Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Sunday, June 13, 2021
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 09, 2021
National Child Abuse Prevention Month
6 Tips to Help Keep Children Safe
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Five years ago, we kicked off National Child Abuse Prevention Month with a series of child abuse prevention trainings across Delaware. We are now in 23 States doing the work that was so important to Beau.
During the past year, our lives have been turned upside down. For a child who spent the last year living and learning in a dangerous place – perhaps with their abuser, cut off from their schools and support networks – it has been a nightmare. Horrific situations like this along with the increased time children now spend online is the “perfect storm” for child predators.
It is critical that adults – parents, caretakers, families, teachers, counselors, and coaches – support and protect children emerging from a year of intense trauma.
Here are a few quick tips and resources for you to keep the children you care about safe.
- Ongoing and age-appropriate conversations with children and teens are key to their protection. Open and honest discussions about abuse, sexual abuse, healthy relationships, and online safety help establish and build trust. Maintaining that trust may lead a child in trouble to open up to you in the future. Just be sure to react calmly and responsibly should a child divulge their abuse or online interactions with a predator. Our free eBook – Seven Things You Don’t Know About Your Child’s Digital Life [link] – can help you get the conversation started.
FAST FACT: Most children are exposed to pornography by the time they are 11 years old.
- Find out what your child’s school is doing to protect children from abuse. Children have all been thrust into virtual learning environments and hybrid classes over the past year. It’s imperative that schools and youth-serving organizations that use video conferencing platforms to teach and interact with children adhere to best practices and a well-established and published Code of Conduct, specifically every organization must commit that all interactions with children be continuously observable and able to be interrupted at any time.
The Beau Biden Foundation created an accredited workshop – Protecting Children in a Virtual Learning Environment [link] – that has helped schools across the country ensure teachers can assess a child’s safety in their online interactions with students. Ask your child’s school if they have training and policies in place that address this issue. If not – ask them to contact the Beau Biden Foundation.
DID YOU KNOW: Reports to Child Abuse Hotlines have dropped by nearly 50% while children and teachers were out of physical the classroom during COVID-19 restrictions. Why? Because teachers, counselors, and school personnel are among the number one reporters of abuse. Without seeing their students regularly, these frontline professionals could not recognize the signs of abuse and make the call to get that child the help they need.
- Know and check the apps children and teens are using on their digital devices. Potential harm can come from anywhere — social media and online gaming apps open doors to child predators. Knowing how children and teens spend their time on their smartphones or tablets (and with whom) is critical in keeping them safe. A list of 19 Apps Parents Need to Know is available on our site at [link] to help you navigate this ever-changing digital landscape.
DID YOU KNOW: Federal and local law enforcement agencies are working together to track down and apprehend child predators through popular social media and gaming apps. These joint efforts have led to thousands of arrests. Charges include: Luring a Minor; Attempted Child Abuse, Neglect, or Endangerment; Engaging In Solicitation for Prostitution of a Child; and Facilitating Sex Trafficking. These criminals range in age from early 20s to late 60s.
- Know the acronyms children and teens are using in their chats – predators are using them, too. Learning and recognizing some of these critical codes and acronyms can save a child from a predator. You’re probably familiar with “LOL” (Laugh Out Loud) or “SMH” (Shake My Head), but there are many more acronyms that predators use to chat with children and teens to “KPC” (Keep Parents Clueless) when they “WTTP.” Read our blog – 30 Acronyms Parents Need to Know – to help familiarize yourself with these terms: https://www.beaubidenfoundation.org/blog/30acronyms/.
- Know the signs of grooming. Be on the lookout for requests for images, videos, personal information from a child, or to connect in a private chat. These requests, even seemingly innocent ones, could be a predator testing a child. Other questions to keep in mind are: Is the child often making a deal or exchange for game tokens/currency? Is the child being lured into a private chat? Are they keeping secrets or say they have a “special friendship” with someone new online? Does the child suddenly have new items like clothing, jewelry, or a phone that you did not buy for them? Our free eBook – Online Predators: What You Need To Know To Protect Your Child Today [link] – can help you recognize the signs of grooming and offers more advice on how to combat online predators.
FAST FACT: There are at least 500,000 child predators online each day. One in 5 children reports being solicited or contacted by a predator in the last year.
- What to do if your child has already sent an explicit photo or fallen victim to an online predator or cyberbully? Call the CyberTipline: 1-800-THE-LOST. If the child is being cyberbullied, or if there’s an immediate threat or risk of harm – call 911, otherwise seek the assistance of the school counselor, make a report on the platform being used, and preserve any evidence (i.e. screenshot, save chat). If your child is being solicited to send personal information, help them to say ‘no’ and move on, and report the other user(s) involved. If the child has received a request for explicit photos or videos, report to law enforcement. As always, if you have reasonable suspicion of abuse, please click here to find the child abuse reporting line in your area and make the call.
Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Friday, April 09, 2021
The Biggest Financial Mistakes Parents Make — And How to Avoid Them
Financial planners told us the most common financial regrets parents have — and how to change course before it's too late.
Apr 07 2021, 5:52 PM
With its high levels of stress and few hours of sleep, becoming a parent is a surefire recipe for sloppy financial planning. Everyone, from neighbors to relatives to predictive algorithms for Facebook ads, wants to scare you into spending money. Meanwhile, the bare necessities — diapers, clothes, cribs — are expensive enough on their own.
While the stress of parenting mellows, the ad hoc approach to spending often remains. Parents spend years spraying a dollar hose at camps, sports leagues, after school activities and whatever else crops up. After decades of indiscriminate spending, they’re unprepared for major life events ranging from college tuition and retirement to disability and death. Financial regrets? Like the great economist Frank Sinatra, they have a few.
But that regret isn’t inevitable. We asked financial planners about the biggest financial regrets they heard from clients who are parents. Many said their clients with kids wished they’d started financial planning sooner, which is unsurprising (honestly, only rich people start saving when they should). But they also shared counterintuitive advice about how to prioritize money over the long term. Here’s what you should know about the biggest financial mistakes, and how to change course before it’s too late.
The Financial Mistake: Pre-Baby Spending Sprees
Louisiana-based financial planner and father of four Alajahwon Ridgeway notes that eager parents-to-be overspend before their baby arrives. After covering the basics — crib, car seat, diapers, bibs and clothes — they don’t know where to stop.
“You never know exactly what you need and what is a luxury to have,” Ridgeway says. After a couple of months as a parent, though, it’s easy to see what’s collecting dust. “All the bottle warmers, newborn shoes, and baby bags were rarely, if ever used.”
How to Correct it: Ridgeway advises first consulting experts who have your best financial interests at heart. “Make a list of things you need by asking a trusted family member or friend,” he says. It’s better to react to needs as they arise than to try to predict them. “When the baby arrives, then buy any additional things as needed. I know a changing table sounds nice, but when you are in another room and you only got three hours of sleep, a towel on the couch will do just fine.”
As the head of a large household, Ridgeway’s bonus advice is to keep baby gear in good condition to avoid unneeded repurchases. “Babies grow out of things quickly, and you may just have four like me,” he says. “Which makes it easy to pass down old clothes that the baby wore for one Easter picture.”
The Financial Mistake: Not Starting to Save Sooner
With the money drain of diapers, daycare, and more, the early years of parenthood leave little wiggle room for savings. But as Michigan financial planner and father of four Paul Fenner says, parents who don’t find a way to start saving money early inevitably regret it. “The number one regret I hear from parents is that they did not begin saving earlier in their lives,” he says. “Whether that is saving for retirement or college, they regret or second guess the decision not to get started planning sooner.”
How to Correct it: The best time to start making your money grow is 10 years ago. The second best time is today. So, start socking away cash. Now. Ask someone you trust about how to make your money grow over time and follow their advice as quickly as possible. As Fenner says, the first step is the hardest. “[Parents can be] afraid of taking the first step or that their ambitions were unclear to where they did not know where to start or who to turn to support their family,” he says.
The Financial Mistake: Going Big on Your Kid’s Wedding
Weddings set the tone for a marriage in more ways than one. Couples want to launch their new lives together with joy and celebration and parents want to help. “Weddings bring in the whole family, and are discussed for decades afterward,” Ohio financial planner Curtis Bailey says. “Parents want the best for their children and offer to help foot the bills.” But joy and celebration don’t come cheap. “When the budget begins to go overboard, it is often the parents who continue to write the checks.”
How to Correct it: Don’t give your kids carte blanche for their big day. Be generous, but be generous with a single lump sum payment. “I have seen a few parents simply write a one-time check,” Bailey says. “That’s it. It sets the budget and gives the couple their first opportunity on how to spend it. Tradeoffs become more real for children when they write the check from their own bank account for wedding expenses.”
The Financial Mistake: Not Maxing Out a Roth IRA
Anthony Watson, founder of Michigan wealth management firm Thrive Retirement Specialists, finds that his clients often wish they would have funded a Roth IRA earlier in their career while both their income and taxation rates were lower. While contributions to traditional IRAs are tax-deductible and your earnings grow tax-free until you pay taxes when you start withdrawing from the account, Roth IRAs are subject to taxes while you contribute to them. “Plus, the ability to contribute to a Roth IRA gets phased out at an Adjusted Gross Income of $125,000 if single and $198,000 for couples,” Watson says.
How to Correct it: After maxing out their employers matching provisions to their 401(K), prioritize funding a ROTH IRA. “High growth assets like stocks in a Roth IRA early in life can put people in a great position later in life by giving them a sizable tax-free income source to fund retirement,” Watson says. “Combined with qualified retirement vehicles like a 401(k) or IRA that get taxed at personal income rates when withdrawn in retirement, an individual can craft a superior tax-efficient withdrawal strategy later in life adding tremendous value to their retirement situation.”
The Financial Mistake: Investing too Heavily into Bonds Over Stocks
Watson finds that his older clients wish they earned better returns by holding more stock and fewer bonds in their portfolio.
“Young people often naively hold bonds in the portfolio because they think it provides them with needed diversification,” he says, adding that the ability to work for steady pay and make steady contributions to an investment portfolio over time serves the role bonds would play in the portfolio.
But, please note: This doesn’t mean betting on individual stocks in hopes of beating the market. “While it is possible to have success occasionally timing markets or picking stocks, the probability of slowly and steadily growing your portfolio and allowing compounding to do its work is low,” he says.
How to Correct it: Watson advises following a simple index-based approach to investing, saying parents will have better luck using low-cost, diversified ETFs rather than following the crowd and trying to time markets or hit home-runs through stock picking. And yes, Reddit dads, that includes Gamestop stonks.
The Financial Mistake: Not Teaching Kids Financial Literacy
When kids enter young adulthood, they often struggle with financial concepts. Student loans, credit, and investing are elusive for them. “Many parents regret not teaching their children more about finance,” South Carolina financial advisor and father of three Charles H Thomas III says. “The hesitancy often comes from parents who aren’t sure themselves.”
How to Correct it: It isn’t easy to tell your kids that you don’t know something. But Thomas says sussing out how money, debt and credit works can bring your family close together. “Take it as an opportunity to learn together,” he says. “For example, if a bill comes in the mail, offer to look at it with your child and talk through what makes sense and what doesn’t. It will benefit everyone to talk it through.”
The Financial Mistake: Under-Spending on Life and Disability Insurance
Nobody likes paying for insurance. It’s a drain on your wallet that has no benefit the vast majority of the time. But when emergencies happen, which happens more frequently as you age, the cushion of insurance can make a vital difference for families. Megan Kopka, a North Carolina financial advisor specializing in advising families of children with disabilities, says that not having any or enough disability or life insurance can lead to major regrets. Often with disability comes large medical payments,” she says. “These two insurances are often overlooked or downplayed. In worst case scenarios, that can be the biggest regret.”
How to Correct it: Sign up for life and disability insurance. Pay the policy every month. Complain as much as you want when everything’s fine and pat yourself on the back when everything goes wrong and you were prepared. “If you are not on track for retirement and the kids are older and college isn’t covered then get life insurance in case your household income is decreased by disability or death,” she says.
The Financial Mistake: Prioritizing Kids’ College Over Own Retirement
Believe it or not, putting your kids first can be a huge mistake. Ohio financial planner John Bovard and father of four says his older parent clients frequently realize they erred in supporting their kids too much.
“Often, they were concerned about their kids going to a good school,” Bovard says. They worried about paying their tuition and making sure there wasn’t any student loan debt. And then they come to realize that they probably should have used that money for their own retirement.”
Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Tuesday, March 09, 2021
Great Communication Starts With Understanding Your Kid
The first five years are an explosive time in terms of development. Your little one understands more than you think. Here's how to talk to them.
You probably think your kid is a genius. Most parents do, but in this case they’re right. In the first five years of life, kids make leaps in development that dwarf any other period. In this time, parents witness kids evolve from entirely helpless creatures to little Einstein’s, fluent in 10,000 words and a great stream of independent thought.
But throughout this period, they must be guided. Your little Einstein can, like the great genius himself, be simultaneously brilliant, needy, and aloof. This is especially true when it comes to their connection to people. In five years, kids can figure out how to walk, talk, and do somersaults, but how they treat and understand other kids and adults doesn’t just come to them. Sure, they can build a masterful skyscraper out of blocks and have memorized the lyrics to Frere Jacques, however they can just as easily call another kid “stupid” and shove them.
Kids aren’t naturally cruel. Instead, becoming a kind, empathetic human is hard. This is why it’s one of the most important lessons to come from a parent. It all starts with communication. Of course, the way you pass on lessons will need to evolve with your child. A 1-year-old is going to understand a very different lesson than a 4-year-old. There’s no way around it. And while all children develop differently and developmental milestones never follow like clockwork, there are predictable elements. Here’s your communication cheat sheet from birth to 5.
0-1: Connect and Show
By age 1, kids generally know about 50 words. These words are mostly nouns. So in this case verbal communication would not be the best way to pass on complicated notions like race. The best approach is to communicate with the goal of helping kids to build their vocabulary, so that later dialogue about concepts will be easier and more effective.
Infants are brilliant readers of emotion. They can both see and convey desires, opinions, and preferences via body language, tone, and facial expressions. As such, they can see how you treat them and others. Before they’re even 1, you are already being watched — and thus leading by example. Be aware of what behaviors you may be inadvertently modeling.
Mimicry is everything to an infant. Movements, expressions, even tone are all in play at this time. Watch what you do and how you act everywhere — they will be.
That eye for mimicry is a wandering one. Your kids are probably more observant of other people than you think. Studies show that children begin observing racial differences as early as 6 months. So what they observe in the way you treat others — especially along race or gender lines — can serve as the foundation for biases that studies show can be held by preschool age.
1-2: Perform and Mirror
From 1 to 2, kids start to develop their own opinions and can start saying “no.” Where do they form those opinions? Almost entirely from first-person observations. They pick up on your opinions and test them. As such, parents must watch themselves.
Two-word sentences are the most common form of communication at this age, as verbs enter the fray. Kids can follow directions, point to familiar objects when named, and mimic words but language is still mostly a game for them and its meaning is limited to simple, timely needs.
Kids this age can and copy others, especially adults and older kids. This is the source of some defiant behavior and the place where prejudices may creep in. It isn’t the child’s prejudice you’re seeing — it’s a mirror of yours or someone close to them in their life.
2-3: Talk and Cuddle
By age 3, kids have roughly 1,000 words and are fast becoming wordsmiths. They are starting to understand meaning and, with the aid of pictures and a storybook, they can understand basic morality, albeit simplified notions of “good” and “bad.” This is a time to test their verbal limits. They may be less limited than you think.
Kids continue to copy adults and friends and can now show affection and concern for friends without prompting. Empathy is developing now, as is fear and concern for themselves and others, especially family. Show them what true affection is — with cuddling and hugs and physical signs of affection for everyone in your inner circle. Couple that with showing physical signs of respect and kindness for those outside of your circle.
Their growing vocabulary and developing sense of empathy, is your cue to begin to have more expansive concept based conversations even if it may appear that they are not quite ready. Not to worry. Even if they don’t follow, they will pick up bits and pieces and curiosity will help their understanding to grow. Avoiding discussions about race can create a breeding ground for prejudice, bad behavior, and racist attitudes.
3-4: Emote and Empathize
From 3 to 4, toddlers are able to express themselves emotionally and read others’ emotions. While they may have fast-growing vocabularies, speech mixed with emotions is most readily understood. Experts recommend mixing simple emotional words like “sad,” “happy,” “excited,” and “scared” into your conversations.
Playtime for your kid suddenly becomes a bit more imaginative at this stage, and is an excellent conduit for introducing more sophisticated concepts around life lessons. Doll play is one of the most effective ways to talk to kids about difficult, complex subjects like discrimination and unfairness. This is one of the reasons play therapy is so effective for young children — it’s truly speaking their language.
For three and four year olds, empathy now begins to take on a more cooperative edge. They can understand what others are feeling and thinking, and can also help them to shift their mood or complete a task. This is a useful way to communicate how one can help and to socialize.
Toddlers aren’t just looking to parents for signals to understand the world, they’re taking lessons from anywhere they can get them. Their positive or negative associations with kids who look different than them come from what they observe — and if parents aren’t there to clarify or lead the way, biases that don’t belong to the parent, but are pervasive to society, may start to creep in.
4-5: Talk and Let Them Learn
By age 5, kids have a whopping 10,000 words or so at their disposal. They are fluent communicators, and with repetition and careful delivery, they can understand big life lessons. So talk to them frankly and without oversimplifying too much.
Kids are growing fast at this age, and developing a sense of independence. This means that they aren’t absorbing everything you say as much as they were. You `Z still need to lead by example (always), but giving them thematic projects and activities to do on their own is a great way for them to figure some things out themselves.
Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Tuesday, March 09, 2021
How to Save Money for Kids:
5 Accounts All Parents Should Know About
Creating a financial foundation for your kids is essential. These are the accounts that will help you build it
By Daniel Kurt Mar 05 2021, 2:19 PM
The question of how to save money for kids has led to its fair share of sleepless nights and sour stomachs. There is just so much to figure out: How do I save for college? What accounts are best for creating a small nest egg for my kid? All the questions are good to ask because failing to give kids a cushion as they enter the real world can create a big emotional strain.
Consider this: More than six in ten college students graduated with student loan debt in 2019 and their average bill was $28,950, according to The Institute for College Access & Success. Couple that with chronically higher unemployment among recent graduates, and money issues can be a heavy burden for any young adult.
Building up savings now can help ensure that, when your children get a little older, they will not have to worry as much about crippling student loans or where their next rent payment is going to come from. So, to the question of how to save money for kids: Put a little bit a way as often as you can in the right account. Here are the five accounts to consider.
1. Custodial Accounts
Federally insured child savings accounts and debit cards can be a great way to encourage your son or daughter to build healthy financial habits. But you can also open a custodial account in their name, which may be an even more effective way to save long-term. Unlike child-managed bank products, kids do not control custodial accounts — more formally known as UGMA/UTMA accounts — until they reach legal adulthood. While they legally own the account, you serve as its “custodian.” Any money you put in is an irrevocable gift to the minor, so there is no takebacks.
Any funds deposited, from summer work money to Bat Mitzvah gifts, will stay put unless you make a withdrawal on their behalf. Once they turn 18 or 21, depending on your state, they will have a nice little reserve to fall back on.
2. Brokerage Accounts
Parents (and grandparents) looking for another smart way to save, with the potential for juicier returns, might want to think about a custodial brokerage account. Instead of their money sitting in a savings account generating tiny amounts of interest, you can invest in a range of stocks and bonds. There’s always a risk that those stocks can fluctuate in value, so you might want to steer toward less volatile securities unless you have younger children with a longer time horizon. And unlike 529 college accounts, earnings are taxable (although at the child’s tax rate). But if you’re looking for a vehicle with a lot of investment flexibility that puts you in the driver’s seat until they’re grown, custodial accounts are a pretty solid choice.
You can open a UGMA/UTMA account at pretty much any of the main brokerage houses, including TD Ameritrade and Schwab. There is also a new mobile app called Early Bird, which lets friends and extended family contribute to your child’s investment account for a small fee. It will not provide the same instant gratification as getting cash for their birthday, but in the long run letting the account grow will often provide a much bigger impact.
Whereas UGMAs and UTMAs are built around ease, setting up a trust for your kids can be a more complex (and costly) undertaking. That does not mean they don’t have important upsides, however. Custodial accounts give kids 100% control over the funds when they reach the age of adulthood. But handing an 18-year-old unfettered access to larger balances, especially, can be a recipe for disaster.
Trusts mitigate some of that concern by enabling parents to spell out exactly how they want the funds dispersed. Perhaps you want to give your children funds in a series of installments or would like for the assets to be used only on tuition. You can spell all that out in the trust.
Again, you do not get the same tax benefits as a 529, but the degree of flexibility that trusts offer is hard to match. Do not let the cliché about “trust fund kids” fool you— they can be a useful tool for middle-class families, too. 4. 529 Accounts
When it comes to heading off the massive tuition bills that likely awaits your kid in a few years, 529 savings accounts are still the go-to savings vehicle for most parents. The fact that students can withdraw money tax-free for qualified expenses—including room and board as well as required textbooks—is a big draw.
4. 529 Accounts
When it comes to heading off the massive tuition bills that likely awaits your kid in a few years, 529 savings accounts are still the go-to savings vehicle for most parents. The fact that students can withdraw money tax-free for qualified expenses—including room and board as well as required textbooks—is a big draw. But, depending on where you live, parents get a nice perk, too. More than 30 states let you deduct at least a portion of your 529 contributions, according to SavingForCollege.com, so you can often reduce your own state tax bill while helping your kids save. Do 529s give you all the investment flexibility you would have with a brokerage account? No. But the target date funds that most plans offer will keep a lot of parents happy. Keep in mind that 529 plans are not just for college, either. Families can withdraw up to $10,000 a year, tax-free, to help pay the cost of private elementary, middle or high school tuition.
5. Roth IRAs
If you have a teenager at home, you are probably more a lot more concerned about your retirement than theirs–and rightly so. But if you are already on track with your own investments, starting a Roth IRA for child who works part-time is not such a crazy idea. Part of it is simple math: because of the time value of money, even small amounts that they kick in now have the potential to experience decades of growth by the time they leave the workforce. And for younger investors, the tax benefits are especially potent.
Like any Roth account, kids cannot deduct contributions on their tax return. But unless your high schooler has a particularly lucrative job, they probably do not have a tax liability at this point anyway. Money grows tax-deferred and, long as they do not make any withdrawals until age 59½, they will not have to pay a penny to Uncle Sam on the back end.
Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Wednesday, January 13, 2021
6 Things I Wish I’d Known About Fatherhood
When My Kids Were Still Young
Some advice from a dad who's been there.
By Claude Knobler Apr 25 2018, 4:03 PM for Fatherly
Here’s the shocking thing about being a dad: One day, just when you’ve started to get good at the job, your kids leave. When the youngest of our three kids headed off to college, I remember feeling like I’d just been term-limited out of the best job I’d ever had. I’d spent so much time learning how to raise my kids, that I was completely blindsided by the fact that one day they’d actually be adults. Well, sort of adults. I’m pretty sure one of them eats pizza for breakfast. On the other hand, he’s a straight-A college student with a better resume than mine, so who am I to judge?
But there were things I realized over time that really stuck with me. Things that, in the slog of every day, I let go of. Or kept fixated on. Or messed up with. And here I am now, with three adult children, thinking about all of the things I could have and should have done.
1. Everything You’re Worried About
Today Will Seem Silly In Two Years.
When my kids were toddlers, I worried about that pacifier stuck in their mouth. Two years later, my kid had moved on, and so had I. They turned five and I can’t believe I ever worried about their binky. At that point, I wondered why they were the only kindergartener who hasn’t mastered Dr. Seuss. And then, two years later, they’d moved on and so had I. Whether it’s sleep schedules, bad play dates, or the fairy tale princess I hired for my kid’s fifth birthday party showing up drunk, whatever it is I worried about then seems so silly now. I wish I had saved myself the misery, and laughed about it then.
2. Write Everything Down.
You Won’t Believe What You Won’t Remember.
One day I was stuck in the single worst traffic jam that the world has ever seen, probably. As I sat there fuming, trying my best not to mutter four-letter words I’d have to explain to my then 3-year-old son Clay, who was sitting in the back, he suddenly said, “Daddy, are you thinking about what I’m thinking about?” I figured I wasn’t but asked anyway.
“I don’t know Clay. What are you thinking about?” He stared out the window for a moment at the car in the lane next to us, and then said, “butterfly wings.” (To which I immediately replied, “why yes, that is exactly what I was thinking about.”) It’s a cute story, right? Here’s the thing, my 3-year-olds said and did cute things all the time. If I didn’t write them down, I wouldn’t remember a single one. I put a reminder into my calendar and spent literally five minutes a week, every week, jotting down little cute stories in The Book of Clay, The Book of Grace, and The Book of Nati, one notebook for each kid. A friend of mine just kept a list on her phone. Whatever. When the kids were still living at home, I could entertain them at a drop of a hat by pulling those books out and reading with them. Worked when they were in grade school, worked when they were in high school. Now that they’re all away, I take the books out to entertain myself. Don’t judge. One day, you will do the same.
3. Beware The Long-Term Yeses.
My daughter wanted a cat. I’m allergic to cats. My daughter now goes to UPenn and I’m still sneezing. It’s great to say yes. You want breakfast for dinner and dinner for breakfast? Sure thing! They want to try bangs or baseball? Great! But some yeses are easy in the moment and awful for much longer than that and yes, I am still thinking about that cat but the principle is true for other things too. Telling your child it’s okay to flake on a commitment they’ve made can be the right thing at times, but often it’s not the best lesson. Say yes often, but think first. (Also, if anyone wants an aging cat, please DM me).
4. The Years Fly
(but Some of the Days Really Drag).
My kids live in North Carolina, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia these days. I miss them more than I can say. I’m 53 years old and every time I see a dad holding his kid on his shoulders I sigh far too loudly and then wonder if my 22-year-old son would let me try to carry him just one more time. But I also remember how bored I was when I had to push him on the swings. I miss getting to kiss my daughter good morning, but I really don’t miss the way she’d complain that her socks “felt funny” every day for eight months. Being a dad is the most important thing you’ll ever do and it’s also, at times, the most boring and exasperating thing you can imagine. Yes, you have to cherish the good stuff but don’t forget to give yourself a break for being bored. Peeking at your phone sometimes on the playground won’t emotionally cripple your kid.
5. Your Kids Won’t Remember Everything
(but You Never Know What They Won’t Forget).
First, the good news: You don’t have to take your kids to Paris, museums, or sign them up for Space Camp. You can if you want to, of course. I loved taking my children to art galleries and we did travel with them, but honestly, most of that culture was for me, since my kids don’t remember much of it. But the bad news: Kids remember weird stuff and by weird, yes, I do mean that one time you yelled at the cat.
Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Wednesday, January 13, 2021
All Parents Offer Empty Promises and
Hollow Threats. But Do They Do Harm?
When a child acts out, it is all too easy to make a promise or threat a parent has no intention or ability to keep. But that could hurt your relationship in the long run.
By Jillian Mock for Fatherly Dec 26 2019, 10:50 AM
The hollow threat or empty promise is a near-unavoidable tool of parents. It’s not a good tool — most parents understand this — but it’s one that sometimes feels necessary. Say you’re in a restaurant trying to get to the end of the meal, or you’re late and simply have to get out the door. It might seem like the only way to move forward is to incentivize (or dis-incentivize) your kids: “If you don’t stop acting up, I’m going to take away your Pokemon cards.” Conversely, “If you are good for just 15 more minutes, you’ll get a prize at home.” So you’re not going to take away their precious Pokemon cards, and that “prize”, if not forgotten, will end up being some piece of candy you find lying around. No harm, right?
Not so. Research shows these statements have consequences, eroding the trust between parent and child. “Once you open your mouth, you need to follow through,” says Michele Borba, an educational psychologist and author of UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World. “Because kids are very smart and they have radar detectors and they will find out if it’s a false promise.”
Research shows that young children keep their promises and they expect others to do the same. They also take cues from adult behavior. A 2012 update of the classic marshmallow test conducted at Rochester University showed that having reliable interactions with adults influenced what children did later. Kids who interacted with adults who followed through on what they said they would do waited far longer on average before nibbling a marshmallow than children who interacted with adults who didn’t do what they said. The children seemed to be making a decision about how likely that promised future reward actually was, wrote the researchers in a post about the experiment.
When parents break their promises, it can also teach a child that this kind of behavior is acceptable, says Borba. “If you want your child to be trustworthy, then you’ve got to be trustworthy.”
Hollow threats, on the other hand, can have even deeper consequences. When parent use empty threats all the time, they undermine a kid’s understanding of rules and consequences by suggesting that “rules” are actually can be obeyed or not obeyed depending on the context of the situation. Furthermore, on the surface they stress a child out, making it even more difficult for them to have the self-control required for good behavior.
Instead of leaning on empty promises and hollow threats, there are many other strategies parents can deploy to deal with misbehaving kids, especially if you’re worried about an outburst at the family holiday party.
The first strategy is to take steps to minimize outbursts from the get-go. Kids misbehave four times predictably, says Borba, when they are hungry, bored, tired, or in need of attention. Taking steps to anticipate those needs can help avoid an outburst altogether, she says. It also helps to reduce your own stress around the holidays, because children will mirror what they see in their parents, which could also cause them to act out.
Also, if you have a specific way you want your child to act in a given situation, like acting excited to get a sweater from grandma, for example, Borba recommends practicing that action with them ahead of time. This will allow the child to meet your expectations and head off a potentially negative interaction.
If your child’s behavior does start to escalate, it can be challenging for a parent to slow down and think about their response. But it’s important. “Trust is really easy to snap and really hard to reconstruct,” says Robert Zietlin, a positive psychologist and author of the book Laugh More, Yell Less: A Guide to Raising Kick-Ass Kids. In these moments, he says it can help to “zoom in” to empathize with how your child is feeling in this moment, or to “zoom out” to focus on the big picture rather than how angry you feel right then and there.
Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Sunday, December 06, 2020
The Top 10 Ways to Improve Your
Child's Reading Skills
Find out how to improve your child's
reading skills with these homework help tips.
by: Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S. for familyeducation.com
Nothing is more important to academic achievement than being a good reader.
Parents know their children best and can provide the one-on-one time and attention
that will lead them to success in reading. Here is a list of ways to help your children become more effective readers.
Set Aside a Designated "Reading Time" Daily
Studies show that regularly reading out loud to children will produce significant gains in reading comprehension, vocabulary, and the decoding of words. Whether your children are preschoolers or preteens, it will increase their desire to read independently.
Surround Kids With Reading Material
Children with a large array of reading materials in their homes score higher on standardized tests. Tempt your kids to read by having a large supply of appealing books and magazines at their reading level. Put the reading materials in cars, bathrooms, bedrooms, family rooms, and even by the TV.
Have Family Reading Time
Establish a daily 15 to 30 minute time when everyone in the family reads together silently. Seeing you read will inspire your children to read. Just 15 minutes of daily practice is sufficient to increase their reading fluency.
Encourage Reading Activities
Make reading an integral part of your children's lives. Have them read menus, roadside signs, game directions, weather reports, movie time listings, and other practical everyday information. Also, make sure they always have something to read in their spare time when they could be waiting for appointments or riding in a car.
Develop the Library Habit
Entice your children to read more by taking them to the library every few weeks to get new reading materials. The library also offers reading programs for children of all ages that may appeal to your children and further increase their interest in reading.
Track Your Child's Progress
Find out what reading skills they are expected to have at each grade level. The school's curriculum will give you this information. Track their progress in acquiring basic reading skills on report cards and standardized tests.
Look for Reading Problems
Teachers do not always detect children's reading problems until they've become serious. Find out if your children can sound out words, know sight words, use context to identify unknown words, and clearly understand what they read.
Get Help for Reading Problems
Reading problems do not magically disappear with time. The earlier children receive help, the more likely they will become good readers. Make sure your children receive necessary help from teachers, tutors, or learning centers as soon as you discover a problem.
Use Aids That Help With Reading
To help your children improve their reading, use textbooks, computer programs, books-on-tape, and other materials available in stores. Games are especially good choices because they let children have fun as they work on their skills.
Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Sunday, December 06, 2020
What Parents Raising Boys Need
to Do Above All Else
This is what it takes to raise compassionate, resilient men who
are accountable to themselves and to others.
By Andrew Reiner for Fatherly.com
George was similar to many high school-aged boys I interviewed for research on my book, Better Boys, Better Men about the new brand of resiliency boys and men need to thrive at a time when their traditional masculine identity no longer serves them. The then-17-year-old junior from Baltimore said that he had a few girlfriends in whom he could confide the feelings he “couldn’t” share with guy friends — sadness, shame, fear. When his first girlfriend ended the relationship and he was “devastated,” he refused to turn to his parents.
“I learned not to share my struggles with [them],” he said. “They’re always telling me I need to toughen up and learn how to handle things on my own.” So, he did. He sought guidance from a guy friend he “admired,” which was well-meaning but ineffectual. After all, the boy was 17 years old. Eventually, George attempted suicide.
Many boys today know what ultimately gives them greater emotional resiliency: a masculine identity that permits access to the full range of their human emotions.
But this isn’t the script we — parents, teachers, coaches and even the male friends they look up to — hand them, because we fear raising ‘incompetent’ men.
More than any time in the past, however — when boys are more anxious, depressed and suicidal than they’ve ever been — embracing these qualities has devastating consequences to boys’ well-being and ability to thrive and, increasingly, survive. In turn, they have serious repercussions for the rest of us. Yet we still aren’t raising boys in a way that anticipates or meets their most immediate emotional needs.
As soon as boys are born, we, their parents, begin preparing them for ‘manhood.’ Psychologist and researcher Edward Z. Tronick was one of the first researchers to discover this — inadvertently.
Back in the 1970s, the research associate in Newborn Medicine and faculty member at Harvard’s medical school and school of public health began using the Still-face paradigm, which he invented and is still widely used globally. In Tronick’s research — which has always focused on the emotional and physical stress in infants — that meant having mothers sit directly across from their babies for two minutes, stoic and silent, no facial expression. What he discovered was that boys had a radically different reaction to their mother’s seeming emotional withdrawal than did girls. The boys fussed, their facial expressions revealed anger, they twisted and turned in their infant seats, trying to “escape or get away.” They cried and gestured to be picked up more than girls.
In other words, the emotional stress was literally too much for many of the infant boys to bear. They behaved exactly as many of us, if not most, might have expected girls to behave. Tellingly, many of the mothers preferred interacting with their daughters when their sons grew emotionally ‘needy.’
Since the 1990s, Tronick and his research colleagues have also discovered that when mothers are intentionally removed from their infants’ sight for a few minutes, and their children don’t know if they will return, it takes boys far longer to warm back up to them during the reunion stage. It’s as if a degree of trust has been broken for the infant boys.
Allan N. Schore believes it is. The neuropsychologist and faculty member in UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine has observed that when mothers aren’t attentive enough, infant boys can develop “separation stress,” which can cause “an acute strong increase of cortisol and can therefore be regarded as a severe stressor.” Other researchers have found strong evidence that “the attachment style developed in childhood remains relatively stable across the life span and may even be transmitted between generations.” All of this points to neural pathways boys are taught to create at very young ages that set up emotional distance, and in turn, distrust for boys and, eventually, men.
“The ‘manning-up’ of infant boys,” Tronick said in an email to me, “begins early on in their typical interactions and long before language plays its role.
If only it stopped there.
Widely touted research from Emory University biological anthropologists Jennifer Mascaro and James K. Rilling found that fathers reacted far differently to their one- and two-year-old daughters than they did their sons of the same age. Fathers sang to their daughters but not their sons. They used more analytical language and words related to sadness with daughters, whereas the words they used most often with sons encouraged competition, dominance. What’s more, their brains showed a more positive neural response to their daughter’s happy facial expressions, whereas their brains responded favorably to their sons’ neutral facial expressions. And, sadly, this: Fathers responded far more often to their young daughters when they cried at night than they did their sons.
These gender-based responses are nicely framed by a 2018 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family which found that “despite changing expectations for fathers, hegemonic masculine norms continue to shape fathers’ behavior.”
More research is showing what a 2014 study from the British Journal of Developmental Psychology found — that many mothers unwittingly play into these binary divisions, too. During a play-related storytelling task, mothers used more emotional words with their four-year-old daughters than they did with their similarly aged sons. It’s not that mothers are pushing boys to follow the same traditional masculine norms that too many dads do. But these norms are so deeply ingrained they are reflexive, to varying degrees, in all of us.
Even when children are injured, both fathers and mothers follow the same playbook. A 2016 study examined the language parents used with children after visits to the emergency room for non-life-threatening injuries. The study found that parents spoke to their sons and daughters differently afterwards: They were nearly four times more likely to counsel daughters about the need for caution than they were sons. This sends a message to boys — in addition to teaching them that they aren’t emotional beings, we teach them that unhealthy risk-taking with their bodies is part of who they should be.
It’s no coincidence that boys and men are at the fore of the loneliness and suicide epidemics. They are keeping pace with girls and women when it comes to anxiety and may even experience more chronic depression. (If more healthcare practitioners would use diagnostic scales that more accurately measure such mental illness as it manifests in males, we would see the parity between genders.) The script we teach boys throughout their lives — over which they have no control — plays a large part in these public health crises.
If any of us asked boys what messages our society sends them about what it means to be a ‘man,’ it would likely echo the findings of the 2018 report “The State of Gender Equality for U.S. Adolescents.” Many of the 10- to 19-year-old boys surveyed said that society defines “masculinity” through physical strength, toughness and the willingness to “punch someone if provoked,” as well as to make sexual comments and jokes about girls. The “State of American Boys,” part of an October 2020 report for the nascent Global Boyhood Initiative, found that 72 percent of adolescent respondents felt pressure to always appear “physically strong” and that 61 percent felt pressure to play and excel at sports. Talk about stereotypes.
Then there’s the expectation that boys handle things on their own. Everything. Jake, a 22-year-old college lacrosse player told me that his father was far more helpful with his younger twin sisters than he was with Jake when it came to homework. “He doesn’t think twice about sitting down with them and talking things through. With me? He used to say, ‘Figure it out. You’re a guy.’” Jake told me that his father has always given his sisters affection and nurturing on demand when they’ve needed it, but he stopped turning to his father for this. “He made it clear pretty early on that this wasn’t something I should need from him.”
Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Wednesday, October 21, 2020
How Dads Can Get More
Involved in Education
By Saron Messay from National PTA'S
A father’s involvement with his child plays a vital role in their development and the socio-emotional and academic functioning within their lives.
Research shows that when dads and other father figures are engaged in children’s education, student grades and test scores improve, attendance increases, and students are more involved in school activities.
While fathers are spending more time with their children, many feel they’re still not doing enough. Roughly half (48%) say they spend too little time with their kids. Only 25% of mothers say the same.
Dads + Kids = Improved Milestones
Active and regular father engagement with children impacts a range of positive outcomes, including enhancing cognitive development and decreasing delinquency and poverty in low socioeconomic families. It is important to educate men about the benefits of their engagement and support, not only at home but in their schools as well.
With more fathers stepping up in their daily roles and becoming more active with their children, the change of roles has introduced a new form of fatherhood in America.
With fathers taking a more active role within communities and schools, it is important to share these values with other dads through engagement programs and various projects. Here are some programs that encourage dads to be involved:
- The Black Star Project’s Million Father March asks fathers to take kids to school
on the first day as the beginning of a year-long commitment to supporting children’s education.
- The National Compadres Network facilitates
involvement of Hispanic and Latino fathers and men.
- The National Partnership for Community Leadership (NPCL)
hosts an annual fatherhood conference on fatherhood research and programs.
The PTA MORE Alliance is helping PTAs get more men involved in students’ education. The partnering organizations The WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads Of Great Students) program can also help you reach and engage your dads as can All Pro Dad, Strong Fathers-Strong Families and 100 Black Men of America, Inc. These four programs make up
All of these programs and resources have proven to be effective tools in bringing fathers and father-figures into schools in unique and powerful ways in order to build PTA membership and capacity.
Eric Snow, president and cofounder of WATCH D.O.G.S.—and a dad shares the countless ways dads can be involved in their child’s education at all ages that will make a difference.