Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Tuesday, April 21, 2020
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.
Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Friday, April 10, 2020
The Marriage During Quarantine Edition
Understand That Everyone Needs Time to Realignt
Create New Structures
Be Honest About Time Alone
Figure Out How to Fight
Give One Another the Benefit of the Doub
Set Aside Specific Time to Vent
Make Time for Other People
Remind Yourselves: These Are Crazy Times
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.”
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.
Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Tuesday, January 28, 2020
10 Tips for New Fathers
If you are a new dad, guess what research shows is one of the best things you can do to bond with your new baby and make your marriage stronger?
1. Time and tolerance.
The most important thing you can do is simply spend time with your newborn. Serious research about fatherhood is only a scant 30 years old, and what we know is that the more time fathers spend with their infants the better. Researchers in the early years of father-infant bonding couldn’t find fathers spending enough time with their infants to study them. In other words, dads weren’t spending an adequate amount of time with their baby to even start measuring the impact. What we know now is that the time you can just be with your infant is valuable.
Along with time, you will need to have some tolerance for you and your new creation to get to know one another. This is your first time being a father and your son or daughter’s first time being a human being. Be kind and gentle with yourselves. Allow for some learning, experimentation and mutual tolerance. Give yourself time to learn and grow into the role.
2. Eye contact.
We have known for a long time that infants are drawn to the human face, but with computer-enhanced research we were able to realize what they look at: the eyes. Babies have a preference for the human face in general, and eye contact in particular. The one thing to remember about this is that they can only see clearly about a foot in front of them, so remember to smile, stay close, and look ‘em in the eye.
3. Repetitive sounds.
Particularly something called the bilabials; Pa-pa, Ma-ma, Ba-ba are the first and most common sounds infants can make. They are simple because the two lips are pressed together with a puff of air pushed through them. That is why most first utterances around the globe for mother, father and bottle use these sounds. They are easy to make and the infant can get some quick language control and feedback from their environment in this way. (Trust me, the first time your little one says Pa-Pa to you will be a peak experience.) To strengthen the connection, when you hear them making the sound, make it back. Eventually the two of you can start your own bilabial chorus.
4. Infants are fans of motion.
They love it and crave it, and need it. They love to be held, jostled, bounced and jiggled. There is good reason for this. Movement helps infants develop everything from their brains to their sense of balance. When you hold your baby, give them a feeling of security, but not too tight or too loose. Don’t be afraid to hold and sway and bounce and cuddle. Learn what he or she likes and cultivate that motion. You want to be the one with that magic touch when baby needs a motion magician.
5. Change that diaper!
Researchers early on found out that the fathers who helped diapering their baby had stronger, better, and more long-lasting marriages. So if you want to score points with mom and with your baby — learn the art of diapering and treat it as a shared duty with mom. If you don’t want the feces to hit the oscillator in your relationship, learn to deal with it at the source.
6. Make a play date with baby.
Maybe Tuesday is girls night out, or you don’t start work until noon on Thursday, but whatever the schedule can permit, have planned time to be the one and only caregiver for your baby. One-on-one bonding is important. When mom is in the room there is typically a preference by the infant for her to be the one in charge. Take time to figure out what your relationship is with your newborn — just the two of you. This is important. You need to be able to manage this baby thing solo, and there is no other way to get this experience.
The above point having been said, you also need to realize you are part of a team. You and mom are a tag-team. This may be a different set of skills than when you are one-on-one. As an example, when mom was out and I was joyfully bottlefeeding my daughter with breast milk we had pumped for her, everything was wonderful. But the moment mom came home from her classes, my daughter wasn’t in the mood for Mr. second-best. She could hear and, through the magic of pheromones, smell mom and wanted to be with her. This was the transition time. Recognize that the three of you function like a mobile hanging from the ceiling and are in balance with one another. As the infant’s needs change, the balance of mom and dad will need to change along with it.
8. Keep your promises.
As your child grows and as you develop as a family, remember that dads have to be absolutely certain to do one thing: keep their promises. If you promise your spouse you are going to be home at 6:30 p.m., make that the priority in your life that day. As your child grows, these promises to him or her become the backbone of your relationship. Deliver on what you promise and the ease and security of the relationship will evolve. Renege on these consistently and an insecure bonding, something you definitely do not want, can happen. I encourage parents I work with to only make commitments and promises they can keep. I’d rather them keep one promise than make three and only keep two.
Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Friday, January 24, 2020
The Involved Father
Fathers are just as essential to healthy child development as mothers. Psychology Today explained, “Fatherhood turns out to be a complex and unique phenomenon with huge consequences for the emotional and intellectual growth of children.”“Shuttle Diplomacy,” Psychology Today, July/August 1993, p. 15. Erik Erikson, a pioneer in the world of child psychology, asserts that a father’s love and a mother’s love are qualitatively different. Fathers “love more dangerously” because their love is more “expectant, more instrumental” than a mother’s love.As cited in Kyle D. Pruett, The Nurturing Father, (New York: Warner Books, 1987), p. 49. A father brings unique contributions to the job of parenting a child that no one else can replicate. Following are some of the most compelling ways that a father’s involvement makes a positive difference in a child’s life.
Fathers parent differently.
Fathering expert Dr. Kyle Pruett explains that fathers have a distinct style of communication and interaction with children. By eight weeks of age, infants can tell the difference between their mother’s and father’s interaction with them. This diversity, in itself, provides children with a broader, richer experience of contrasting relational interactions. Whether they realize it or not, children are learning, by sheer experience, that men and women are different and have different ways of dealing with life, other adults and children. This understanding is critical for their development.
Fathers play differently.
Fathers tickle more, they wrestle, and they throw their children in the air (while mother says . . . “Not so high!”). Fathers chase their children, sometimes as playful, scary “monsters.” Fathering expert John Snarey explains that children who roughhouse with their fathers learn that biting, kicking and other forms of physical violence are not acceptable.John Snarey, How Fathers Care for the Next Generation: A Four Decade Study (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), p. 35-36. They learn self-control by being told when “enough is enough” and when to settle down. Girls and boys both learn a healthy balance between timidity and aggression.
Fathers build confidence.
Go to any playground and listen to the parents. Who is encouraging kids to swing or climb just a little higher, ride their bike just a little faster, throw just a little harder? Who is encouraging kids to be careful? Mothers protect and dads encourage kids to push the limits. Either of these parenting styles by themselves can be unhealthy. One can tend toward encouraging risk without consideration of consequences. The other tends to avoid risk, which can fail to build independence and confidence. Together, they help children remain safe while expanding their experiences and increasing their confidence.
Fathers communicate differently.
A major study showed that when speaking to children, mothers and fathers are different. Mothers will simplify their words and speak on the child’s level. Men are not as inclined to modify their language for the child. The mother’s way facilitates immediate communication; the father’s way challenges the child to expand her vocabulary and linguistic skills — an important building block of academic success.
Fathers discipline differently.
Educational psychologist Carol Gilligan tells us that fathers stress justice, fairness and duty (based on rules), while mothers stress sympathy, care and help (based on relationships). Fathers tend to observe and enforce rules systematically and sternly, teaching children the consequences of right and wrong. Mothers tend toward grace and sympathy, providing a sense of hopefulness. Again, either of these disciplinary approaches by themselves is not good, but together, they create a healthy, proper balance.
Fathers prepare children for the real world.
Involved dads help children see that attitudes and behaviors have consequences. For instance, fathers are more likely than mothers to tell their children that if they are not nice to others, kids will not want to play with them. Or, if they don’t do well in school, they will not get into a good college or secure a desirable job. Fathers help children prepare for the reality and harshness of the world.
Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Tuesday, January 21, 2020
Father’s Day: A Father’s Bond with His Newborn
Is Just as Important as a Mother’s Bond
Dads, you’re not alone if you’re feeling out of bounds with your newborn. I know life with a new baby can be overwhelming, particularly for new dads. This Father’s Day, I want to emphasize the importance of daddy-baby bonding with your newborn. Daddy-baby bonding is a topic that is not discussed enough but needs to be addressed. Did you know father-infant bonding is just as important as a mother-infant bonding during the immediate postpartum period? It is vitally important for a father to interact and bond with his newborn to help the infant’s development and to reduce the risk of paternal postpartum depression. That’s correct. Postpartum depression is not exclusive to new moms. Delayed bonding over the course of the first couple of months can increase the risk of paternal postpartum depression.
According to a new study published in Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing (JOGNN), from the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN), when fathers delay bonding with their newborns, they risk altering the long-term course of paternal involvement as the infant progresses throughout childhood and adolescence. In addition, fathers “reported that they didn’t start to experience fatherhood until birth” while, mothers reported that they started to experience motherhood as soon they received news that they were pregnant. This difference influences the amount of time it takes for a mother and a father to feel a loving connection and bond with their newborn. Most fathers enter parenthood expecting an immediate emotional bond with their newborns, but many reports that forming that bond takes time.
Moms can help by encouraging dad’s involvement with their newborn. As a mom, I know that we have a ‘take charge” approach with our infants but this attitude can have negative effects on dads. Fathers have reported delayed onset of feeling bonded with their infants for as long as 6 weeks to 2 months after birth. In an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the authors reviewed 43 studies on depression in new fathers. They found that prenatal and postpartum depression was evident in about 10% of men in their studies and was relatively higher in the 3- to 6-month postpartum period. We can help fathers reduce the risk of paternal postpartum depression by getting them more involved with their newborns from the time of birth.
Successful father-infant bonding during the immediate postpartum period has been shown to have several benefits for the infant: it reduces cognitive delay, promotes weight gain in preterm infants, and improves breastfeeding rates. Dads can start to bond with their newborns by practicing these tips found in AWHONN’s magazine Healthy Mom&Baby:
● Jump right in. Don’t be afraid to begin immediately caring for and loving your baby. The more you hold your baby, the more comfortable and natural it will feel
● Take a night shift. Once mom is breastfeeding well, she may want to let you give the baby a nighttime meal. This way she can get more sleep and you will have the opportunity to bond with your newborn
● Read your newborn a book. Your newborn will enjoy the rhythm and pace of your voice while you read a book. In the early months, it’s not about what you’re reading; it’s about reading itself
● Initiate the bath. Bathing your newborn will enhance bonding and provide a multi-sensory learning experience.
● Create a bedtime ritual. Infants will learn to depend on the consistency and predictability of a nighttime routine.
Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Tuesday, January 21, 2020
Fathers are vitally important to their kids’ health and to public health research
Helping our children to develop healthy eating, exercise and screen-time behaviours is an important public health goal globally.
This is because behaviours established early in life often track into adulthood. And these behaviours have a big impact on a person’s risk for chronic diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
However, many Canadian children are not establishing healthy habits early in their lives. National data suggests that 70 per cent of four- to eight-year-old children do not consume the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables and close to 80 per cent of three- to four-year-olds exceed screen time recommendations
Because children’s health behaviours emerge early in life and in the context of their family, engaging parents in health promotion is critical.
Fathers are largely missing from this picture. A 2017 review of family-based health interventions found that fathers made up only six per cent of all parent participants.
It matters how Dad eats and moves
Emerging research suggests that fathers are critical stakeholders in the development of children’s health behaviours.
International research studies have found associations between fathers’ eating and activity behaviours and those of their children, suggesting the important influence of fathers’ role modelling.
Research with families in the Guelph Family Health Study found that modelling by fathers, but not mothers, of healthy food intake was associated with a healthier diet among their children, which points to the unique role of fathers.
Given the important role fathers play in the development of their children’s health behaviours, it is important to include them in health-promotion interventions.
Research supports involving both parents to maximize impact. One review of parenting studies found that programs including both mothers and fathers resulted in better child outcomes than those programs with only mothers.
Healthy eating is not ‘women’s work’
Despite men’s increasing involvement, women remain responsible for the majority of house and family work in Canada. On average, Canadian women spend one hour more each day than men on unpaid household work, including caring for children and meal preparation.
By including only mothers in our health-promotion efforts, we may inadvertently reinforce these inequitable gender norms and practices — for example, the notion that providing healthful foods is “women’s work.”
It could also result in less effective family-based interventions, as families may be less likely to implement and sustain behaviour changes that reinforce these inequalities
Fathers matter to health research too
It is important to engage fathers in family-based research, so that public heath interventions are informed by those with lived experience of fathering.
We recently hosted a conference that brought together international experts, students, health professionals and community stakeholders — to identify effective strategies to engage fathers in family-based health and obesity-related research.
The recommendations include targeting recruitment specifically at fathers. Research has shown that fathers are interested in participating in child health research, but report that they often don’t participate because they do not feel like they have been asked. Researchers need to use the words “father” or “dad” rather than non-specific words such as “families” or “parents” when recruiting for child health studies.
It is also important for researchers and public health professionals to honor the diversity among fathers and families, incorporating differing cultural traditions and recognizing that fatherhood varies along with ages, ethnicity, location, sexual orientation, country of origin and socioeconomic, marital and custodial status.
Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Monday, November 04, 2019
Fathering in America:
What’s a Dad Supposed to Do?
By Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D. on Psychcentral
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018
Americans seem more confused than ever about the role of fathers in children’s lives. On the one hand, more and more fathers are absent for all or significant periods of time. According to the 2006 Census, 23 percent of children under 18 do not live with their biological father and the number is climbing. On the other hand, search “fatherhood” on the web and you’ll find dozens of websites dedicated to teaching, encouraging, and supporting men in becoming more nurturing and involved fathers.
Meanwhile, many TV sitcoms and animated shows continue to portray dads as dolts or, at best, well-meaning but misguided large children whose wives have to mother them as well as their offspring. If an alien in another universe happens to tune in to The Simpsons, Everyone Loves Raymond, Family Guy, etc., he (it?) will come away with a rather skewed idea of how men function in American families.
I’ll leave it to the sociologists to explain the many and complicated variables of race, class, gender issues, social policy, employment issues, and governmental interventions that are at the root of the diverging trends and the pejorative TV scripts. It’s enough to note that there is a major rethinking of fathers’ roles and responsibilities going on within the context of lots of rethinking in America.
We may be reconsidering how family should be defined. We may be confused about gender roles. We may be struggling with knowing how to parent well in a complicated time. But in the midst of all this confusion, there is a growing consensus that what kids need, at least, is clear. Kids need their fathers as well as their mothers.
Regardless of whether the father lives with his children, active participation in raising those children is good for everyone. The kids become healthier adults. The fathers come to a fuller and more complex maturity. The mothers have a reliable co-parent to share the responsibilities and challenges as well as the accomplishments of parenting. How does this idea of “involved father” translate to daily life? Current research points to the following practical guidelines for responsible fatherhood.
What’s a Father To Do?
Embrace your responsibility. Once you are a father, you are a father for life. The knowledge of fatherhood changes a man. It can be a source of pride and maturity or a source of shame and regret. Even if you have good reasons for not being actively involved, acknowledging your paternity is a minimal gift you can provide to your child. With it come many legal, psychological, and financial benefits. If you want to be in your child’s life, it also protects your rights to have time with your child should you and the child’s mother have a falling out.
Be there. In study after study, kids consistently say they would like to have more time with their dads. Regardless of whether a dad shares a home with the children and their mother, the kids need dad time. Working together on a chore or simply hanging out can be as meaningful as attending events or having adventures. Kids want to know their fathers. Just as important, they want their fathers to know them.
Be there throughout their childhoods. There is no time in a child’s life that doesn’t count. Research has shown that even infants know and respond to their fathers differently than they do to their mothers. The bond you make with a baby sets the foundation for a lifetime. As the kids get older, they’ll need you in different ways but they will always need you. Insistent toddler, curious preschooler, growing child, prickly adolescent: Each age and stage will have its challenges and rewards. Kids whose parents let them know that they are worth their parents’ time and attention are kids who grow up healthy and strong. Boys and girls who grow up with attention and approval from their dads as well as their moms tend to be more successful in life.
Be in a respectful and appreciative relationship with their mother. Being a good dad is certainly possible both inside and outside of marriage. Regardless of whether you and their mom can work out how to be a committed couple, you can support each other as parents. Kids grow best when their parents treat each other with respect and appreciation. The kids then don’t feel torn between the two people they love.
Do your financial share. Kids need to be fed, clothed, housed, and cared for. Children whose parents provide for them live better lives, feel valued, and have better relationships with both their parents. They need the role model of a responsible male acting responsibly. Just as they need you to be present in their lives, regardless of whether you live with their mom, they also need you to live up to financial obligations to the very best of your ability.
Balance discipline with fun. Some dads make the mistake of being only the disciplinarian. The kids grow up afraid of their dads and unable to see the man behind the rules. An equal and opposite mistake is being so focused on fun that you become one of the kids, leaving their mother always to be the heavy. Kids need to have fathers who know both how to set reasonable, firm limits and how to relax and have a good time. Give yourself and the kids the stability that comes with clear limits and the good memories that come with play.
Be a role model of adult manhood. Both boys and girls need you as a role model for what it means to be adult and male. Make no mistake: The kids are observing you every minute. They are taking in how you treat others, how you manage stress and frustrations, how you fulfill your obligations, and whether you carry yourself with dignity. Consciously or not, the boys will become like you. The girls will look for a man very much like you. Give them an idea of manhood (and relationships) you can be proud of.
Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Yeah, it’s a thing.
As dads have assumed a greater role in the parenting of their children, they have assumed a greater risk of being shamed for their parenting.
A recent national poll found that more than half of dads of children age 13 and younger had been criticized for their parenting style or choices. Of those dads:
- 67% had been criticized about how they discipline their child
- 43% had been criticized about what they feed their child
- 32% had been criticized for being too rough with their child
- 32% had been criticized for not paying attention to their child
Dads had also been criticized around decisions about their child’s sleep (24%), appearance (23%), and safety (19%).
Basically, dads receive a ton of criticism about virtually every aspect of parenting. It’s no wonder that some dads can be a little gun shy when it comes to taking care of their children. Let’s face it. The gold standard in our culture for parenting is the way in which moms parent—their parenting style. That standard is the underlying factor that leads to the criticism of dads. Our cultural norms around effective parenting haven’t kept up with the increased role of dads in their children’s caregiving or the research that shows dads and moms parent differently—in complimentary ways that benefit children’s well-being.
Fortunately, that same poll showed that dads are extremely confident in their parenting—9 in 10 (92%) said they do a good job. That’s important because confidence is vital to success in any endeavor.
On the other hand, research shows that people consistently overestimate their awareness, knowledge, and skill. They’re overconfident. Known as overconfidence bias, people are more subject to it the more confident they are. Parenting is no exception.
So, as a professional who serves dads, what should you do with this knowledge?
- First, assume that an involved dad has been criticized for his parenting even when he doesn’t mention it. Let him know he’s not alone and should not feel shame simply because he parents differently than mom.
- Second, assume that an uninvolved dad will eventually be criticized for his parenting as he becomes more involved in his child’s life. Prepare him for the criticism.
- Third, realize that criticism of a dad’s parenting might have merit.
- Fourth, share with all dads that the awareness, knowledge, and skills they possess and are learning will help them parent effectively. Tell them that as they bring their innate parenting ability to the surface—a dad’s parenting style—that it will benefit their child above and beyond the way mom parents.
With that foundation, help dads discern between baseless and valid criticism. Share these three steps to help dads deal with current and future dad-shaming:
- Don’t take it personally. (That’s easier said than done, especially when it comes to something as raw as being criticized for how you parent.) This is the first and most vital step. If you take criticism personally, you won’t move beyond this step.
- Keep an open mind, actively listen, and challenge yourself. The ability to keep an open mind, actively listen, and challenge yourself is a cornerstone of any effort to improve, including as a parent. You might overestimate your parenting awareness, knowledge, and skills. Seek to continually improve as a parent. Someone might have a valid criticism of your parenting.
- Step back and reflect. Take as much time as you need to reflect, as objectively as possible, on the criticism. It might be clear right away whether the criticism is baseless or valid. (Hint: It’s baseless if the criticism is of a dad’s innate parenting style.) If it’s not clear, seek the counsel of someone whose parenting advice you value and who has shown the ability to be objective and direct with you. It might be the mother of your child, one of your child’s grandparents, or a friend who is a good dad or mom. (It might even be you, the professional!)