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How dads matter…what is a “good man?”

How do we act and how does it impact our children? What will they reflect on when they think back on how we parented them? Of course we want them to have good values, be honest and kind in their interactions with others. We want to share adventures with them in hopes of building memories. We know they will observe all we do and draw conclusion about life from our example.

Many other people: family, friends, teachers, coaches will  influence their lives. But as “the dad” we are always of special importance.   Listen to this short audio clip by Susan Dix Lyons about her dad and what it means to a “good man.”

Sometimes it is the shear ordinariness of what we do as men and dads that tells our children volumes about who we are.  It is my belief that in the day-to-day routine of our lives our children learn who we are and what we stand for.

Helping our children in ecomomic hard times

The current “economic hard times” are affecting everyone’s lives.  You may be unemployed, know some one who is unemployed or just be aware from all the news and media around you that this is a time of financial hardship for many. The sense of confusion and uncertainty experienced by many of us as fathers (as well as mothers) can be transmitted to our children. Children may feel the tension between parents as they deal with household finances and they may be confused or anxious that their family is at financial risk. We as Dads need to help children feel in control, even if we feel vulnerable or angry ourselves.

The Nation Association of School Psychologists have published a paper offering some “guidelines” to help children cope with unsettling times. I am listing a few highlights and have included a link to the online PDF file at the end of this post.

Parents need to assess what level of support their children need. Many will not find the current economic crisis personally stressful. However, following general suggestions may help vulnerable or sensitive children cope.

Be reassuring. Children will take their cues from you, especially young children. Acknowledge that the potential economic challenges and uncertainty are unnerving but the likelihood is that you and your children or students will be okay. There is difference between the possibility of serious risk and the probability of it affecting them personally.

Acknowledge and normalize their feelings. Allow children to discuss their feelings and concerns and encourage any questions they may have regarding current events. Being an empathetic listener is very important. Let them know that others, including many adults, are feeling the same way and that their reactions are normal and expected.

Maintain a normal routine. Keeping to a regular schedule can be reassuring and promote physical health. Ensure that children get plenty of sleep, regular meals, and exercise. Encourage them to keep up with their schoolwork and extracurricular activities but don’t push them if they seem overwhelmed.

Spend family time. Doing enjoyable activities with you reinforces your children’s sense of stability and normalcy. Try to do things together, such as eat meals, read, play sports or games, go for walks or bike rides, or watch non-violent, non-stressful TV. When stressed, young children may also want more physical contact (e.g., hugs, holding hands, sitting on your lap, etc.). You know your children best, and your love and support are the most important factors to their sense of security.

Turn off or monitor the television. It is important to stay informed, but watching endless news programs referring to “the economy is in crisis” or “another depression” is likely to heighten anxiety. Young children in particular are often unable to distinguish between news reports and their family’s reality. Older children may want to watch the news, but be available to discuss what they hear and help put it into perspective.

Take care of your own needs. Take time for yourself and try to deal with your own reactions to the situation as fully as possible. You will be better able to help your children if you are coping well. If you are anxious or upset, your children are more likely to be so as well. Talk to other adults such as family, friends, faith leaders, or a counselor. It is important not to dwell on your worries by yourself. Sharing feelings with others often makes us feel more connected and secure. Take care of your physical health. Make time, however small, to do things you enjoy. Avoid using drugs or alcohol to feel better.

Here are some “tips”  from the National Association of School Psychologists on how to help our kids cope with “unsettling times.”


Fathers and Anger

With all the stress and frustration of being a parent how can we as dads work with our anger?

Fatherhood……the Great Adventure!

The opportunities for fathers to participate in the early years of their children’s lives appear to be becoming more important to men today. In the father’s group I facilitate, many of the men comment on how they never had any close contact with their own fathers, and how that has made them painfully aware of how important being present in their children’s lives is. Others express that given the opportunity to choose between potential career advancement or spending time with their children, being with their kids feel like the more creative option.

Yet as most of us begin to explore what has been traditionally “women’s territory,” it is not an easy journey to undertake. Men that I have worked with say that after trying to discover how to integrate a close relationship with their newborn, they often retreat to a more traditional role and begin to see themselves slowly becoming the distant father that they themselves knew.

It seems as if a natural bond between women occurs when they become mothers. A special way of knowing and sharing and deepening of friendships develops with other mothers. We as men often seem to become more isolated from other men as family responsibilities and adjustments are made. We find that work and our family fill our time. We talk with our wives’ friends, but why don’t we seek out other fathers?

Perhaps the way we as men are socialized to compete with other men has oppressed us to a point that we no longer are willing to take the risks to make new friendships. Maybe as we grope to discover our identities as fathers, we are too overwhelmed to reach out to other men. Maybe not being able to have any role models for what kinds of friendships new fathers can have, leads us to feel we must “go it alone.”  It has been my experience that when men become fathers, it is crucial to be around other fathers to share and explore this life transition. Fathers have something special to give each other.

View a short video on Fatherhood…the greatest adventure of all!