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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.

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.


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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.

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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.”


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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.


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10 Tips for New Fathers

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.


7. Teamwork.

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.

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The Involved Father

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.


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Father’s Day: A Father’s Bond with His Newborn Is Just as Important as a Mother’s Bond

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.


Fathers are vitally important to their kids’ health and to public health research

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.


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Fathering in America: What’s a Dad Supposed to Do?

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.


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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.


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