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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.

6 Things I Wish I’d Known About Fatherhood When My Kids Were Still Young

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.



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All Parents Offer Empty Promises and Hollow Threats. But Do They Do Harm?

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.


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The Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Child's Reading Skills

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.


More: 8 Classic Dr. Seuss Books for Kids


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.

More: The Skills Kids Need to Read


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.


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What Parents Raising Boys Need to Do Above All Else

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.”


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How Dads Can Get More Involved in Education

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 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.


Dad-To-Dad Tips

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.


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What I Wish I Knew When I Was a New Dad

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Thursday, August 06, 2020

What I Wish I Knew When I Was a New Dad

Thirteen experienced dads share some of the words of wisdom they wished they heard when they were first starting out.

By Matt Christensen Mar 11 2019, 2:04 PM

New dads have one thing in common: They don’t know what they don’t know. That is, until they’re not really new dads anymore, and what they know now becomes what they wish they would’ve known then. A lot can happen during those years between the trip home from the delivery room and, well, what comes next. And it’s those years that experienced fathers often look back on with precise hindsight, wishing not for a do-over, but maybe for a do-wiser.

To provide some insight to those of you who are just starting down the road of fatherhood, we talked to a variety of experienced dads about what they wished they knew when they were just starting out. If you’re a veteran dad, read on and reflect. If you’re a new dad, take notes.


1. Give Their Growing Brains More Credit

“I wish I knew how absorbent kids were. Not for cleaning up spills [laughs], but how much stuff they’ll remember about being a kid. Their brains are just constantly taking stuff in. My son is 12 now, and he reminds me about stuff we did when he was, like, three years old. Not detail-by-detail, but definitely much more clearly than I can remember some of those things. The rub is that he remembers the good — like pony rides and the ceramic owl that inspired his first word — but also the times when his mother and I were going through rough patches. Again, he doesn’t remember exactly what was said or anything, but he says he remembers the feelings around the house. Looking back, I wish I would’ve given his growing brain a little more credit.” – Keith, 43, Ohio


2. Time Goes by Very Quickly

“I wish I knew how fast the time really went, and how to be more present in the moment. You think they’re going to be little forever and you’re always going to have enough time to play and just do silly kid stuff. And then, all of a sudden, they’re driving themselves to the movies with friends, or you’re bringing them to their girlfriend’s house. I loved their childhood, but I wished I’d slowed down a bit more and really took stock of how fleeting those years really are. Because they’re definitely gone now.” – Jeremy, 44, New York


3. There’s Never Enough Space

“I wish I knew how much storage babies required. We had a nursery, and I thought that would be good to go. But, man, babies require stuff! All kinds of stuff. There’s the basic lot of diapers and toys and clothes, but then there’s space you need for the strollers, the car seats, the gates, the special furniture. It’s a lot! And the bummer is, most of it is obsolete after about six months or a year because the baby just keeps growing. Thank God for Craigslist, ya know?” – Jonathan, 39, Maryland


4. Relax, Poop Isn’t that Bad

“I wish I knew that poop isn’t that gross. Before your first kid, poop is sort of a mythical element. You only experience it in very private situations, or during rare, extraordinary events. With a new baby, though, it’s literally shit all the time. I was terrified to have to change diapers — I believed all the hype. But, it really wasn’t/isn’t that bad. It’s like watching the Saw movies or playing Mortal Kombat. You just get desensitized to it after a while.” – Brian M., 38, Ohio


5. Not All Arguments Need to Be Won

“I wish I knew how to pick my battles. For some reason — I say some reason, but really it was crappy parenting blogs and friends with kids — I thought I had to ‘win’ every argument with my daughter when she was young. I felt like it was necessary to establish myself as an authority figure. I had to be my own iron regime, or my kid would start taking advantage of my weakness, exposing my flaws, blah, blah, blah. The truth is, it absolutely did not matter if she ate all of her vegetables or stayed up an extra 20 minutes. In fact, lightening up and not arguing with her about every little thing probably would’ve saved me a few wrinkles.” – Brian R., 38, Ohio


6. It’s Okay to Ask For Help

“I wish I’d asked for more help. Not just to lighten the load of raising a child, but because I was surrounded by people who knew what they were talking about. I was so determined to, like, forge my own path that I think I put a lot of pressure on myself — and probably my wife — that I really didn’t need to. There were people around us who loved us and wanted to help, and we did let them, but I definitely could’ve been more flexible, I think.” – Adam, 44, Georgia


7. Your Bed Is No Longer Yours

“I wish I knew that our bed — mine and my wife’s — wouldn’t be ours anymore. As soon as our son was old enough to start running away from nightmares and monsters in the closet, he was in our bed just about every night. I can’t really complain, though. Those memories — just lying there with him and my wife, rubbing his head while he fell back to sleep — still melt my heart.” – Jordan, 35, Florida


8. Screen Time Isn’t As Evil As It’s Made Out to Be

“I wish I knew how full of shit baby boomers are when it comes to technology. ‘Oh, your kid is always in front of that screen! He should be outside playing with his friends!’ Why can’t it be both? In fact, why can’t one help the other? My son’s hand-eye coordination is probably better because of all the apps and games he loved playing on our iPad when he was little. And when he goes outside to play, he finds bugs, plants, wildlife – all sorts of things that he wants to learn about. And guess what? Now he knows where and how to look them up. There is a balance between Angry Birds – that’s what he played when he was little – and tapping a metal hoop down the street with a stick, old farts.” – Allan, 37, California


9. It’s Okay to Make Mistakes

“I wish I knew it was okay to drop a baby. Now, let me clarify: it’s not good to drop a baby. But, despite what your first-timer parent fears will tell you, it’s not the end of the world if your baby rolls off the couch, falls off your lap, or even just gets a cut or bruise. As soon as your first kid is born, the absolute worst case scenario is anything having to do with that baby being harmed. If you even come exponentially close to something like that, you’re beating yourself up for weeks. Maybe months. Don’t. There’s a chance it won’t happen. But there’s also a chance it will. And, if it does, it’s important to remember that, if it were something you could’ve prevented, you would have. And, for the record, when they get older, kids love hearing the stories. Especially if they happened to siblings.” – Rudy, 41, Ohio


10. There’s A Lot of Nonsense to Keep Track Of

“I wish I knew how much there would be to remember about kid culture. When your kid starts getting into stuff — like how we got into Transformers, Ninja Turtles, etc. — it just becomes this flood of ridiculous names, and logos, and noises, and songs, and toys in which you can never, ever get sure footing. You have to know the difference between Shopkins, Hatchimals, Fingerlings…these are all real things. That brain we used to have for remembering comic book issues and baseball card stats? It’s gone. You’re lucky if you can get part of it back. It’ll help in a big way.” – Al, 44, Pennsylvania


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How I Stopped Being an Angry Dad

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Tuesday, August 04, 2020

How I Stopped Being an Angry Dad

I used to be angry. It took me a long time to admit and even a longer time to improve, but I've finally arrived at a better place.

By David Willans Jul 15 2020, 2:51 PM



I used to be an angry dad. I remember the moment I realized it, feeling as though I’d slapped myself in the face. It was a cold morning, but I was sweating through my work clothes, carrying three bags, stomping along after my children on their scooters. In my rush to get out of the house and to school and work, I got angry.

Not just raised voices, but really angry. I lost control of myself, physically manhandling them into their coats and shoes, picking them up and putting them outside the front door. Later, I remember the deep feeling of shame, guilt, and regret. My only saving grace was that nothing really bad actually happened, but it could have. I wasn’t in control.

I’m an angry dad, I thought. Something I never wanted to be. I needed to fix it fast. That was five years ago. Since then I’ve worked very hard to become patient and understand what it means to be a good dad. I’ve learned about child development, what happens in our brains and bodies when we get angry, and how to create the space between emotional reactions and real-world actions. There are some important takeaways.


When we get angry, two things happen. We focus on ourselves and the moment — how they’ve made us feel, how much we’re trying — and we assume malicious intent.I’ve realized that kids aren’t really trying to wind you up. It’s not about you, it’s about them.
The trigger for their action is either:

Something physical. They’re tired, hungry, thirsty or need the bathroom.


Something emotional. Friendship problems or not getting enough of your attention, because a sibling, work or something else is getting more of it. Remember: You are one of the few people they love and depend on more than anyone else in the world.


Something evolutionary. They’re growing, their job is to learn about the world. The only way to do that properly is to try new things and see what happens. While the unintended consequence of their action might be your angry reaction, it wasn’t the motive.

Often when we get angry, we separate ourselves from the people around us. We say ‘Just give me some space’, or ‘I can’t deal with you right now’. We need this space to get back in control, but we need to create it in a way that our children know we will come back to them.

Our children need our love and attention. When we get angry at them, we attribute blame to them. This leaves them feeling regretful, sad, and, at worst, ashamed. These are heavy emotions for a child to be left alone to deal with, especially a little one.


And try to give yourself some grace. It takes some maturity to think back over a situation, realize what went wrong, admit your role in it, and tell yourself you can do better next time. It’s much easier to accept the story that you’re a bad person. When I learned this was the impact of my anger, I felt ashamed, but I used that feeling to help me change.

We’re going too fast. Emails, WhatsApp messages, deadlines and to-do lists rule adult life. There’s always more to do and get done faster. Children move at a different pace. They’re learning how the world works and how to get what they need and want in it. That’s a big job.

They’re learning to emotionally self-regulate, to start and grow healthy relationships, they’re learning self-respect, perseverance, resilience and they’re learning about themselves. This is hard work. It takes time. We’ve forgotten how hard and how long it takes because it’s mostly, automatic for us now.

When we put our expectations ahead of what our children are developmentally capable of, we create a gap that gets filled with our impatience, frustration, anger, blame, and their shame, because they haven’t met our expectations. When we expect a 2-year-old not to act like a 2-year-old, the fault is ours. We may as well get cross because the moon doesn’t glow green. You overcome this by learning where to accurately set your expectations.

I had an opportunity to put these lessons to practice recently. I only left the room for a few minutes, when I did, my two boys, aged 10 and 8, were reading quietly. When I returned, one had the other pinned to the floor with his forearm. I reacted calmly, something that hasn’t come naturally to me over the years, but something I’ve worked very hard to change.


I walked in, told one to get off the other, then lifted him off. I knew I needed to separate them before we could come to any sort of resolution. But the son I’d picked up saw my physicality as an injustice. We’re being very careful to teach our children to respect other people’s bodies and physical space. I’d seen the need to physically intervene as perfectly valid, to end the suffering of the one on the floor, but the son I’d picked up saw it as an act of aggression towards him and stormed off.

Upon reflection, I realized I was in the wrong. Every behavior is really an act of communication that’s louder than words. Despite the fact that I believed my actions to be justified in the name of my son’s safety, to my son they were unforgivable – an infringement on his personal space and autonomy, despite it being exactly what he inflicted on his brother.


I know from my work in behavior change that getting someone to behave differently means meeting them where they are. With children, this means acknowledging their point of view and feelings. Not validating, but acknowledging how they felt and why they did what they did. There’s a subtle difference, but an important one.

After checking the one on the floor was fine, I got his version of events. “I asked him to give me my book back, when he didn’t, I went over and grabbed it. Then he pushed me over and sat on top of me because I wouldn’t let go of the book,” he said.


Then I turned my attention to the one who had stormed off. I had given him, and myself, a bit of time to cool down, which is crucial, few things escalate quicker than two opposing points of view mixed with a temper. I went and spoke to him, getting down on his level, so I could look him in the eye. This always helps me get into a calmer, more empathetic role, because it reminds me of how grown up I am in comparison. I apologized for my actions first off, acknowledging his feelings so he knew I understood him. That feelings bit is a critical step because it helps rebuild, or build a relationship.


I explained why my physically removing him was wrong, and I gave the reasons for my actions. He listened quietly, no talking back or exchanging cross words. This doesn’t always happen. Then I asked him to apologize to his brother, and once he’d had a bit more space, he did. I set a natural consequence, of no borrowing of brother’s books for today. It wasn’t a big thing, but did make logical sense — if you can’t be sensible with your brother’s stuff, you don’t even get to ask for any of it. His brother would have probably set this boundary himself, but by me doing it, the chances of repeat problems were reduced on a day when the last thing I wanted was to do more than mess around with my kids.

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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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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.

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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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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