that you have to figure it out on your own to survive,” he adds.

My grandparents were born a year before the United States Health Service promised rural African-Americans free health checkups and secretly gave 600 men syphilis just to see what would happen. Four decades later, when I was born, the American Psychiatric Association was still linking schizophrenia to “aggression”, specifically African-American male rage. Known as drapetomania, it was much easier to call black men crazy than to acknowledge protests, violence and frustration being a natural reaction to systematic oppression – and to own one’s part in it.

This is our history with therapy and care, when black males can even get access.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than one out of ten African-Americans under retirement age are uninsured compared to about half that number for whites. For many black families, which boast one tenth the wealth of white families, the expenditure is simply not feasible. And even getting to the office is impractical. Looking up therapists on ZocDoc, I generate a map of blackness. Want to see where the therapists are? Look where the black people aren’t.

I started my first therapist relationship when I was 19. My parents were getting a divorce. Both grew up in the hood, but split years later as college educated, middle class yuppies. Neither had been in therapy. I don’t think anyone in my entire family tree had been in therapy. It was, like their divorce itself, a grand experiment. And I was lucky enough to see someone across from me who looked like my dad. He was my father’s age. And he was black. 

I didn’t know how lucky I was. According to the American Psychological Association, only four percent of U.S. psychologists are black. You’d have to reach out to 100 therapists and hope one of those four black psychologists was someone you actually liked.

“Do you know how hard it is to find a black therapist? I’m already skeptical, and it’s hard to find a black person, or even a person of color,” says Jackson. “As much as they are trained, if they are moving to the world as a white person, that’s a different experience.”

It is deeper when people of color get guidance from another trusted POC. My first therapist helped me on two levels: Providing guidance within the context of my culture and giving permission to be in the therapist office simply by his existence. My therapists after were not black, but my experience with him allowed me to access a level of vulnerability that allowed the later ones to truly help.

“There is the question, ‘Can I trust this person?’,” says psychotherapist Karen Carnabucci. She does her best to support black clients, she says, but understands there are limitations to understanding our culture. “Although there are many African-American therapists, more are needed.”

My wife and I didn’t have the talk with our eldest son in a therapist office. It was in our living room, strewn with LEGO blocks. Our son stared intently.  His younger brother listened in-between doing couch jumps and giving random hugs. I used all the tools from being an entrepreneurial coach: Validating his feelings, making analogies relatable to his life, and keeping my voice as level as possible. Remember your friend who isn’t your friend anymore? Because you saw him bully someone else? Same with officers, teachers, and others. Use your instinct. If you observe something funny, then it’s okay to get away or to get another adult you trust.

He nodded, and we started talking about what we were going to eat for dinner. Perhaps the biggest lesson from therapy is learning what is in my control. As blacks, we’ve been told to not make eye contact with white women, not walk in our neighborhood in a hoodie, not to gather in a group. Not to breathe. It has systematically always been on us.

Guiding my children, coaching the next generation of diverse entrepreneurs,  supporting organizations making a difference and using my power to vote are in my providence. 

But stopping black people from being murdered? It is not something I can fix alone. It is not something I can upwardly mobile away. 

It is a collective responsibility.

Perhaps the biggest lesson from therapy is learning what is in my control. As blacks, we’ve been told to not make eye contact with white women, not walk in our neighborhood in a hoodie, not to gather in a group. Not to breathe. It has systematically always been on us.

READ MORE

How to Talk to Young Kids About Racism and Racial Bias

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Wednesday, June 03, 2020

How to Talk to Young Kids About Racism and Racial Bias

Two specific questions can get the ball rolling for parents hesitant to talk about race.

By Patrick A. Coleman Aug 28 2017, 4:30 PM



The conversation about racial bias taking place in America right now isn’t really a conversation. It’s more of a shouting match. And there’s a reason for that: The idea of racial bias inflames long-standing social tensions and the insecurities of white people who’d prefer to believe that they’re playing on a level field. Both research and history indicate that this isn’t so. And both research and history indicate that talking to children, specifically young children, about racism and racial bias can help them better contextualize not only the news cycle – all those weird words they hear dripping from the television – but also the experience of existing in a less than perfect union.

“It is essential that all parents speak to their children about race, the importance of compassion, and empathy to truly make this world a better place for us all,” explains developmental and behavioral expert and American Academy of Pediatric fellow Dr. Eboni Hollier. “We should not pretend that racism does not exist.”


Hollier notes that efforts to protect kids from issues of racial bias does both children and their community a disservice. Children not being engaged in a conversation about race may come to believe that the subject is taboo. Silence breeds silence, inaction, indifference, and ignorance. So it’s important that parents do make the effort to talk about the differences between peoples’ experiences, acknowledging that those differences do exist and pointing out that this is all the more reason to treat everyone with respect. It’s also important that they understand the whole thing is pretty complicated and kids are likely to have some follow-up questions.

“In general, keeping the lines of communication open between parents and children is essential when discussing race,” explains Hollier.


She also notes that, even before kids are verbal, parents can communicate their views on racial bias through modeling appropriate behavior. Parents who interact with and talk about people of other races with kindness and empathy teach children behaviors that combat racial bias. Having a diverse group of friends doesn’t hurt either, though there can be regional and social barriers that make that a bigger ask (keeping friends when you’re a new parent is a big ask in and of itself). Regardless, kids pick up on what parents do, even before they are able to hold a conversation. But once they’re in school, things change significantly.


She also notes that, even before kids are verbal, parents can communicate their views on racial bias through modeling appropriate behavior. Parents who interact with and talk about people of other races with kindness and empathy teach children behaviors that combat racial bias. Having a diverse group of friends doesn’t hurt either, though there can be regional and social barriers that make that a bigger ask (keeping friends when you’re a new parent is a big ask in and of itself). Regardless, kids pick up on what parents do, even before they are able to hold a conversation. But once they’re in school, things change significantly. “This is also a time when children become more aware of ethnic stereotypes,” Hollier explains. “Children may begin to associate inferior status and superior status of groups based on race and these thoughts may come from their exposure to media or the world around them.


At this time parents may want to start addressing issues of racial bias in the news, or even out in the world, should something be observed by their kid or themselves. For parents who don’t know how to start the conversation, Hollier suggests it’s as simple as asking a questions like: “What do you think about what is happening?” and “How does that make you feel?”

It’s then a process of listening and answering questions as honestly and openly as possible. The idea is not to solve the problem of racial bias, but rather to show that it’s a conversation that can occur thoughtfully and meaningfully. Diversity trainer and community organizer Dr. Froswa’ Booker-Drew notes that, for some families, the conversation will be more personal and will draw on the power of life stories. “Starting from your personal experience, your narrative is the most effective,” Booker Drew explains. That might mean being honest about instances where parents have experienced or overcome racial prejudice. It might also mean being honest about bad behavior and family biases. “It’s about owning your experience or your family’s history which is also important. It’s not about sugarcoating the issue.” Booker-Drew notes that many communities don’t have the luxury of entering gently into conversations about race. Sometimes it kicks down the door, as it did with her own family.


“Our conversation started when a kid in elementary called my daughter the ‘n’ word,” she says. So the dialogue has to be deeply personal and explicit in some cases. Booker-Drew remembers her own father being explicit about what she might face as an African-American girl in the seventies and eighties. “He explained I might encounter people who make a decision about me because I was different,” she says. “He also told me that I would be missing out on something really good if I did that to others.”


READ MORE

Let's Talk About Stress, Baby

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Let's Talk About Stress, Baby

written by Fatherly 


Kids aren't stupid. Nor are they obtuse. They hear you discussing COVID-19 news, they see headlines on your social media feed, and they understand that, to a large extent, the stuff they once enjoyed doing is no longer in play. Playing epidemiologist isn't going to work. Kids don't need specific answers. What they do need is broader certitude that they are loved and will be taken care of — certitude that makes the ambiguity of the moment manageable.
 
"We want to teach them how to tolerate not knowing. You should let them explain how they're feeling and why, and you can help them validate those feelings by saying things like, 'I have similar worries. Let's brainstorm ideas on how we can make things better.' Instead of just giving answers, you want to have a conversation and compare notes," says Bubrick.




 
Ask the Good Questions
 
Getting kids, regardless of age, involved in problem-solving makes them feel empowered and like they're part of the solution. But as Bubrick points it, if you ask vague questions, you'll get vague answers, including the dreaded "I'm fine" (the quintessential conversational dead end). Bubrick's advice is to lead with curiosity and ask open-ended yet specific questions. 

  • What did you learn about today?
    What is something interesting or funny you heard about today?
  • What was the most fun thing you did today?
  • What are you most looking forward to tomorrow?
  • What was the toughest part of your day today?
  • What was something you didn't like about your day?
  • What got in the way today of you having a fun day?
  • What can we do together to make it better? 

Timing is Everything

Picking the right moment to talk is crucial to having a conversation that actually goes somewhere. Bedtime is not the right time per Burbrick, because kids are starting to wind down for the day and anxious kids have more worries at night. The last thing you want to do is lead them down the path of more worry and a restless night. "And don't talk to them about this when they first wake up," he adds. "Find a time, a neutral time, when there hasn't been a big argument. Look for a calm moment."
 
So what does work? Burbrick suggests having laid-back discussions either during dinner, or while taking a family walk. And he relies on a simple yet clever approach that gets people to open up.
 
Try a Game
 
When talking with his own kids, Burbrick suggests a game called Like a Rose.  "It's an icebreaker and it's our thing," he says. "You start and model the game. There are three components to the rose. The petal: 'Tell me something you liked about today.' The thorn: 'Tell me something you didn't like.' The bud: 'Tell me something you're looking forward to in the future.'" This relies on good modeling. You have to set a good example to get a good response, so come prepared to share.
 
No Success? Try a Feelings Chart
 
If your children aren't able to articulate how they're feeling, use a feelings chart and work your way from there. Some 5-year-olds can explain, with total clarity, what upended their emotions and why. Some teens, meanwhile, can barely manage a two-word response and won't dig deeper without gentle prodding. You want to have children be as specific as possible about what exactly they're feeling.  "If you can name it, you can tame it," says Bubrick.
 
Stay Focused
 
Burbrick's final note is just as applicable to kids as to their adult minders. Don't spin out. Don't catastrophize. And remind kids that no, their friends aren't having secret sleepovers or hitting the playground. We're all stuck at home together. 
 
"We want to help kids stay in the moment. It's so easy to get wrapped up in the unknown. All we know is what's happening to us right now. We have each other. We're connected to our friends. Let's focus on that. We'll deal with tomorrow, tomorrow," he says.

The 8 Communication Traits of Happy, Healthy Marriages

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Friday, May 22, 2020

The 8 Communication Traits of Happy, Healthy Marriages

They're essential for a long lasting union.

By Jeremy Brown Jul 12 2018, 5:49 PM

In all aspects of life, communication is key. But in a marriage, if there’s a communication breakdown, it can bring the whole thing down. As such, it’s vital for couples to communicate effectively. Unfortunately, however, that’s usually a lot easier said than done.

“The number one thing is that people want to be understood and they want to feel like their emotions are being valued,” says Jonathan Robinson, a couple’s therapist and author of the new book More Love, Less Conflict: A Communication Playbook for Couples. “And when that doesn’t happen, marriages start to have problems. I never have couples come into my office saying, ‘We really understand each other, that’s why we want a divorce!’ But of course the opposite happens all the time.” But how can couples start on that road to understanding and better, healthier interaction? Here are eight traits that all happy marriages share.

They Do Daily Appreciations

A simple note, text message, or compliment can go a long way in a relationship, Robinson says. Just letting your spouse know that he or she is appreciated and that their efforts aren’t going unnoticed can help them to feel validated and understood. “The number one correlation with happiness in couples is the number of appreciations they give to each other,” he says. “We forget to do daily appreciations.”

They Listen Actively

As your grade school teacher likely chided you about, there’s a difference between “hearing” and listening.” This is a big part of a happy marriage, too. In order to fully take in what your spouse is saying to you, Robinson recommends what he calls ‘empathic listening,’ which means listening and responding not with solutions or options but with such phrases as, “I can see that you’re upset because…” That level of understanding can help husbands and wives diffuse arguments relatively quickly. “It’s hard for couples to do this because they get triggered so easily, and they don’t know this skill,” says Robinson. “So it’s really important that they practice it with small things before they get triggered. So that, when they’re triggered, they’ll still be able to do it.”

They Write Down Criticisms

No matter how things are going in your marriage, good or bad, if you criticize your spouse aloud, there will be flare-ups. That’s why Robinson recommends writing down some things about your partner that might rub you the wrong way and presenting them to your partner. When criticisms are presented in this fashion, your partner can take them, process them, and formulate an answer, rather than just firing back a retort.
“I usually have couples do that once every three months so it doesn’t get overwhelming. Just say, ‘These are some of the things I’m having a hard time with,’” Robinson says. “Complaining and shaming your spouse into trying to change does not work. I think direct criticism is to be avoided completely. But if you need to say something, do it in written form.”

They Practice Positivity

Research shows that happy couples who practice a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative behaviors are more likely to be happy and healthy. Robinson does agree that that sentiment has shown to be true, but also acknowledges that very few married couples realistically practice that. However, he says that saying positive statements out loud on a regular basis helps build equity in a relationship and can be key in diffusing arguments down the road.

“It’s really important to have those positive statements,” he says. “It’s like money in the bank. So that, when you need to make a withdrawal because of life circumstances or stress, you have something in the bank to withdraw from. And if you don’t say positive statements on an ongoing basis, then your marriage can easily go bankrupt.”

They Embrace the Power of the Time Out

A marital disagreement can go from a spark to a five-alarm blaze with one wrong word. To keep that from happening, Robinson recommends putting the brakes on a disagreement before it gets out of hand.

“If you see you’re getting hot and heavy and upset, use the phrase ‘red light,’” he says. “That’s a signal that you should take minutes to just quiet down and say nothing and calm down. By the time you’re back after two minutes, you’re more likely to be in the rational part of your brain and not be upset.”

They Make Contact

Don’t underestimate the power of simple gestures. You can say a lot without saying a word just by holding hands or giving a hug. “All these things are really important, because in this culture, we don’t have enough physical touch,” says Robinson. “So I have couples do that every day. And it’s not to be overlooked.”

They Use “I” Statements

What you say during an argument matters. When you do argue with your spouse, try and shift the focus by not casting blame and saying, “You did this” or ‘You need to fix this’ and instead use “I” statements. “When you use ‘you’ statements, they feel blamed and their ears turn off,” says Robinson. “So, when you use ‘I’ statements, you avoid that. You can take responsibility by using a statement like, ‘One way I see I contributed to this upset is…’ What you’re trying to do is not have your partner become defensive and ‘I’ statement or taking some responsibility helps with that.”

READ MORE

What to Do When You Can’t Sleep: 7 Tips For Powering Down Your Brain

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Friday, May 01, 2020

What to Do When You Can’t Sleep: 7 Tips For Powering Down Your Brain

In the moment, it can feel impossible to lull your body back to sleep. But it is possible. Here's how to make it happen.

By Matt Berical Apr 27 2020, 6:29 PM


it’s the middle of the night and you’re lying awake in bed. The moon is out. Maybe your partner is snoring or the house is making its nocturnal sighs. You close your eyes and, somehow, someway, try to coax your body to sleep. But it’s no use. And, actually, you’re worse because of it. By thinking about how you’re not sleeping, you’re now fully aware that you’re not sleeping and have allowed a rush of other thoughts to enter your brain. Now, another half hour has passed. That’s another half hour of not sleeping. But maybe, just maybe, if you can just close your eyes and try to sleep for real this time, you’ll get a few hours of sack time before the day begins. But no. When you wake up and can’t go back to sleep, it can feel like there are no solutions. It’s a vicious cycle.

But there are ways to handle it. The first step is to understand your objective: distract yourself so you can let sleep takeover. People try too hard. They look at the clock and try to convince themselves to sleep and get caught in this cycle,” says Dr. Abhinav Singh, M.D. the Medical Director for the Indiana Sleep Center. “It’s like over-stringing a guitar — you’re going to get too tight, too high strung. And this will drive up your levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is anti-sleep.”

Quieting your brain sounds difficult, and it certainly can be at times of stress. But, armed with the right routine, you can break the cycle. While the basics of good sleep — routine, proper self-care throughout the day, and so forth — remain the same and are powerful tools for conditioning the brain to achieve good rest, per Dr. Singh. there are a few things you can do in the moment to sleep when you can’t. Here’s what to do.


A (Very) Brief Word on Insomnia

First, some things to know about insomnia. Insomnia is not only the inability to sleep or that the sleep you achieve is of poor quality, but also when you have repeated awakenings after which you have trouble falling back asleep. It’s certainly a bit more complicated than that, but for our purposes, that’s enough. One of the most popular explanations for insomnia is known as the “3P Model” that was coined by Dr. Arthur Spielman and offers a guiding principal for the causes of the disorder.

The 3Ps, per Dr. Singh, refer to predisposing constitutional factors, precipitating factors, and perpetuating factors. Predispositions refer to hard-to-change, ingrained issues such as anxiety or a harsher reaction to stress, that could lead to insomnia. The second P, precipitating factors, refers to such issues as a pre-existing medical condition, a death in the family, or some other major life event that directly impacts sleep. The final P, perpetuating factors, are the various ways a person is trying to handle insomnia whether correctly or incorrectly.

“The last P is really the only one we truly have control over,” says Dr. Singh. “It refers to behaviors relative to development and maintenance of insomnia. And maybe you are looking at screens, constantly checking the time, or anything else that may be counterproductive to achieving sleep.” The trick is to make the right choices to get good habits that let sleep come to you.


What to Do When You Can’t Sleep: 7 Tips to Help

Leave Your Bed

That’s right. If you’re unable to fall back asleep in 15 or 20 minutes, get up and go somewhere else. Have a guest room? Great. Go there. But a couch will also do. One of the worst things you can do if you’re having a hard time sleeping is to stay in bed and think about not being able to sleep. “Don’t lay there struggling because your brain will learn ‘This is the boxing ring where we fight the sleep every night,’” says Dr. Singh. “The bed is for sleep or intimacy. Not sleeping, no intimacy? Don’t be in bed. That’s how you teach your brain to relate your bed to sleep. The longer you lie there, the more your stress will mount and the worse your chances will be to fall asleep.

Don’t Look at the Clock

This is tricky, but it’s important. If you understand what time it is, you will likely start to think “oh, it’s 4:15, maybe I can get two hours of sleep before I have to get up,” and perpetuate the vicious cycle. “It’s so important to resist the temptation to look at the clock,” says Dr. Singh. “As it will only make you realize how much sleep you have missed.” That means, yes, resisting the temptation to look at your phone.

Avoid Screens or Harsh Lights

One of the keys to Good Sleep 101 is limiting the amount of light you receive before bed. But this also remains true when you’re having trouble sleeping. Light is a natural signal to our body that it’s time to rise and it decreases the slow-drip of melatonin we receive. So, avoid turning on any bright lights (installing a dim motion-sensor light in the bathroom might be of interest) and scrolling on your phone to pass the time. The latter is especially true, as reading the news or seeing headlines at night, especially in our particularly high-strung era, will only increase stress.


Read a Book or Listen to a Podcast

Once on a couch or in another room, crack open a book or listen to a podcast. Either will focus your mind to make you stop thinking about sleeping and let sleep come to you. “It will draw your attention so that you’re not worrying about sleep and thus let sleep naturally come,” says Dr. Singh.


Try The 4-8 Breathing Technique…

The name of the game when you can’t sleep is calming yourself down. One of the best ways to do that — in the middle of the night or anytime you’re feeling stressed — is to do some deep breathing. Dr. Singh recommends a simple 4-8 technique. That is, slowly inhale while counting to four seconds, and then exhale for eight seconds. “What you’re doing is slowing down your breathing to reduce the cortisol level and inducing a state of calm,” he says. “Plus your brain is locked onto that process.”


…Or Some Progressive Deep Muscle Relaxation

Similar to deep breathing is this relaxation technique that’s often used in anxiety management. The idea is, starting from your toes and moving up to your ankles, knees, thighs, and every other muscle that you can voluntarily control or tense, you clench them for three seconds and then relax. you count to three and relax. “Again, this is a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that’s intended to focus your mind on the clenching while relaxing all the muscles in your body,” say Dr. Singh. “It’s relaxing and hard to drift away into other thoughts while focusing on this.”


Try Some White Noise

Another way to give your mind a focal point is to use some white noise. Maybe it’s rain. Maybe it’s the wind. Maybe it’s a crackling fire. Maybe it’s just the drone of the fan. Whichever you chose, listening to a constant sound is an excellent way to draw the mind’s attention and calm it down enough for sleep to arrive.


READ MORE

Divorced Dads and Co-Parent: Respect a Child’s Love

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Once upon a time, there was a happy family—dad, mom, and their little boy. One year, Dad and Mom gave their little boy a puppy for his fourth birthday. That little boy and his puppy became best friends, as little boys and puppies do. The puppy was involved in his whole life as a playmate and confidant. Every night the puppy slept at the foot of the little boy’s bed and helped him eat the crust of every sandwich he enjoyed. Later, the little dog waited at the door every afternoon to meet him when he got home from school. They did homework together, talked about friends at school, and cried over losses together.

Then one day, Mom and Dad decided they needed to divorce, and the family changed forever. During this frantic, frustrating time, Dad was having a particularly upsetting day, angry about Mom, the divorce, money, and other grown up things, when he walked into the living room and saw that dog with those important papers in his mouth! And not only had he torn them up, he had also left a “gift” right in the middle of the room … again.

Dad lost it, yelled at the pup, kicked it across the room, then grabbed it by the scruff of the neck. Then he turned toward the little boy, who was witnessing all of this, and said, “This dog is going away! Don’t you ever play with him again! He is a bad, bad dog! I’m calling the dog pound to pick him up right now!” Then he threw the dog out the door.

Can you imagine how that little boy felt as he saw his best friend kicked and then thrown away?

However badly that little boy was hurt by what happened with his dog, and however much he loved his constant companion, I can promise you that he loved his mother a thousand times more than his dog, and his heart was broken a thousand times worse when his father said the same things about the mama the boy loved so much.

Our children are quite literally made up of us—fathers and mothers. Deep inside every one of the trillions of cells that makes up your child is pieces of his mom and dad, in DNA, curled up together. Your child is honestly a “chip off the old block” of his two parents. You know that, but too often you probably forget.

And whether it was intentional or not, maybe you have tried to turn your child against his mother—either directly by telling him mean things about her, or indirectly by just hinting negatively about her. Maybe you have said things like, “Oh, that’s just your mom, you know how she is.” Or, “Well, I’m not surprised she did that ….” And make no mistake, these kinds of comments move you dangerously close to placing yourself between your dear, sweet child and someone he loves more than anyone else, except you.

The danger is that, when you talk trash about your child’s other parent, three things happen:

First, you break your child’s heart. Children love their mamas and daddies, even when they don’t act right or when they hurt each other. And you cannot change that.

Second, you’re damaging your relationship with your child. Even if what you are saying is gospel truth, in your child’s mind you’re like a schoolyard bully or anyone else who says something bad about his mother. His natural reaction is to defend her, prove you wrong, or just separate from you emotionally (if not physically). It’s like you’re intentionally closing down your child’s heart toward you, because you’re attacking his mama.

And third, you’re likely not bothering your ex at all. Usually a divorced dad talks bad about his ex-wife to feel like he’s getting back at her somehow, but in most cases, she quit caring about what he says a long time ago. What a waste—especially if you’re damaging your relationship with your child in the process. It’s like shooting yourself in the foot.

In over two decades of working with broken families, I have never seen one parent’s attempt to turn a child against their other parent to be successful. Never. Sometimes it just breaks the child’s heart. But often it will create deep, festering scars in the relationship with the manipulative parent that may never heal.

Permit me to say that bad-mouthing your child’s mother—especially when your child can hear—is wrong, damaging, and just plain foolish.

READ MORE

The Marriage During Quarantine Edition

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Friday, April 10, 2020

The Marriage During Quarantine Edition

Remember Plato's Allegory of the Cave? In it, he imagines that a group of prisoners have been confined since birth with no knowledge of the outside world. They're chained, facing a rock wall, with a fire behind them. All they know of life is the shadows cast by those living it. Eventually, one of the prisoners escapes and is startled by the outside world.

 

There's more to the allegory, but that's the gist. And right now, we're experiencing more or less the opposite of that prisoner. We're looking at shadows. The world has been reduced. But reality didn't change. Only our experience did. Many parents and partners and people are, understandably, struggling to adjust.

 

In some ways, the hardest thing to adjust to is each other. Being in the cave is fine -- a fire feels nice on your back, but being chained to people is hard. In China, now emerging from quarantine, divorce lawyers have waiting lists. That boom will come to America as well. Deep breathing can only get couples so far.

 




How to Help a Marriage Thrive Under Pressure

The coronavirus is putting an unprecedented amount of stress on couples. Here are some ways to cope

 

Understand That Everyone Needs Time to Realignt

Life has changed. Many among us have gone from a 'thriving' experience to a 'surviving' experience seemingly overnight. This isn't easy and requires time for everyone to adjust. Understanding this is crucial. "This difference in mindset can create a unique tension and demand a focus on psychological survival," says Louis Laves-Webb, LCSW, LPC-S, an Austin-based psychotherapist "The skill set that survival demands is different than what is required to thrive and can include: greater flexibility, presence of mind, a sense of urgency, and functionality over process." 

 

Create New Structures

In times of chaos, those with structure thrive — and are less likely to smother one another in their sleep. As many of our pre-existing routines have been rendered useless, now's the time to create new ones. "It is critical that a new routine be established that allows each member of the family to satisfy some of their needs to be met in regards to personal space, virtual work, virtual communications with friends and family, groceries and meal times, exercise routines, and rest/relaxation," says therapist Robert A. Grigore. So, sit down together and figure it out . Consider all the details. Make a plan. Amend that plan. Plan it out again. Then plan it out some more.

 

Set Boundaries

Most couples are now forced to occupy the same living space, however large or small that may be. There is no way around that. But that doesn't mean that you have to be on top of each other all the time. Do what you can to draw lines of demarcation. Designate a work space for one another. Give yourselves the spaces you need to be productive and active without crowding them.

 

Be Honest About Time Alone

We all need time to ourselves. The need is even more so, what with no more commuting, gym-time, bar-time, barre-time, sports-time, or whatever-time. "Simply put, we are not used to being confined to our homes," says. Laves-Webb. "This dynamic can be taxing even under the best circumstances. Take time to go outside, go to another room or shut your door for a period of time in order to reset, create mental recalibration, and to have a pressure release valve for everyone involved." Couples need to communicate this need and make time for it to happen without resorting to passive aggression or resentment.

 

Figure Out How to Fight

"It can be extremely helpful to come up with expectations as to how to handle disagreements and tensions that will escalate into arguments," says Grigore. Here's a start: Agree that any family member can pause a disagreement in order to return to it at a later time when they need to work out their thoughts. Go from there.

 

Give One Another the Benefit of the Doub

"You're both dealing with increased stress and unpredictability, so it's likely that your partner isn't actually trying to annoy you or act selfishly — they're probably genuinely overwhelmed and not thinking as clearly as usual," says Jessie Bohnenkamp, a licensed professional counselor based in Virginia. "If you need to bring up an issue, focus on the specific behavior that's bothering you rather than criticizing your partner's character or personality."

 

Here's an example. Instead of saying something like You always expect me to clean up after you. Try, It would be really helpful if you could clean up after your breakfast before you start working.

 

Set Aside Specific Time to Vent

When it feels like the world is burning, some people tend to spend all day talking about each little flame. Others ignore the heat. Neither approach is worthwhile. Couples need to figure out times to vent to one another during the day. Bohnenkamp suggests that during this each partner gets 10 or 15 scheduled minutes to talk about whatever's on their mind — work stress, worry about their parents' health, the state of the world, money concerns, whatever. "This time to come together and support each other is a wonderful way to stay on the same page, reduce each other's stress, and stay connected and strong during this stressful time," she says.

 

Make Time for Other People

Friends, family, and co-workers help us vent, gain perspective, or just forget about the day-to-day for a while. Even while social distancing, we all need to find ways to connect with people outside of marriage. If you belong to a group or club, see if they can hang out over Zoom or another video conferencing service. If you want to connect with family members or friends one-on-one, set up a daily Facetime call. Making time for interests and connections outside of the marriage can ensure that everything stays level inside the marriage.

 

Remind Yourselves: These Are Crazy Times

"During times of uncertainty, we go into survival mode, becoming hyper focused on ourselves. By extension we become less tolerant of others and more likely to snap at our partners," says therapist Ebru Halper. "External stressors will take a toll on a marriage, even on really strong ones. When there's friction, tell yourself 'This is very stressful for both of us. We are doing our best.'" At the end of the day, our best is all we can do.

Co-Parenting During COVID-19

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Thursday, April 09, 2020

Co-Parenting During COVID-19:

7 Tips For Navigating Custody Agreements

The COVID-19 crisis can make co-parenting more difficult
for divorced parents with custody agreements.
Here's how to navigate some common scenarios.

By Jeremy Brown | Apr 07 2020, 6:16 PM



The coronavirus pandemic has turned lives upside down in ways that we are still trying to figure out. And  for all of the family strain that has come from living under quarantine, it is perhaps divorced parents are feeling it the most keenly. With schools closed and kids home, co-parents are adjusting to a new routine, trying to adhere to social distancing practices while also honoring custody agreements that are already in place.

“From the cases that we are seeing and hearing about, the biggest issue is about whether the parties are on the same page with social distancing,” says Sheryl Seiden, a founding partner at Seiden Family Law. “It is important for parents to remember that children need the love and affection of both of their parents in difficult and upsetting times like these, so parents need to put aside their differences and try to agree to a schedule or a system that protects the children physically and emotionally.”

For divorced or separated parents, co-parenting in general can be stressful, what with juggling schedules, calendars, commitments and new lifestyles. But in an era where just leaving the house could put you and your loved ones at risk, the stress is amplified even more.

“A lot of things have been stirred up,” says Rosalind Sedacca, CDC, a divorce and co-parenting coach, mentor, and the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. “One of which is the equation of custody even when the children just live a few blocks apart. Work schedules are different, people may have financial problems, parenting plans are unable to be followed. We need parents to be extremely flexible and cooperative in making changes that really work for these times and for the children.”

But, even the most well-intentioned co-parents can come up against unexpected challenges or situations, especially while navigating the COVID-19 crisis. We ran a few scenarios past the experts to gauge how co-parenting couples can best respond.

The Problem: One parent is taking social distancing less seriously than the other. They’re bringing the child or children to parks, religious services, or other gatherings that have been deemed unsafe.

The Solution: Communication is key, but, even in such dire circumstances, so is compromise. As much as we might like to draw a line in the sand, experts say that could actually create more problems. “There can be ways of compromising,” says Sedacca. “Saying, ‘If we do this or that your way, then let’s do two things my way.’ This way, everyone feels that their values are being validated while others are being compromised.”

Of course, when a child’s health and safety is at risk, then it becomes imperative for the other parent to speak up. However, they must do so in a way that does not sound like they’re simply enforcing their own opinions on the other parent. “There are a lot of articles online being written by mental health professionals,” says Sedacca. “You could show one to your partner and say, ‘Well, you may feel this way, but look at all of these articles that are saying you shouldn’t do this, or you should do that.’ And that’s a way of validating their opinion.”

The Problem: One parent doesn’t trust the other and tries to bar that parent from visitation.

The Solution: Unfortunately, this is a common situation in divorce cases, even without the added strain of coronavirus. One parent may feel that the other is not responsible enough or too lax with the rules and use that as an excuse to keep the kids home. Seiden suggests that parents try and come to an agreement ahead of time about how they will have quality time with their kids while keeping social distancing protocols in place.

“One approach that often works is to have both parents submit their proposals to ensure parenting time continues and social distancing is maintained,” says Seiden. “If they both submit their proposals without one party seeing the other party’s proposal first, chances are there will be some common themes that can be expanded upon.”

Sedacca agrees that putting your thoughts in writing is a good way to illustrate your concerns without the other partner feeling attacked. “It may be easier to send an email with some points,” she says. “Say, ‘The reason I’m so upset about this is one, two, and three,’ and try to create a valid argument that’s not emotionally crazy but that just addresses the points. Staying calm and not pointing the finger or demeaning the other parent is important.”   

The Problem: One parent is very worried and telling the kids coronavirus horror stories.

The Solution: It’s a scary time for everyone, and uncertainty abounds. But giving into fear, and especially bringing kids into it, can only be counterproductive. “You will need to work to neutralize this for your child, again without throwing the other parent under the bus,” says Dr. Vanessa Lapointe, a psychologist and Family Expert for Life360. She recommends saying something along the lines of ‘Sometimes when our brains get very worried, we look around and all we can see are the scary things. It doesn’t mean those things are true – it is just what happens when brains are in a scared state.’ Then, highlight the inherent positive in this, saying “And even though we don’t need to be concerned about that kind of stuff, do you know what I really love? I love that [the other parent] loves you so much that you are the number one thing their worried brain thinks about.”

The Problem: One parent is very rigid and insists that schedules, appointed times, and dates have to be adhered to, despite whatever changes might come up.

The Solution: Generally speaking, structure is important in a co-parenting arrangement, as it creates stability and order in kids’ lives. However, times are different now and, more than ever, it’s important to be flexible. “Flexibility is critical,” says psychotherapist Dr. Dana Dorfman. “This is an extraordinarily stressful situation and can be an opportunity to model flexibility, prioritization, and values to children.”

“This is not a time to be rigid,” says Seiden. “For example, the parents need to have flexibility to adjust schedules to minimize exchanges, increase telephone or video contact between one parent and the children, to adjust schedules so that both parties can work from home, and to modify communication methods.” However, Seiden stresses that neither parent should be taken advantage of the flexibility to modify custody or parenting issues that do not need to be modified. 

The Problem: One parent loses their job and cannot pay child support.

The Solution: There is no roadmap for the situation we’re living in, and, as a result, it’s impossible to prepare for every eventuality. To that end, experts agree that, should one parent find themselves out of work, understanding should be the first response.

“In most cases, compassion breeds compassion,” says Dorfman. “This sentiment goes a long way, though it may be difficult to muster during trying times. Minimize hostility and suspending resentments amidst a crisis is advised.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean that the unemployed parent is off the hook for payments. Even in the wake of a lost job, support arrangements must be made. “Instead of demanding a modification of child support the day that he or she loses his or her job it is likely a better strategy to let the other parent know what happened and to start doing his or her best to tap into resources available and to look for other employment opportunities,” says Seiden.

The Problem: Tension threatens to spill over into an argument or bitter dispute.

The Solution: Everyone’s nerves are frayed beyond their limits these days, and, when it comes to divorce, COVID-19 is adding stress to an already stressed situation. Experts say to be mindful of every word you say right now, because you don’t want it to come back to haunt you, with Sedacca even suggesting having more conversations in writing than in person. “Don’t talk on the phone,” she says. “Put it all in writing. Send each other [texts or emails] that are fact-based. Don’t get into a lot of exposition and talking about other things. Stay very focused on the arrangements and the reality of what has to happen to take care of the children.”

However, it’s not realistic to assume that all communication will be done via text, and couples should have some arrangement in place. Ben Heldfond, who, along with his ex-wife, Nikki DeBartolo, is the author of Our Happy Divorce says he and his ex have a plan that they adhere to avoid communication breakdowns: the four texts/email rule. “It is simple and easy,” he says. “After the fourth text/email goes back and forth, it is time to get on the phone. Email and text are an easy way to communicate, but sometimes people hear what they want, and tones are never accurately portrayed.”

The Problem: Work schedules are different now, and families with healthcare workers/first responders may need extra latitude.

The Solution: Sedacca recommends parents whose work schedules have changed as a result of COVID-19 should meet with a mediator to see about renegotiating the parenting arrangement. Conversations can be had about allowing the children to spend more time with one parent or another as their work schedule dictates.

“A parent who was working a 40-hour week and is suddenly working a 60-hour week has different responsibilities,” she says. “If they’re a health worker, there may be health risks that they’re dealing with, and we don’t want the kids to be affected. So, it’s a good idea to have a counselor or mediator talk with both of you and find some way of remediating the agreement.”


READ MORE

Internet Safety Tips for Families

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Thursday, February 27, 2020

Internet Safety Tips for Families

Have the Tech Talk (And Have It Often)

One of the most important things you can do to help your kids be safer online is to teach them how to be responsible in their digital lives. This starts with talking about it long before your child has their own social media empire. So start having this conversation early, as soon as you and your child start using the internet together.

When it comes to safety, teach them what kind of behavior or conversations they should consider weird or abnormal, and when they see it to come to you or another trusted adult right away. You can also talk to them about how to be responsible with their online presence, and what kind of behavior won’t be tolerated. Promoting charities or causes they care about? Good. Hiding behind a screen to bully others? Bad.




Decide Rules and Consequences Together

Part of the internet talk should be discussing family values and how you expect everyone in the family to behave online. This comes back to the golden rule — do unto others as you would have done unto you. It’s the same in the digital world as it is anywhere else. Make it clear what standards everyone in the family, you included, need to adhere to.

Involve your kids in deciding what rules are acceptable. What zones in the house should be screen-free? What screen time limits make sense for them? You can also involve them in the conversation about the consequences if those rules are broken. That way, everyone has agreed to the values, rules, and consequences of the home and is on the same page.


Share With Care

Before your child of any age starts using the internet on their own, tell them they are never to share any of their personal information with someone they meet online. That includes their name, telephone number, address, hometown, school name, parent’s names, siblings’ names, and more. If there is someone they want to share all that with, they need to get your permission first.


Be Internet Awesome

Google’s Be Internet Awesome has free resources to help make it easier for you to have the tech talk with your kids. Even better, they also created Interland, a web based game that makes learning about online safety fun. Learn through play and make conversations about online safety open and exciting for you and your kids.


Set Parental Controls That Work for You

Every child and every family is different. Check out the parental control options available to you, install them, and be transparent with your child about what you’re doing. These controls can help your child learn how to regulate their screen time. It can also help you keep inappropriate content off the screens of your younger children.

Parental controls should not be a substitute for parenting. Have a conversation with your kids and set some digital ground rules for the family, like making sure you have device-free dinners or flagging anything sketchy or negative online to a trusted parent (and promise to remain calm and not freak out).


Go Online Together

Finally, go online with your kids and have fun. Let them show you what games they are excited about, watch their favorite video with them, or learn something together online. Your kids will love you for it. Really, at the end of the day, they just want to connect with you, too.


READ MORE


About DFFC

The Delaware Fatherhood & Family Coalition is an extension of the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program and the Responsible Fatherhood Initiative created specifically to give a voice to fathers and the importance of their involvement for the well-being of their children.


Learn more

Newsletter Sign-Up

Sign up today to get the lastest news and info.




Captcha Image