Fatherhood and Co-Parenting

 Home / Fatherhood and Co-Parenting Blog

Fatherhood and Co-Parenting Help RSS

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

The Biggest Financial Mistakes Parents Make — And How to Avoid Them

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. 

By Adam Bulger for Fatherly.com

 

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.” 


Read More...

Great Communication Starts With Understanding Your Kid

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.

By   

How to Save Money for Kids: 5 Accounts All Parents Should Know About

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.

3. Trusts

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.


READ MORE

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.”


READ MORE

The 20 Most Common Parenting Mistakes I See

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Friday, November 27, 2020

The 20 Most Common Parenting Mistakes I See

By Mike Leary Jan 25 2016, 10:28 PM


What are some common mistakes parents make that could actually hurt their children’s mental and physical health in the long term?

I have seen so many good intentions go horribly wrong over the years that can result in self-harm, suicide and, in extreme cases, even murder. Here are some of the most common mistakes that can be really harmful to kids.



1. Giving Them Too Many Choices

Many parents think children always should have endless choices, when the reality is kids can be overwhelmed if they’re always given so many options.


2. Praising Them for Everything They Do

It’s very common now to see kids who are almost junkies for praise. They won’t do anything unless there is a payoff for them.


3. Trying to Make the Child Happy

Their job is to learn to make themselves happy, and you can never force a child to be happy.


4. Overindulging Them

They will almost always end up believing acquisitions lead to happiness. This sets up chasing the never-satisfying carrots, and can result in addictions and compulsions.


5. Keeping Them Too Busy

Most commonly with sports. Many parents wrongly believe “activities” will keep their kid out of trouble, but often times this will lead to the child being burned out or even becoming a bully.


6. Thinking Smart Will Save Them

It can be tempting for parents to promote smart as the end-all-be-all. Yet this can lead to a child becoming arrogant, thinking everyone else is stupid or secretly believe that they have to put on an act and are a fraud. As a result, nobody likes them.


7. Thinking a Strict Religion Will Give Them Perfect Values and Save Them

The first time they see hypocrisy in their parents or the touted beloved leaders, the house of cards start to fall.


8. Withholding Common Information About Important Topics — Like Sex

Many parents are terrified of talking about sex, and believe avoiding discussing it with their children will save them. But I’ve seen 13-year-old girls get pregnant, sometimes just to flaunt it at their parents.


9. Being Hyper-Critical of the Child’s Mistakes

It can be easy to assume intense scrutiny promotes success and makes kids better. But kids raised this way are driven to perfection in everything from looks, likability, sports, smarts, or you name it. When a mistake happens, they are worthless as a human being and start getting so angry that in some cases they will resort to self-harm even to the point of suicide.


10. Using Shame, Shunning, or Threats

Never imply that there is a chance you might not love your child due to their actions, as some parents do so in order to get their kids to achieve compliance. It is a short term gain with abandonment lurking in the shadows. Then the child doesn’t care either.


11. Making Kids Do Things Inappropriate for Their Age

I have 3 patients right now who, by age 4, were having to feed themselves and or had to be in charge of a sibling also. I’ve seen many who didn’t have children of their own because as they all said; “I raised my family.”


12. Not Limiting Screen Time

Whether it’s TV, video, games, phone or texting. I know a family where the mom and teenage son text each other constantly and no one else can get into their relationship link.


13. Not Letting Kids Get Bored

Some parents think children are supposed to be stimulated at all times and it’s their job to avoid boredom. Then kids don’t learn to be creative and find the way out of boredom in themselves.


14. Protecting Kids From Their Own Consequences and Loss

I see parents with good intentions get their kids everything, from a simple toy to buying them out of legal trouble, and suddenly are surprised when the child respects nothing. All of us need to learn losing is just another way to gain wisdom and experience about what not to do.


Read More

The Effective Stepfather: A Check-List to Live By

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Friday, October 16, 2020

The Effective Stepfather:
A Check-List to Live By

by Ron Deal from Fathers.com



Anyone who has been a father and then a stepfather knows that they aren’t the same. While many aspects of these two roles are similar, it is the unique ones that lead to disillusionment. Franklin put it this way: “I’ve been to every Promise Keepers conference and I’ve studied fathering with my men’s group many times. But nothing has prepared me for being a stepfather. With my own kids I have a natural leadership authority that allows me to teach them and be directive. With my stepchildren I constantly feel like I’m one step behind, like I have to establish myself each time I engage them.”


Step fathering can be challenging. Perhaps that’s why many stepfathers disconnect from their stepchildren emotionally and withdraw from daily responsibilities. The unmapped territory seems to have many land mines and it’s easier to just retreat than to engage the “enemy.” But stepfathers can have profound and important leadership roles with stepchildren. Like Joseph, who wasn’t Jesus’ biological parent, stepfathers can offer guidance, love, and encouragement to the children under their care. Here’s a map for the territory and some practical action points for stepfathers.


Get a Lay of the Land

All stepparents need to understand the emotional climate of their stepchildren. Stepfathers are no different. For example, being aware of the child’s emotional wounds and hurts from past losses is vital to coping with the sometimes angry or oppositional attitudes of children in stepfamilies.

It is also very important that stepfathers recognize that gaining respect and leadership from stepchildren is a process; you earn the right to lead by developing trust and connection with stepchildren. You must be willing, for example, to enter the child’s life as an “outsider” who slowly finds acceptance, at the child’s pace. For many men it is very disturbing to realize that their stepchildren get to determine the pace at which they find acceptance in the family. And it’s true—you don’t get to control your parental status—the children do. They will open their heart to you when they are ready. Until then, you must cope with feeling out-of-control and find ways to work within the system as it is. Here are some tools that might help.


Tools for the Stepfather Tool Box

Initially Provide Indirect Leadership

There are two kinds of influence (or power) in relationships: 1) positional power and 2) relational power. Initially as a stepfather you have positional power because you are an adult in the house who is married to the children’s mother. Much like a teacher at school, you have positional power. As your relationship with the children grows, often over a period of years, you gain relational power because they now care about you personally. Your opinions matters more, your validation is sought after, and your warm embrace feels safe.

In the beginning, when limited to positional power, effective stepfathers provide in-direct leadership in their home by leading through their wife who holds a great deal of relational power with the children. Work with her behind the scenes to establish boundaries, expectations, and the values that will govern your home. While she might be the one to communicate the values and hand down discipline, you can still be very responsible to set a godly tone for the family.


Express Your Commitment

Articulate your commitment to your stepchildren’s mother. Keep in mind, however, that early on this won’t necessarily be considered a positive by your stepchildren. In fact, they may be threatened by it. Children who hold a strong fantasy that their parents will reconcile can find your commitment a barrier to life as they would have it. Additionally, mom’s remarriage (whether following a death or divorce) is often perceived as another loss to children, not a gain (as you see it). Be patient with their adjustment to your marriage, but communicate your commitment to the permanency of the marriage nevertheless.


Communicate Your Role

It’s important to verbalize your understanding of your role. Children need to hear that you know that you’re not their dad and won’t try to take his place. Communicating that same understanding to their father is also very helpful to him; hopefully this will help him to not fear your involvement with his kids. As his fear decreases, his cooperative spirit about your presence may increase. Finally, tell your stepkids that you are looking forward to your growing relationship and that you know how awkward that can be for the child. Let them know that if they feel stuck between you and their dad, they can make you aware of it and it won’t hurt your feelings.


Be a Spiritual Leader

Many stepfathers discover that sharing faith matters is, in addition to spiritual training for the child, a good way to connect emotionally. Processing the moral content of a TV program or “thinking out loud” about your decision not to spend money on a bigger fishing boat helps children see your character and learn important spiritual values at the same time. Show them you are a person worthy of respect and they’ll eventually give you respect.


Be Approachable

As a therapist I always know I’m going to have a tough time helping a family when the stepfather is defensive and easily hurt by the typical reactions of stepchildren. Part of being approachable and accessible to stepchildren is knowing that not everything is about you. In fact, most of kid’s negative reactions to stepparents are really about the child’s losses (stepparents just happen to be the easy target for child’s heartache). Until you have worked through the struggles of building a relationship, most of what a kids throws at you is a test of your character. Show yourself not easily offended and able to deal with their emotional ups and downs. This will make it more likely that they see you as someone they can trust.


Show Appreciation

If you want to win someone’s heart, give them a thousand compliments (even when they aren’t asking for it). Showing appreciation is the quickest way to build someone up and help them to feel comfortable in your presence. By contrast, be cautious with criticism. Words of affirmation go along way to engendering safety and closeness.


Spend Time Together

Find time to be with your stepchildren, but do so with wisdom. If a child is not welcoming of your presence, join their life at a distance. This means taking them to their soccer game and cheering from the sidelines, but not being too much of a coach. It also means knowing what’s important to them and gently inquiring with interest: “You studied for three hours last night for that science exam. How did it go?” “I know you’ve got a big date this Friday. I noticed a concert in the paper today that you might consider attending. I think she’d like this, but it’s your call whether you go.”


Also, if you say you’re going to be somewhere, be there. Don’t disappoint a child who is deciding whether to let you in their heart or not.


As your relationship grows, you can spend one-on-one time with the child, go on special retreats together, and serve side-by-side in your church’s summer work camp. Focused time will deepen the trust and emotional bond in your relationship.


READ MORE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PHOTO CREDIT: KEVIN JEAN-JACQUES

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

PHOTO CREDIT: KEVIN JEAN-JACQUES

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

What’s the biggest misconception about Black fathers

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

PHOTO CREDIT: KEVIN JEAN-JACQUES

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

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

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

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

PHOTO CREDIT: KEVIN JEAN-JACQUES

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

PHOTO CREDIT: KEVIN JEAN-JACQUES

What does being a Black father mean to you?

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

PHOTO CREDIT: KEVIN JEAN-JACQUES

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

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

PHOTO CREDIT: KEVIN JEAN-JACQUES

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

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

PHOTO CREDIT: KEVIN JEAN-JACQUES

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

READ MORE

How to Talk to Young Kids About Racism and Racial Bias

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

How to Talk to Young Kids About Racism and Racial Bias

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

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



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

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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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


READ MORE

Let's Talk About Stress, Baby

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

Let's Talk About Stress, Baby

written by Fatherly 


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




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

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

Timing is Everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ MORE


About DFFC

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


Learn more

Newsletter Sign-Up

Sign up today to get the lastest news and info.




Captcha Image