Mobile Toggle
btn-shop-fathersourcehomepage-btnbrn-free-resources
rsstwfbenews

The Father Factor

subpage-image

Finding Your Place in Fatherhood

My oldest daughter, Audrey, is turning four this month. I look back on the last four years and I am amazed at how much my life has changed. I was in college when she was born; now I am finishing up graduate school. I lost about 50 pounds, and I have gained about 10 pounds back. Most of my friends from then barely recognize me. Most importantly, I am now a husband and a father.


finding-your-place-in-fatherhood
You see, I met my wife when she was 9 months pregnant with Audrey. I was a sophomore in college and we met when a group of our friends went to a corn maze. (We’re from the Midwest so this is what we do for fun.) Soon after Audrey was born, we started dating. I had no idea what I was doing.

Most of my friends thought that I was crazy to date a girl with a child. My parents definitely thought I had gone nuts. All I knew is that there was something special about her and that little baby.

After dating for about six months we began talking about marriage, and unsurprisingly, my wife’s mother, my now mother-in-law, sat me down to have “the talk.” I’m sure she said some very influential things but the only topic I remember talking about was Audrey. She told me she wanted a man to come into Audrey’s life that would never call Audrey a step-child, but call her his own.

That’s when it got real for me. I was going to be a dad. Yes, technically a step-dad, but since then I have realized there is little difference. I know my experience is different than many of yours. Many men come in as step-fathers and have to deal with the dynamic of being the third (or fourth) parent. Finding your place in that has to be difficult. However, how I feel about Audrey, how I treat her, what I call her (my daughter, my princess, or my Aud-ball) could never change even if her biological father came back into the picture.

A few weeks before getting married, a friend asked me the story of how I fell in love with my wife. I told the story and we both cried a little, but then she asked me for another story- the story of how I fell in love with Audrey. How do you explain falling in love with a child? How do you explain the feeling of going from a single guy to a father and husband in a year?

My story was simple. I told her of the time that Audrey and I spent together. I spoke about hugging her, and kissing her, and watching her sleep. Then I told her about my dreams for Audrey; I never realized until that point that I had dreams for her. I assure you there were tears when telling that. 

In the end, we look much like any other family now. Most of our friends don’t know that Audrey is not my biological offspring. No one would ever tell me she is not my child because they would get promptly corrected. I’ve allowed myself to fall in love with this little girl. I’ve allowed myself to dream for her. I’ve claimed her, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Connecting_with_your_child_cover

 

Download The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

 

Father Factor Spotlight: Annie > In Theaters 12/19 (Official Trailer)

The holidays are here. I know, I know, you're tree isn't decorated yet and all the busyness of work, family, and school are getting the better of you. What better time than the holidays to escape the madness safely in a theater watching a classic remake. The new version of the Broadway classic is in to theaters soon and is the perfect movie for fathers and families.

About Annie

annie-cover-art

The Broadway classic that has delighted families for generations comes to theaters with a new, modern spin in Columbia Pictures' comedy, Annie.

Academy Award® nominee Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) stars as Annie, a young, happy foster kid who’s also tough enough to make her way on the streets of New York in 2014.

Originally left by her parents as a baby with the promise that they’d be back for her someday, it’s been a hard knock life ever since with her mean foster mom Miss Hannigan (Cameron Diaz).

But everything’s about to change when the hard-nosed tycoon and New York mayoral candidate Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) – advised by his brilliant VP, Grace (Rose Byrne) and his shrewd and scheming campaign advisor, Guy (Bobby Cannavale) – makes a thinly-veiled campaign move and takes her in. Stacks believes he’s her guardian angel, but Annie’s self-assured nature and bright, sun-will-come-out-tomorrow outlook on life just might mean it’s the other way around. Can you say "fatherhood story"?!

Director/Producer/Screenwriter Will Gluck teams with producers James Lassiter, Jada Pinkett Smith & Will Smith, Caleeb Pinkett, Shawn "JAY Z" Carter, Laurence "Jay" Brown, Tyran "Ty Ty" Smith with a modern telling that captures the magic of the classic characters and original show that won seven Tony Awards.

Get a Sneak Peek of Annie!

Watch the official trailer for Annie.


Read Today for a Brighter Tomorrow

"Read Today for a Brighter Tomorrow" was inspired by the upcoming film Annie. The reading program is perfect for mom, dad and child as it encourages you to read together and has a family reading activity -- Great Books Bring Families Together! The site also has reading tips for parents.

As part of the reading program, Sony has created free Annie Activity Books, bookmarks, stickers and folded posters that we can give to fatherhood organizations—just email me at rsanders@fatherhood.org if you're interested. 

If you would like to participate in the "Read Today for a Brighter Tomorrow" program, there are lots of free educational materials at http://www.scholastic.com/annie/. The program:

  • Focuses on the need for diverse books, providing lesson plans and librarian-created reading lists.
  • Provides fun opportunities for kids and/or families to create Reading Journal Scrapbooks.
  • Offers free downloadable coloring pages under "Annie's Corner".

Also, if you, the fatherhood leader, would like to create a fun Annie Karoake Event, there is a free Annie Karoake App which can be downloaded from the App store!

The Father Factor Blog

Stay tuned to the blog, I'll write about the insights I gained from watching this family classic soon.

Follow Annie

Find more information at www.fatherhood.org/annie

When Dad's in Jail: How Team Dad is Helping Tennessee Families

For hundreds of families around East Tennessee, it's tough when dad's in jail. The sad thing is, it can be tougher once dad's out of jail. What are we doing to help dads be ready to be good dads once released? Hiliary Magacs shows us one program in Cocke County, Tennessee that's working to rehabilitate dads from the inside out.

team_dad_logo

Hiliary Magacs (@wvlthilary) reporting for WVLT Local 8 News on a program in East Tennessee called Team Dad who is helping fathers in jail be ready to father once released.

The Sheriff's Office has partnered with Team Dad to help men find housing and jobs, so they can be the kind of dads their kids need them to be. The program is offered in connection with the Douglas-Cherokee Economic Authority, Inc. and serves men in six East Tennessee counties: Hamblen, Cocke, Grainger, Jefferson, Sevier & Monroe.

Travis Stewart is serving time for burglary and theft. He has a 12 year old son. Watch the video and you will hear Travis say what he's learning from NFI's InsideOut Dad® program. He says, "It's something I need to do to learn how to be responsible for my child and lead by example. The things I do reflects on his image."

Case managers for the program use workbooks, movies and discussions to help men learn how to communicate with their kids and the mothers of their children. "A lot of men close down and don't want to talk about feelings or their problems to other people...but when they're in here, they really do open up and talk about the issues they've had..." says Desiree Drinnon (Case Manager).

Learning to open up and talk about the issues is vital for Drew Whitlock, who is working to be the father his kids need. "I've got two girls one 16 and one 13...their mother overdosed beside me in the bed last year and I'm just trying to pick up the pieces," says Drew Whitlock (Participant in the InsideOut Dad® Program).

Besides parenting skills, Team Dad helps men in other ways, like connecting them with legal services for custody problems. The program also helps the men update their resumes and find jobs when they get out of jail. "We can put in a good word to the employers for the guys so they can get a chance to have an open door and start working again..." says Sam Escobales (Outreach Worker).

"The thing with most inmates is when they come in, they don't have nothing afterwards, you know, you can go back to the streets or you can try to find help..." says Craig Campbell. The help doesn't stop when the men walk out of the program. The dads can rely on Team Dad for as long as they need to. "Every class I tell them, now if you get out and your electric bill needs to be paid don't go kick in your neighbors door and steal their TV to sell for your electric bill. Come call me and we'll find someplace to help you..." says, Desiree Drinnon (Case Manager).

Recent graduates of the program say it's helped them a lot. For instance, Cody Moon (program graduate) says, "It's taught me better ways to budget my money for my kids and take care my kids and is teaching me better ways to treat the mother of my children."

Travis Shaver has learned when it comes to his children, "...you have to be there to provide for them, show them love and affection...it's the small things is what it is."

Sheriff Armando Fontes (Cocke County Sheriff's Office) is proud of how Team Dad has created stronger families in the community. He says, "It's called positive reinforcement, we help give them skills and abilities that they can take back home with them to better their lives and to better take care of their children."

Rodney Willingham (program graduate) reflects on his time attending the program and says, "I'm grateful that I got a chance to be in this program. I'm going to follow it up once I get out."

In eight months of operation, more than 50 men have graduated from Team Dad in Cocke County. The program is also offered in the Monroe County jail and organizers are hoping to expand to other jails in the future. Here's a picture from a recent graduating class of Team Dad:

Team_Dad_Grads

IODGTFT

Get your free sample download > 
InsideOut Dad® Guide to Family Ties


What's Inside the Guide?

  • Purpose and Parts of the Guide
  • Part 1: What to Expect - Your Children, Your Children’s Mother, What You Should Do
  • Part 2: Assess Yourself as Dad and Partner - The Ideal, The Real, The Deal
  • Part 3: Getting and staying in touch - With Your Children’s Mother, With Your Children, Become an Expert on Your Children, Become a “Long Distance” Coach, Ways to Get and Stay in Touch
  • Part 4: Create a reentry plan - Your Reentry Plan, Your Role in the Family, Bad Feelings, Gatekeepers, New Father Figures

What Parents Should Really Fear

This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

In my last post in this blog, I asked parents to identify the top three things they most fear and to rate their level of fear for each one. I then described a study of parents that identified the top 10 fears that most parents have for their children and asked parents how their fears mapped to those top fears.

what_parents_really_should_fear_12092014I made the point that many fears of parents are unfounded. I then laid out six steps that help parents determine whether the fears they identified are ones they should be worried about. Central to these steps is taking the time to examine the evidence for the prevalence of poor outcomes for children related to parents' fears. If a parent fears, for example, that his or her child will drown, the parent should locate data on the prevalence of drowning for children of his or her child's age. I pointed parents to several excellent sources for data on children's health that they could use to examine the evidence.

One of these sources for evidence is the non-profit Child Trends. As luck would have it, Natalia Pane, a Child Trends research scientist and statistician, read my post and sent me an email to draw my attention to a book she's written called The Worry Clock: A Parent's Guide to Worrying Smarter about The Real Dangers to Your Child. I checked it out and realized what a great resource it is for parents. So I asked Natalia whether I could write a follow-up post to draw wider attention to the book, and she gave me her blessing.

I really appreciate when really smart scientists make their research easy to understand using stories, concepts, and analogies. Natalia uses the concept of the Worry Clock to illustrate how much parents should worry about dangers to their children. Specifically, she focuses on the ultimate fear for a parent -- his or her child's death. She uses the Worry Clock to present the data on the leading causes of death for children in different age groups. As a result, there is a Worry Clock for each age group. As Natalia describes it, the Worry Clocks are:

Sixty-minute clocks that present the most common causes of death and their relative importance, based on frequency of death. The idea is that if you are going to worry for one hour, the clock presents the amount of time you might spend on each cause of death, if you were to follow the actual data. For example, if car accidents account for half of all possible ways children die, then the Worry Clock would suggest spending half of the hour -- thirty minutes -- worrying about car accidents.

If you have an infant, for example, you should worry most about suffocation and strangulation (27 minutes). Your next most significant worry should be about homicide (14 minutes). Other causes of death shouldn't worry you much as no other cause represents more than six minutes in the Worry Clock for Infants.

I highly encourage you to read the book. It provides great insights, including:

  • Parents should think twice about where an infant sleeps.
  • A baby's inconsolable crying is common, but it is also a frequent cause of homicide, the second-leading killer of infants.
  • Drowning in a home pool is particularly dangerous for toddler boys.
  • Electrical outlets are less deadly than most parents probably believe.
  • One out of every six preventable deaths throughout childhood is gun-related.
  • Teenage driving is the most significant worry across a child's life.

Perhaps most importantly, Natalia provides practical advice, based on evidence and common sense, for how parents can protect their children from the leading causes of death in each age group. That's another thing I really appreciate -- when scientists help people apply research in practical ways. Bravo, Natalia!

This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

Got Fired? 5 Mistakes You Should Avoid

A new friend of mine was recently let go by his organization as part of a widespread restructuring. We met for coffee to plan out his next move. After a few minutes of discussing potential options, he asked me an excellent and powerful question.

got fired? 5 mistakes to avoid
He said, “Kent, what are mistakes that you see recently fired guys make? How can I avoid them?”

I was impressed. That was a great question!

And, he didn’t know this, but he had just asked a bona fide termination expert for his opinion. I have been fired twice in my career, and as I stumbled through the carnage, I learned a handful of valuable lessons.

Also, I have been an active networker over the years, so I have had my fair share of opportunities to watch other people walk through this experience. Some handled it well and it made them better; some fumbled badly and took much longer to regroup.

I ended up sharing five mistakes I see recently terminated men make. If you are currently unemployed or find yourself in that situation in the future, I hope these ideas help you get back in the saddle more quickly (and without nearly as many bruises).

The top five mistakes I see recently fired men make. Note to the fatherhood leader reading this: you should consider sharing this with the dads you serve. Here are the five mistakes:

1) They grieve while standing still.

In the sadness and shock of losing his job – usually unexpectedly – they do nothing for far too long. They lose their confidence and worry that they will never get another base hit. So, they stand at the plate and watch the pitches go by. It’s okay to be sad or discouraged, but grieve in motion. Keep your legs moving until you get traction.

2) They get a referral, but do not follow through.

If you are fortunate enough to connect with some influencers and they give you a referral, follow through immediately. Often, when we’re down, we are either confused or hesitant, and we want to make sure we make the right next step. Don’t sweat accuracy in networking, just make the call and thank the referrer.

3) They bash their prior boss or organization.

It’s natural to feel jilted by a company or a manager, especially if when they let you go they were unkind or disparaging. However, you cannot let your frustration spill over into your next interview. As a hiring manager if I hear someone griping about their former boss, I figure I’m next on the bash list. It’s extremely unappealing.

4) They wait too long for the perfect opportunity.

Being unemployed can take an emotional toll on a man, his spouse and his family. Over time, he can doubt his very existence, and his somber mood becomes a cancer at home. Get back to work as fast as you can. Take any reasonable offer while you keep searching for the perfect job. See point number 1.

5) If they are downsized, they neglect to mention it.

This is a delicate one. If you make a big deal out of this, you will just sound like a loser. But, if you don’t mention it at all, you deprive the new manager of knowing that you weren’t fired for cause. Tactfully find a way to mention that your prior organization shifted course, but only once or twice. Tactfully.

It can be extremely disheartening to lose a job. I was fired twice in a two month timespan! One of those terminations I probably deserved. Both happened when I was a newlywed. And, while my new in-laws never mentioned it (thank you!), I’m sure they had their doubts about this new family member who struggled to hold down a job.

However, by staying in motion (I took a summer job as an electrician’s apprentice) and by the grace of God (while on that job, I met my future boss and mentor), I got back on track. Hang in there! Getting terminated can work to our advantage if we manage it correctly.

Have you ever been fired? What helped you get through it?

You Can Make a Difference for Dads in Your Community > Here's How!

I have a great option for you to support NFI as we close out 2014: help your own community by providing an organization of your choice with resources to help them serve more fathers and families! Give the children in your own backyard the gift of an involved father this coming year.

You can support the fatherhood program efforts of an organization in your own backyard (think Salvation Army, Community Action, Head Start, a church, or Goodwill) by selecting them to receive a gift certificate from us. They can in turn, r the fatherhood resources and programs they need to serve fathers and families.

Are you a fatherhood leader with an organization? Consider promoting this giving option to your own network of donors and supporters to help you get the fatherhood resources you need for the coming year. Seriously - the people closest to you are the ones that are most likely to help! NFI is a 501C3 non-profit, so all donor gifts are tax deductible. Click here for a sample letter you can send to your supporters to encourage their donation to help you better serve dads.

Here's how it works:

1) Pick Your Organization

Select an organization you already know could use your help. If you don't have an organization in mind, use our brand spankin' new FatherSource™ Locator. Just type in your zip code and a map appears of organizations in your community that help dads and can also use your support.

2) Donate "In Honor Of" Your Favorite Organization

Visit our donate page and on the "in honor of" line, just add the requested information about the organization you would like to give in honor of. 

3) Stand Back and Look Awesome!

We'll send your selected organization a certificate showing your support...a real certificate (shown below)...and we'll help them select the NFI fatherhood resources that best meet their needs.

HonorOfCertificate

Consider how the following donation amounts will help the community organization you pick: 

fannednewbrochures

 

$75 > Purchases a set of fatherhood skill-building brochures. 
Give Now >

 

 

 

dd_four_pack__89969.1404163219.1280.1280

$150 > Purchases a workshop for dads like one of our Doctor Dad® Workshops for New Dads. 
Give Now >

 

 

 

 

24_7_Dad

$600 > Purchases one of our fatherhood programs, such as 24/7 Dad®. 
Give Now >

 

 

 

 

FRTK500

$1,000 > Purchases the Father-Readiness Training Kit™, for helping organizations build a foundation for serving dads and their children. 
Give Now >

 

 

 

Thank you for considering this giving option. Fathers and families in communities everywhere will benefit—including yours!

6 Steps to Solving Most Any Problem

When mom and dad have different ideas on what to do when it comes to the kids, from what their child should wear, to when their child should come home, and so on, communication usually stalls. This is a nice way of saying, you aren't talking to each other! When this happens, both parents can feel frustrated and often argue. Fussing and fighting isn't the way to live—for you or for your kids. Let's have a new goal—to reach a place where both people have power and are listened too. Sound crazy? We think not...

red_phone_cord_how_to_talk_with_mom_and_child
Whether it's communicating with your spouse, former spouse, son or daughter, problem solving like the list that follows will leave both parties feeling satisfied. Use these steps to help solve problems between you, your wife, your ex-wife, or heck, try this with your kids too! 

1) Name the problem

Write it down. Seriously, have you ever been arguing for a extended period of time, and there doesn't seem to be an end to the bickering? It's probably because one or both of you lost sight of the real problem. Work on only one problem at a time. You can't fix everything overnight. Agree at the start on one problem to try and solve, then attack that one problem, not EVERY problem! 

2) Decide who owns the problem

Is someone doing something you or someone else doesn’t approve of, but does not see it as a problem? Is the problem yours or someone else’s? More than one person can own a problem. It's important to discern and accept responsibilities for said problem before moving to the next step.  

3) Discuss why the problem needs to be solved

This step can be the hardest one of all if the problem is someone’s behavior. For example, someone’s behavior is harming someone else and it needs to stop. This step also takes a lot of listening from both sides. The person creating the problem is generally the one who isn't as willing to listen. Try and be sure that person isn't you this time! 

4) List what's been done to try and solve the problem

Write them down if the person has tried a lot of things. This process can go a long way in showing how much both parties care about fixing the problem. This also provides a great road map to what hasn't or doesn't work such that you can try something new to solve the problem. Which leads us to this...

5) Brainstorm new ways to solve the problem

They must be realistic ideas. Write them down if there are a lot of them and use the ideas during the next step. Discuss pros and cons for each idea. 

6) Make a decision

It’s okay if there is more than one solution. If the problem is owned by one person, let that person pick. If it is owned by more than one person, like the entire family, have those people agree on what to do. Remember, this isn't a dictatorship no matter how badly you might try for it to be. 

If you brainstorm ideas and one or more of them don’t offer a clear way to solve the problem, go through the first three steps again to figure out the problem, see who owns it, and why it needs to be solved. 

You could get stuck on Step 6 if you and the person involved doesn't have your ideas about the right way to solve the problem. 

What is a problem you are having with your spouse, ex-spouse, or child? Which step seems most difficult? Why? 

communication_500px

Find more communication tips in our new guide > How to Talk with Mom and Child.

Office of Child Support Wants Your Input

When it comes to father involvement, one of the most significant pieces of child support legislation ever could soon be implemented by the federal government. Does your organization work closely with dads and parents who owe child support? If so, you have a chance to positively affect those dads, parents, and their children. 

office-of-child-support-wants-your-helpThe latest issue of the Office of Child Support Enforcement's Child Support Report describes 6 areas of the legislation that are part of the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (Public Law 113-183) and that will  affect the federal child support program. The most significant of the the areas in terms of father involvement is Section 303: Sense of the Congress Regarding Offering of Voluntary Parenting Time Arrangements. It reads:

Congress finds that:

  1. establishing parenting time arrangements when obtaining child support orders is an important goal that should be accompanied by strong family violence safeguards; and
  2. states should use existing funding sources to support the establishment of parenting time arrangements, including child support incentives, Access and Visitation grants, and Healthy Marriage Promotion and Responsible Fatherhood grants.

As such, this legislation could pave the way for additional funding for healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood grants at the state level and for father involvement work within programs focused on access and visitation.  

The federal government wants to hear from you on this legislation that they'll consider in issuing a report on the legislation to Congress. I encourage you to support this legislation and to provide additional feedback, such as more funding to expand states' efforts to not only establish parenting time arrangements but also to help parents be better parents through parenting education. You can review the process for providing feedback here.

What, exactly, is a parenting time arrangement? It's an agreement (sometimes called a parenting time order) that clearly defines how and when a child will spend time with his or her never married, separated, or divorced parents. These agreements are often included in a broader parenting or access and visitation plan that describes custody arrangements and other agreements between parents. These agreements have been around for some time. Many state governments and court systems have procedures, guidelines, and laws in place for establishing and enforcing such arrangements. (For examples, see the guidelines and laws in Michigan, New Jersey, and Texas.) Most guidelines and laws include consider the impact of domestic violence on such arrangements. In cases where parents can't agree on an arrangement, some state courts have enforceable minimum standards that ensure both parents spend some time with their children. (For an example, see the minimum parenting time standards in Utah.)

This federal legislation could give state governments and court systems that are behind the curve on this issue the push they need to be more progressive. But when it comes to states that already have strong procedures, guidelines, or laws in place--and that are already using funds to support such arrangements through, for example, access and visitation programs--the impact of this legislation could be more symbolic than practical. Before you provide feedback, I encourage you to become familiar with parenting time guidelines in laws in your state or county--and the impact of domestic violence on them--so that you will understand the potential impact this legislation could have on the dads and families you serve. You should also think about what would help your organization reach and help more fathers to be invovled in their children's lives. 

Regardless of whether this legislation is more symbolic or practical when it comes to your work and that of your organization, I hope you'll agree that even a symbolic gesture on the part of the federal government is better than nothing at all.

We Don’t Mind Hiding Behind Your Fatherhood Program Success

As an organization whose main business is to create and sell fatherhood programs to organizations across the country, you can image how many community agencies are using our fatherhood programs such as 24/7 Dad® and InsideOut Dad®. (When I say business, I really mean that is how we accomplish our mission as a non-profit organization.) More often than not, when an organization purchases one of our fatherhood programs, they incorporate the curriculum into a larger initiative or approach to serving fathers (we call this “wrap around services”.)

Video-Cam-Share-500Thus, the NFI brand, and even our program names, go overlooked/unmentioned. But we’re okay with that - we don’t mind hiding behind your success. Because that’s what we’re here to do: Create a world in which every child has a 24/7 Dad®. And we do it through you.


We don't run fatherhood classes and talk to dads everyday. We help organizations doing that very work across the country to be successful. We provide father absence and father involvement research that help justify an organization or state’s investment in father-focused programs. We write articles on father engagement and how to be a better dad. And we love to hear about how our various fatherhood curricula are a foundational piece of family and societal “puzzles” being pieced together across the country. You are the stars that bring our curricula to life! Thank you for that.

Occasionally we browse YouTube for stories of impact – organizations sharing their fatherhood initiative successes. And often, we find within those stories, nuggets of gold – along with the use of one of our fatherhood programs. Sometimes the actual curriculum name is mentioned, other times it is not (but we have a staff person who helped that very organization build their fatherhood initiative) – and it makes us feel like proud parents! 

So as proud parents, I want to share a couple such videos with you today. You’re in for a treat. Children’s lives are being changed across the nation, one father at a time. And it’s never too late to start.

Do you use NFI curricula and have a video to share about your fatherhood initiative? Don’t be shy; be sure we know about it! Share your story and video here.

John R. Grubb YMCA Fatherhood Initiative
Des Moines, IA

Click here to learn more about their fatherhood offerings.


New Opportunities, Inc. Fatherhood Initiative
Part of the John S. Martinez Fatherhood Initiative of Connecticut

Click here to learn more about their fatherhood offerings.

Do you use NFI curricula and have a video to share about your fatherhood initiative? Don’t be shy; be sure we know about it! Share your story and video here.

6 Steps to Deal with Fears for Your Children

This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

What frightens you the most as a parent when it comes to your children's health? Before you read any further, take a few minutes to write down your top three fears using a broad definition of health that includes physical, social and emotional health. Then, rate your level of fear for each one on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being "not fearful at all" and 10 being "very fearful."

fear_dad_11172014
What I fear most is that my children will get in a horrible accident that will change their life for the worse or even end it. When my younger daughter Jillian was 2 years old, we were playing on the living room floor with Daizy, a Labrador-Greyhound mix we had rescued from the pound only days before. This get-to-know-you play session suddenly turned into one of my scariest parenting moments. As Daizy laid down to rest in front of me, Jillian scurried around my back and, in coming around to the front of me, startled Daizy. Daizy lept up and accidentally swiped Jillian's face with her paw. For a moment, it seemed nothing was wrong because Jillian's only reaction was to close her eyes and look stunned. But then, the blood started flowing down her face -- appearing to originate from one of her eyes -- and she began to cry and scream.

After a moment of indecision, I quickly removed my shirt and placed it over her face. Fortunately, a couple of EMTs lived two houses down from us. I grabbed Jillian and ran over to their home and, as I ran, prayed they were home. I knocked on the door and, thank God, both of them were home. I explained what happened and partially removed my shirt from Jillian's face so they could assess the injury. The blood started to flow once more. I reapplied my shirt until one of the EMTs wrapped Jillian's head in so much gauze it looked as though she was wearing a turban that had slid down her face.

By this time, I feared the worst -- Daizy has slashed Jillian's eye and she'd have permanent damage. Being EMTs, my neighbors assured me that they had seen much worse and not to jump to conclusions. One of them rushed us to the nearest hospital for treatment. Fortunately, Daizy had only caused a gash above Jillian's eye and slightly scratched the inside of her eyelid. The eye itself was unharmed.

I'm generally not a fearful parent. Even though I fear accidents the most, I rarely think about whether they might happen. But every once in a while, the scar that Jillian still has from that awful day reminds me how much I love my children and don't want any harm to come to them.

Every year, the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan conducts a national poll on parents' top health concerns. The 2014 poll asked parents to rate how big of a problem 26 health concerns are for children and teens in their community and, separately, for children and teens across the country. They rated each concern as a "big problem," "somewhat of a problem," or "not a problem." The survey is a kind of proxy for what parents fear when it comes to children's health.

According to the 2014 poll, the following eight concerns appeared in the top 10 concerns on both lists:

  • Childhood obesity
  • Bullying
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Drug/substance abuse
  • Child abuse and neglect
  • Internet safety
  • Teen pregnancy

Childhood obesity topped both lists, with the others in each list ranking differently in terms of level of concern.

Now, look at the list of your top three fears. Are they included in the list of eight above?

A much more important question is whether your level of fear for each fear is founded. (That's why I asked you to rate your level of fear.) Fears have a nasty way of working behind the scenes to cause stress and guide our behavior in unproductive and sometimes destructive ways. Parents' fears can cause a ton of stress and lead to behavior that damages their relationships with their children. As I wrote in my last post, parents these days are particularly vulnerable to over-protecting and controlling their children's lives. This behavior results from fears (and concerns) they have that, in many cases, are unfounded.

Follow these steps to determine whether any or all of your fears are founded.

  1. Prepare to be wrong. Recognize that you might not need to be as fearful and maybe don't need to be fearful at all. Most people are overconfident in their views. If you won't entertain the possibility that you might be wrong, there's no reason to take another step.
  2. Step back and separate from the fears. Get some distance from your emotions so that you can objectively assess your fears.
  3. Examine the evidence from a broad perspective. Conduct some research on the prevalence in the broader population of the issues underlying your fears. Use reputable, objective sources and not ones that will simply confirm your fears. (To get you started, I provide a list of relevant sources at the end of this post.) Based on what you learn, how do the issues underlying your fears stack up against the data on prevalence of those issues?
  4. Examine the evidence from a narrow perspective. How prevalent are the issues in your community? Your community might differ markedly from the general population. The sources you used in Step 3 might have data on your community, but you might have to find similar sources at the state or county level (e.g. your state or city health department). How do the issues stack up against the data in your community? Even if you've lived in your community for a long time -- maybe your entire life -- you might be surprised how little you know about the prevalence of issues in your own backyard.
  5. Examine recent exposure to events and information that could create biases that support your fears. Has anything happened in your family, friends' families, or community related to your fears? Have you heard a lot recently in the news about incidents related to the issues underlying your fears? Have you been watching movies or television focused on your fears? If you answered yes to any of those questions, consider whether that exposure reflects reality in terms of prevalence of the issues underlying your fears. Realize that you could suffer from the availability bias in which people rely on recent exposure to specific events and information to form their opinions even when those events and information are out of the norm.
  6. Step back once again and consider all the evidence. If you have a friend who is a particularly objective person, share what you learned and ask him or her for input.

As you read through those steps, you might have thought "Ugh! It's going to take a lot of time to complete them, and I just don't have the time." It will take some time, but not as much as you think. Regardless, when it comes to your children, taking time to examine whether your fears are founded is vital to understanding whether the stress they cause and the behavior that results from them is worth it to you and the relationships you have with your children.

Here are some websites on children's health for further reading:

This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

Christmas in November

I've never had a bad Christmas. For the most part, they've all been pretty good. Here's the thing, the holidays that haven't been as great as others, have all been for one reason. That reason? Me.

December is the busiest month of the year, am I right? Listen up, this is experience talking. I know before December starts, busy is the only thing that is certain. As I screened Saving Christmas, one character made me think...the brother-in-law. This year, I'm doing something different...something I've never done before. 

kirk cameron's saving christmas

In the film, the brother-in-law is the melancholy, depressed guy who hates everything. He hates the consumerism of the holiday, he hates the "war on Christmas", he hates everything. Are you that guy? I have come to some conclusions after seeing the depressed brother-in-law in the film. I don't want to be that guy. Neither should you. We should want more, for ourselves, for our families, and for this season.

After watching this movie, I plan to do three things differently this year. I plan to proactively fight against the all-consuming stress of the season. Here's how I plan to make this Holiday what it's supposed to be about. Maybe you're like me, and you need this reminder. Feel free to consider this post your very own Christmas miracle:

1) Stop, Reflect & Remember: It's About Giving...Not Getting.
I'm not on my a-game when I'm my super-busy or constantly around humans for social events and whatnot. I know this about myself. This can make December suck for me. I know if I don't take a moment, be it for five minutes, to get alone and be still, I'm sabotaging myself and my family.

Find time to stop and reflect long enough to realize this season is about giving...not getting. Yes, I'm telling myself this too. The more you and I can understand this, the more we will enjoy the season. I just read a quote from Anne Frank, she supposedly said, "No one has ever become poor by giving." That's all...me, Anne Frank, and Kirk Cameron just saved your Christmas. You're welcome.

2) Make it About the Kids...Not Yourself.
My childhood Holidays were awesome. I didn't grow up rich or poor (that I know of), but my memories of the Holiday season are positive. One of my favorite memories is of opening a toy 18-wheeler log tuck. There's no way it cost my parents more that $10 in 1980's currency. I still remember stacking the little logs and pulling that truck around the house and imagining I was crossing over mountains and whatnot—the original Ice Road Truckers. My point is this, not only did I invent Ice Road Truckers, I look back at my kid-self and realize it didn't take much to make me happy. It's the same with your kids. Yes, make it about the children. But also, you don't have to stress about satisfying them. Odds are it takes much less than you're thinking to make them happy. What's the best memory you have as a kid during the holiday? You're probably thinking of a story similar to mine now. If you're not, you're an ungrateful brat and need to refer to the first point of this post! ; )

In the movie, Mr. Cameron says, "sometimes you have to be brought low...to see with new eyes”. This year, see the lights and decorations through the eyes of your child. See your family with fresh eyes. You will no doubt agree with Cameron when he says, "Our lives are so full — if only we had eyes to see them." Don't mess up Christmas for the kids.

3) Tis a New Season
I've went wrong in the past. From not taking time to reflect, to waiting until the last minute to go to the mall. Then, I've had the audacity to complain I can't find parking at the mall on December 23. Hello! There's parking spots open in November, right?! This is a new season, for you and me. A chance to start off different, and right. This said, my holiday season started last week. In the DC area, it's now dark at like 4pm. I drove home and was about to slip into my melancholy-fall-slumber of depression and boredom. Yes, I can be bored and busy, you can't? But something happened, a miracle. After fighting traffic, I walked in my front door to the smell of food cooking, the Etta James Holiday music station playing, and my daughters drawing at the kitchen table. Boom, instant cheer! My point is, you'll never save Christmas for you or your family if you never look at it with new eyes. This isn't last year or that one bad year you had, this is this year. 

Hopefully, you and I will stop and reflect, make it about the kids, and create a new season of traditions this holiday. Let's realize as Mr. Cameron says, "You and I are in the middle of a story. The difference between our story and the one we heard as kids is that we get to write our own story." Whether you hate this time of year, are fighting with your spouse, or you just aren't that into Christmas, you get to pick whether you're Scrooge or not.

So, are you gonna watch everyone have fun or are you gonna actually have fun this season? I was inspired after watching this movie to rearrange my life, to tell my daughters new stories, to not be the husband and dad who frustrates his wife and kids, to make things right...that's Christmas. So, you wanna know my solution for getting past all of the stress of the season? It's something I've never done before. I'm starting Christmas in November. If you need me, I'll be sipping my Chesnut Praline Latte and listening to Christmas music today. I'm not waiting until December.

How will you save Christmas for you and your family this year?

Get the sneak peek of Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas!

Watch  Kirk Cameron's Interview on Access Hollywood Live:

 

Follow Saving Christmas:

  • Follow Saving Christmas on Facebook.

  • Find a theater near you here.

  • See images from the set of the film here

Download "The Ultimate Guide to Connecting with your Child"! 

Connecting_with_your_child_cover

This free ebook is designed to help you and your children become closer and more connected. Use it for yourself or share it with other dads.

In this free ebook we share:

  • The best questions to ask your school-aged child to get him or her talking
  • Great questions you can ask your teenager
  • Questions you can ask yourself to be sure you're doing all you should to be a great dad

Use this ebook to help you and the dads you know connect with your kids in a meaningful way.

The ABC's of a Father-Friendly Program

When it comes to fatherhood programs, there are many things to consider. For example, if you're not sure whether you are doing enough to serve fathers, begin with our Free Father Friendly Check-Up™. If you want to start a new fatherhood program, checkout our free How to Start a Fatherhood Program ebook.

iStock_000018921253_SmallIn addition to these resources, The ABC's of a Father-Friendly Program by Neil Tift offers excellent reminders for the areas that need to be addressed in order to have a successful, father-friendly program.

Many of these areas fall into the fabric of an organization and correlate to several points on our Father Friendly Check-Up™.

So without further adieu: The ABC's of a Father-Friendly Program

A - Assets of fathers are emphasized, not their deficits
B - Budget reflects that fathers are a priority
C - Curricula/educational materials respect range of fathers being served
D - Diverse staff reflects the population using services
E - Environment clearly states that dads & men in families are welcome
F - Father-child bond is emphasized and program activities encourage this
G - Gender-neutral forms, policies & procedures employed through agency
H - Hands-on learning experiences are components of father activities
I - Importance of fathers is promoted, but not at the expense of mothers
J - Journals, magazines and reading materials reflect the interests of dads
K - Knowledgeable males recruited to discuss sensitive concerns with fathers
L - Language is respectful and affirming of all parents and children
M - Marketing plan invites many faces of fathers, promotes full involvement
N - Needs of fathers influence the program’s growth and development
O - Outreach staff recruits in locations that all types of fathers visit
P - Paternal & maternal parenting styles are recognized and equally respected
Q - Quality evaluation tools and procedures that respect fathers are used
R - Recognize and reduce barriers that limit father involvement
S - Staff receives periodic best practices training to adequately serve fathers
T - Targeted services are offered specifically for fathers
U - Understanding of fathers’ physical and mental health concerns is paramount
V - Values are emphasized that promote gender reconciliation
W - Women’s and men’s restrooms each have a diaper deck
X - Xcellent Advisory Council and active speakers’ bureau are in place
Y - Young fathers are offered targeted services
Z - Zealous attitude prevails that we are all in this together

Many thanks to The ABC's author, Neil Tift, Father Involvement Program Coordinator at the Child Crisis Center in Mesa, Arizona. Neil can be reached at neil.tift@childcrisis.org.

Download the ABC's list here

 

Republished with permission.

Faith-Based Film Spotlight: Saving Christmas (In Theaters Friday)

This Christmas, have your family dive headfirst into all the joy, dancing, celebration, feasting, imagination, and traditions that make Christmas, well, Christmas! This film will resonate with our faith-based fatherhood leaders. See the videos and see what I mean...

 

KIRK CAMERON’S SAVING CHRISTMAS is an interesting take on the story providing a basis for our timeless traditions and celebrations. 

This year, it's time to take in the splendor; take in the majesty; take in the story. Take it all in…and realize it's okay to enjoy it all.

The season isn't a time to be sad, depressed or annoyed from all the busy-ness. Okay, you probably will get annoyed if and when you have to find parking at the mall, but still, overall, it's supposed to be a time to truly enjoy family!

KIRK CAMERON’S SAVING CHRISTMAS is in theaters for a limited engagement beginning November 14 for two weeks only!

Stay tuned to The Father Factor Blog, as I will be writing a feature about this upcoming family film on the blog. But for now...

Get a Sneak Peek of Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas!


Watch the first trailer for Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas.

Watch  Kirk Cameron's Interview on Access Hollywood Live:

 

Follow Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas:

  • Follow Saving Christmas on Facebook.

  • Find a theater near you here.

  • See images from the set of the film here

Download "The Ultimate Guide to Connecting with your Child"! 

This free ebook is designed to help you and your children become closer and more connected. Use it for yourself or share it with other dads.

Connecting_with_your_child_cover

In this free ebook we share:

  • The best questions to ask your school-aged child to get him or her talking
  • Great questions you can ask your teenager
  • Questions you can ask yourself to be sure you're doing all you should to be a great dad

Use this ebook to help you and the dads you know connect with your kids in a meaningful way.

Research to Application: Framing and the "No Choice Option"

As the nation’s #1 provider of fatherhood skill-building programs and resources, NFI provides guidance for practitioners and organizations on how they might be able to use to use the latest research on human behavior to enhance the effectiveness of their work with fathers. NFI provides this guidance in a series of blog posts called Research to Application: Guidance for Practitioners and Programs. The series is also available in the form of quick reference guides that you can download by clicking on the button at the end of the posts.

research_to_application_post_3The series offers a platform for generating dialogue among NFI, organizations, and practitioners on ways that research can be applied to addressing pain points in serving fathers. This post is the second one in the series. (To access the first post, click here. To access the second post, click here.) It provides ideas on how you might integrate research on no choice options (a form of framing) into your work with fathers. Integrating this research could help you help fathers to be more persistent in sticking with the behaviors of an involved, responsible, committed father.

If you implement any of the ideas in this post, or develop and implement your own ideas, please share them with us at info@fatherhood.org. We’ll use your experiences to update this guide so it is even more useful.

The Research
Daniel Kahneman in Thinking, Fast and Slow [1] captures the research on the biases humans suffer from in making decisions, regardless of the decisions they make. He describes how we rely on two cognitive systems when making decisions. System 1 “operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control.” We often call it our “gut instinct.” System 2 “allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations” and involves deliberate choice. We often call it our “rational side.”

We primarily rely on System 1 to make most of our decisions. The good news is that our gut reactions are right most of the time. But it is inadequate for making decisions that require a lot of thought and energy, which is where System 2 comes in. In addition to being inadequate for making complex decisions, the problem with System 1 is that it often leads us astray—and wildly so—which can get us into all sorts of trouble. 

The reason it leads us astray is that it relies on heuristics, what we often call “rules of thumb.” These rules of thumb give us a starting point from which to base our decisions. The problem is that these rules of thumb are often wholly inadequate for helping us make sound decisions because, while they help us arrive at good decisions much of the time, they can bias our thinking in ways that lead to poor decisions in many instances.

One of the heuristics System 1 employs that biases our decision-making is called the framing effect. Our decisions are influenced by the way in which decisions are presented. Here’s a great example from Kahneman’s book: 

  • Researchers presented doctors with statistics about outcomes for cancer treatment in two different ways—survival rates and mortality rates—and asked them whether they would recommend surgery or radiation as the course of treatment. Specifically: the 1-month survival rate of surgery is 90 percent vs. there is a 10 percent mortality rate in the first month after surgery. Despite the fact that the data are exactly the same, just presented or framed differently, a much higher percentage of doctors selected surgery when framed from a survival than mortality perspective. Why? Because even among people trained to treat cancer, mortality is viewed as bad and survival as good. Survival sounds encouraging while mortality is defeating.

Think about your own life for a moment. If you were given a diagnosis of cancer and presented with treatment options, would you rather the doctor talk about your chances of survival or death?

The point is we’re all subject to biases. The fact that I picked this research to write about is in part influenced by another heuristic called the availability bias. In the past year, I’ve read no less than 3 books on biases!

For the purposes of this paper, framing involves how practitioners present fathers with choices related to being an involved, responsible, committed father, regardless of context (e.g. one-on-one case management or in a group-based program) or topic (e.g. discipline, co-parenting, and child support). Before you read another sentence after this one, take a few minutes to reflect on how you present fathers with choices and write them down.

Chances are you present them with several or many choices to choose from. And each of the choices you present are ones that you’d be fine with them choosing. You might, for example, provide them with several choices for how they can do fun things with their children that they might not have thought about before and ask them to commit to doing one or more of them within a specific time frame. Fair enough. But did you also provide them with the choice to do none of them and maintain the status quo? I doubt it. After all, why in the heck would you want to give fathers an option to do nothing? Wouldn’t that make you a bad practitioner?

To answer those questions, let’s turn to research conducted by Dr. Rom Schrift and Dr. Jeffrey Parker on whether presenting people with a no choice option along with other choices makes any difference in how committed or persistent people are in sticking with their choices (not the no choice option). The results are especially important in working with fathers because one of your primary objectives for fathers should be that they are persistent (committed) in sticking with being an involved, committed, responsible father, generally, and implementing certain behaviors, specifically. Persistence is vital to fathers, particularly those who face challenging barriers to involvement in the lives of their children.

Although these researchers don’t mention framing specifically, their research is all about framing. [2] Using a variety of experiments that addressed different behaviors, they found that offering a no choice option alongside other healthy or pro-social options increased the persistence of participants in sticking to the choices they made compared to participants who were given the same choices but without a no choice option. They found it critical that the no choice option was presented up front with all of the other choices, not before and not after the other choices.

Rules for Application
Use this simple and powerful framing effect to encourage persistence in fathers, particularly in those who face adversity. Here are two simple rules to follow when presenting dads with options on how to be an involved, responsible, committed father in any setting (e.g. one-on-one case management) and on any topic (e.g. discipline, co-parenting, and child support).

  • Rule #1: Ensure that the no choice option is viable, even though it’s not desirable. If a father happens to choose that option, it must not violate a legal agreement, for example, and not result in harm to the father or anyone else.
  • Rule #2: Always present the no choice option alongside other options, not before or after.

Regardless of how you apply the framing effect, approach your effort as an experiment. Keep track of what works with fathers in general and with specific kinds of fathers (e.g. custodial and non-custodial) so that you can apply what works in future work with fathers one-on-one or in groups, and avoid what doesn’t work. And last but not least, share your results with NFI at info@fatherhood.org so that we can improve future versions of this guide. 

Resources 
As you apply the framing effect to increase fathers’ persistence in following through on their choices, consider reading the article on Shrift’s and Parker’s research and the books Thinking, Fast and Slow and Nudge

Get the full PDF version of this study today!



Don’t forget to look for more posts and reference guides with post 1 and post 2 in this series!
 

[1] Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

[2] Interestingly and ironically, they use the term “choice architecture” when referring to how they presented choices. That term was coined by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein in Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness (2008). I used the research in their book as part of the basis for the first paper in this series.

Why Horseplay is Vital for Your Kids

This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

When my daughters were toddlers and preschoolers, I played a game with them called "Attack Baby." I'd lie on the floor and let them run at and jump on me. They'd scream at the top of their lungs as they ran toward me. Right after or right before they landed on me, I'd pick them up and throw them to either side of me. (Don't be appalled. I gently laid them on the ground so they'd roll safely across the floor.) Every once in a while, I'd include a tickle or two before I discarded them to either side of me. As I did so, the attacking screams turned to joyful laughter.

why-horseplay-is-vital-for-your-kidsThe objectives of the game for them were to have fun and do as much damage to their dad as possible. My objectives were to help them learn the joy of physical play and how to play and not hurt someone in the process (i.e. learn emotional self-regulation). They sometimes lost control, particularly when they'd gang up on me. My youngest, in particular, would sometimes launch herself feet first and try to pound on my chest or head. Whenever they got out of control and became too physical, I stopped the game and explained that they needed to regain control or that session of Attack Baby was over. As time went by, they learned how to control themselves more consistently and still have a blast. To this day, some 15 years later, they remember Attack Baby with fondness and tell new friends, when describing their relationship with me, how much they enjoyed it.

In the Art of Roughhousing, Dr. Anthony T. DeBenedet and Dr. Lawrence J. Cohen reveal the benefits of horseplay (rough-and-tumble play), such as how it develops close connections between parents and children, helps solve children's behavior problems, and boosts children's confidence.

Roughhousing is interactive, so it builds close connections between children and parents, especially as we get down on the floor and join them in their world of exuberance and imagination. Most important, roughhousing is rowdy, but not dangerous. With safety in mind, roughhousing releases the creative life force within each person, pushing us out of our inhibitions and inflexibilities... Play -- especially active physical play, like roughhousing -- makes kids smart, emotionally intelligent, lovable and likeable, ethical, physically fit, and joyful... Roughhousing activates many different parts of the body and the brain, from the amygdalae, which process emotions, and the cerebellum, which handles complex motor skills, to the prefrontal cortex, which makes high-level judgments. The result is that every roughhousing playtime is beneficial for body and brain as well as for the loftiest levels of the human spirit: honor, integrity, morality, kindness, and cooperation.

Unfortunately, this art is becoming a lost one as video games and other technology-based activities play an ever-increasing role in children's lives. Moreover, other changes in children's environments that facilitate horseplay have faded or disappeared, such as schools reducing or eliminating recess and physical education.

But another truly unfortunate factor in this development is the hyper-focus of so many parents today on their children's safety, a focus that negatively impacts their daily interactions with their children.

Sadly, among many of today's families, roughhousing barely limps along on life support. What was once a motto of Safety First has evolved into a fretful new motto of Safety Only. Many parents are more frightened by skinned knees and bruised feelings than life's real dangers: stifled creativity and listless apathy.

This hyper-focus on children's safety is an outgrowth of how parents today over-protect and over-schedule their children's lives. So it's not surprising that children's playtime has, as the authors point out, become "adult-organized, adult-refereed, and adult-structured." Parenting as protection has taken on huge significance despite the fact that the world of today is no more dangerous than in the past. In fact, it's safer for children. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics show that the death rates for children caused by unintentional injuries (e.g. vehicle-related, drowning, and fires) and murder were lower in 2010 compared to 2002. The reduction in deaths of 32 percent from unintentional injuries is staggering! Also staggering is the reduction in murders over an even longer time period. Among teens 15-19, for example, the reduction was 63 percent between 1993 and 2012 and was, in 2012, at its lowest level since before 1970.

I'm not arguing that parents shouldn't be concerned for their children's safety. Situational safety has its place. Being chronically concerned about children's safety does not. Children will get hurt. Bruises, abrasions and broken bones are a natural part of childhood. Parents shouldn't be so concerned about safety that they don't allow their children to be, well, children. Children are wired for horseplay with their parents and other children. It's one of the ways they learn about their world, how to appropriately interact with others, and to have fun. So by all means, enjoy playing a little roughly with your children on a regular basis, and get off the hyper-safety bandwagon.

When is the last time you spent time on the floor playing with your kids?

This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

The Father Factor Blog: News, tips, and tools for dads and those helping dads.

Search Our Blog

Topics