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The Father Factor

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Tim Red

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Expectant Deployed Dads: Not Getting What They Need?

How many times has this scenario played out over the last 11 ½ years since 9/11?

A wife (that is several months pregnant) kisses her husband goodbye as he prepares to board a plane for his year-long deployment to fight the war.

Military Dad and Baby

The term countless comes to my mind. And think about what is going on in that expectant deployed dad's head as he is serving around the world. One must ask whether his concerns/uncertainties/lack of knowledge as an expectant Father will impact his ability to conduct his mission?

A friend told me a story about a Facebook conversation between a deployed expectant Marine Dad, and his expectant wife back home (there were several of these conversations over a period of days). He was questioning her about doctor visits and why she had not informed him of the latest updates. In turn, he stated that he was frustrated because he could not help her and he did not know what to do. Bear in mind, these conversations were occurring in afternoon/early evening and there is a 10 ½ hour time difference between here and Afghanistan. After the call, not only did he become upset and frustrated, he will now be losing sleep over it too! Consequently, how ready is he now for the patrol he is going on the next morning? He's certainly not as ready as he should be because his mind is pre-occupied and his lack of rest. This has an immense impact on his ability to conduct his mission.

So how can you help an expectant deployed dad?

Most of these young men do take a personal laptop with them when they are deployed. Imagine turning around the above scenorio by providing him with fatherhood skill-building resources in advance of his deployment like When Duct Tape Wont Work, a self-paced CD-ROM that gives new dads the information and skills they need to care for their infant or toddler? He can use this resource on his own time to learn answers to his questions. And he can prepare himself, on his own time, so that he will be ready to care for his infant/toddler upon his return.

I had another young Marine Dad at Camp Pendleton tell me that he did not interact with his new baby for two months after he returned from his deployment. When I asked him why, he said that he was dealing with his own struggles and he knew that baby had all it needed right now – its Mother. But perhaps this was also because he was unsure about how to care for the baby, or that he did not understand how vitally important his role is in the life of that child? He could have taken the 24/7 Dad® Interactive CD-ROM with him while he was deployed and learned about Fathering at his own pace. I dare say, he would have had a different perspective about his role and value as a Father upon his return. And probably would have been more inclined to interact immediately with his new baby.

So let’s revisit the scenario I presented at the beginning to start this discussion, but with an addition:

A wife (that is several months pregnant) kisses her husband goodbye as he prepares to board a plane for his year-long deployment to fight the war.

Husband deploys with two fatherhood skill-building resources in his pocket: New Dad's Pocket Guide™ and Help Me Grow: The First Year? Now he would be able to engage in informed discussions with his wife about their new baby and he could ask informed questions about the growth/development of their child.

The more information we can provide to our military fathers prior to deployment, or even during deployment, the more likely they are to be less distracted by their uncertainties/frustration/lack of knowledge while away. Consequently, they are able to focus on their mission while away, and will be better equipped to be involved, responsible and committed Fathers upon their return.

Be sure to check out one of NFI's newest resources mentioned above, Help Me Grow Guides!

6 Protective Factors All Dads can Apply

The Department of Defense recently produced new instructions about the New Parent Support Program addressing six Protective Factors.

Military Community & Family Policy eMagazine introduced these six factors by emphasizing that "Becoming a parent is a major life change. No matter how many books you've read, videos you've seen, or classes you've taken in preparation for your baby, you may still have an unanswered question or two. Parenting challenges may be intensified within the military community with periods of separation, deployment, reunion, and relocation."

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For each of the six factors below, we have highlighted NFI resources that will not only assist military dads, but dads everywhere:

1) Nurturing and attachmentNurturing and bonding with your child from an early age can foster a positive relationship, and it may also set your child up for healthy relationships outside of the home.

2) Knowledge of parenting and child and youth developmentWhen you have a clear understanding of your child's developmental stages, you can use realistic communication, education, and positive discipline techniques.

3) Parental resilienceStress may be inevitable, but you can control how you react to stressful circumstances. Building resilience means building trusting relationships and finding healthy ways to reduce stress.

4) Social connectionsFriends, family, neighbors, and other connections in the community can give you healthy outlets for communication, and they may offer emotional support and help in stressful situations.

5) Concrete support for parentsWhen you have a problem that requires outside support, it is important to know where to find help. In the military community, you can reach out to your installation's NPSP for support and guidance.

To find contact information for your local resources, visit MilitaryINSTALLATIONS and select "New Parent Support Program" from the dropdown "program or service" box. 

  • Look for New Parent Support Programs and other departments in the military community which offer 24/7 Dad® and/or DoctorDad® programs.

6) Social and emotional competence of childrenUnderstanding your child's development can help you identify social and behavioral issues that, when identified early, can spare your family additional stress.

Together, these protective factors and NFI resources can help ease the challenge of preparing for your baby.

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

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