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Happy Holidays from NFI and The 12 Dads of Christmas!

Happy Holidays from our famlies to yours! We've had a great time sharing stories of our most memorable holidays from across the entire nation. We hope you're taking time to enjoy your famliy and create more memories worth writing about! 

The 12 Dads of ChristmasFind our "12 Dads of Christmas" below and enjoy your holiday. Merry Christmas!

Dad 1: Jeff Land, A Generous Christmas:
“Christmas won’t be as big this year,” my mom’s constant reminder rung out in my mind. She and my dad were terribly afraid my brothers and I would be disappointed. She daily reminded us that this year was going to be different... Read more.

Dad 2: Ricky Choi, Holidays at the Hospital:
As a resident physician I spent a Christmas holiday working in the hospital. Because illness and accidents didn’t take a break during the holidays, someone on the physician staff couldn’t either. But I didn’t mind... Read more.

Dad 3: Madison Cowan, Christmas Every Day:
Christmastime for most of us is full on with memories. Whether of religious observances or the thought of gathering with loved ones to share cheer and compliments of the season. I recall as a child the magic of the holidays: playing in the snow, picking out a tree, the joy brought on by an original Marx Rock`em Sock`em Robots game, or the tantalizing aroma of Christmas lunch wafting throughout the house... Read more.

Dad 4: Chris Read, A Canadian Dad's Christmas Story:
If I HAD to pick memorable moments, that I can remember at least, a couple come to mind. The first involves my father and my uncle, who decided to give us kids a Christmas treat by setting up an elaborate scene for us. They set it up so that we all thought Santa had visited while we were there for our annual Christmas dinner. They had set up reindeer prints outside and even created a loud thud on the roof to make us think Santa was there... Read more.

Dad 5: John Wilke, Church, Chocolate and Charlie Brown: How One Dad Makes Christmas Bright:
For many children, the Christmas season is the most special time of year. In their little minds, the holidays brings new toys, candy, cakes, time off from school, parents possibly off from work and maybe even playing in the snow... Read more.

Dad 6: Dave Taylor, Creating Holiday Memories:
I'll be honest. My parents weren't really into holidays, either for themselves or for us kids. We celebrated some American holidays, but as newly minted Americans (I was born in England and didn't become a US citizen until I was 16) a lot of those holidays seemed less than vital. Then there were birthdays, which just weren't much of a big deal, with frankly uninspired present exchanges. Finally, we also celebrated the main Jewish holidays (Passover, Hannukah) but, again, not with great zeal and enthusiasm... Read more.

Dad 7: Jason Bruce, Slowing Down Makes Christmas Memorable:
The Christmas season becomes more hectic as one becomes an adult and a parent. That’s why memories of my childhood always come to my mind first when I reflect on my most memorable Christmases... Read more.

Dad 8: Scott Behson, An Involved Father Shares What's Better Than Being Santa:
Like virtually every child, I LOVED Christmas, especially when I was young enough to believe in Santa. After growing up, Christmas is still special, but it is no longer magic. That is, until you have kids and can now pass the magic along to them- and even better YOU get to be Santa. As a dad, it is never more true than during Christmas that it is better to give than to receive... Read more.

Dad 9: Tim Red, NFI Staff Share Their Favorite Holiday Traditions:
One of my most memorable Christmases as a Dad was held on Thanksgiving in 2005 because two days later I was deploying for a year and would miss Christmas with my Family... Read more.

Dad 10: Erik Vecere, NFI Staff Share Their Favorite Holiday Traditions:
One of the Christmases that I still laugh about occurred when I was boy back in the early 1980’s. I was so excited to get one of those football fields that you placed the little football players on and plugged it in... Read more.

Dad 11: Chris Delgado, First Comes Pizza, Then Comes Proposal: The Christmas She Said "Yes!":
My favorite Christmas marked a transition and a new meaning in my life. It was the year 2001 and this is when I proposed to my girlfriend who is now my wife... Read more.

Dad 12: Dave Sniadak, Reflecting on Christmas Past, Present:
For me, Christmas was always a magical time of year. Where I lived growing up, we almost always had snow - lots of it - but not bitter biting, freeze your nose off cold that kept you locked up in the house. I would spend hours rolling snowmen and exploring the backwoods behind our house, checking for tracks and remnants of elves sneaking around the yard. And while I never went into the holiday season with a set expectation of what I'd get from Santa, he certainly never disappointed... Read more.

The 12 Dads of ChristmasWhat have you enjoyed most from this holiday season and our 12 Dads of Christmas?

Continue connecting with us by sharing your most memorable holiday. You can record a video, share a picture, or post a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor. Use #12DadsofXmas so we see your message!

A Generous Christmas

This is a guest post by Jeff Land. Jeff is Editorial Project Leader for LifeWay Kids. He is married with four children and lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Find Jeff's personal blog at LandLife, follow him on Twitter @JeffLand and Facebook. He writes this post for NFI's "The 12 Dads of Christmas." If you are interested in guest blogging for us, send an email.

christmas giftChristmas wont be as big this year, my moms constant reminder rung out in my mind. She and my dad were terribly afraid my brothers and I would be disappointed. She daily reminded us that this year was going to be different.

It was Fall in Mississippi, just before Thanksgiving break and I was in eighth grade. My big brother Trae picked me up from school and told me that we had to go to Jackson to the hospital. We picked up my little brother, Bobby, and then Trae explained to us that our Dad had to have open-heart surgery. We were scared, but didn’t quite understand the severity of the situation. Trae was very worried. He was the only one that really understood how serious my dad’s condition was. 

Dad came through the quadruple by-pass surgery just fine. He was recovering well, but in the midst of his sickness, he also lost his job. Our family of five was surviving on my mom’s schoolteacher salary. Because my parents had always given us huge Christmases, my mom felt the constant need to remind us that this year would be small.

Christmas morning came and we opened our presents. I honestly don’t think I noticed we had fewer than normal. I was just really thankful for the opportunity God had given us to keep our dad here on earth! We were headed out to my grandparents’ house for breakfast when I noticed a huge box on our porch. 

I yelled for my brothers and we opened the box. Inside was a new Sega™. Still more, our secret Santa had chosen specific gifts for my brothers and me. I got a new “ornament” for my prized aquarium. I don’t know if my parents ever knew who brought those gifts on Christmas Eve but I certainly know we were impressed by the generosity. 

Ive had so many great Christmases over the years, but this one has always stood out as pivotal. It was the Christmas that we were all together and things could have been so different. It was also the year that a generous friend took a few extra steps to make sure the Land boys had an amazing Christmas. 

What's your most memorable Christmas and why?

Join in and share your most memorable holiday by recording a video, sharing a picture, or posting a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

photo credit: allerleirau

Holidays at the Hospital

This is a guest post by Dr. Ricky Choi. Choi is a pediatrician and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He serves on the Board of Directors for the National Physicians Alliance and is a national leader of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and two children. Find him at The Huffington Post and on his blogHe writes this post for NFI's "The 12 Dads of Christmas." If you are interested in guest blogging for us, send an email.

Christmas Memories
xmasnewbornAs a resident physician I spent a Christmas holiday working in the hospital. Because illness and accidents didn’t take a break during the holidays, someone on the physician staff couldn’t either. But I didn’t mind.

One of the many reasons I chose pediatrics as a specialty was the value staff placed on those things that were important to children. And for most kids, Christmas is a big deal. Though the inpatient unit was typically busy during the winter the pediatric staff made every effort to get kids home for Christmas -even if it only meant returning to the hospital 24 hours later.

So the few days before the big day were filled with commotion and hustle in the air. Some of the children required significant accommodations to make sure that they were safe to go home.

My arrival on the pediatric floor Christmas morning was met with silence. Piled high in front of the nurses station were wrapped presents donated by the local fireman which arrived after the mass exodus. Gone was the chorus of monitors beeping and mobs of staff rushing from room to room. The ward was, however, not completely empty.

Scattered throughout the ward were a handful of children who had stayed behind. The children with cancer needed their daily chemo or were too immunologically defenseless to go home. Having endured so much pain and hardship from their illness and the brutal treatment they seemed especially deserving of a holiday. Their families were there bright and smiling, desperate for something to celebrate. They savored each moment knowing that the only Christmas they were certain to have together was that day. The eery quiet in the ward made the laughter seem louder, the wrapping paper shinier, and the celebrations that much more festive. It was a day those children dearly deserved and their parents hoped to never forget. 

New Traditions
After my eldest daughter turned 3 years old, I began taking her to newborn hospital rounds on Christmas morning. After the gifts were opened and the late breakfast eaten we gathered our things, me with my stethoscope, she with her colorful toy doctor’s kit. Then we hopped into the car with the hopes of seeing a Christmas baby at the newborn nursery.

During the ride we talked about caring for babies: washing hands and gentle touching. I described the joy that this family must be feeling to have such a special gift during the holidays. I recalled the immense joy I felt when she was born only a few years before.

This new tradition is a chance for my daughter to build a sense of connectedness with the lives of others. The most amazing part of being a physician is the privilege to be a part of peoples lives at the most meaningful of moments. Hopefully my children too will make caring for others inform their life choices. I can’t think of a better way to plant this seed than bringing her to a celebration for a new life on Christmas morning.

What's your most memorable Christmas and why?

Join in and share your most memorable holiday by recording a video, sharing a picture, or posting a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

photo credit: brooklyn

Christmas Every Day with Chef Madison Cowan

This is a guest post by Chef Madison Cowan. Madison is a dad, husband, CEO of Madison Cowan LLC, author, producer, Food Network's Iron Chef America & Chopped Grand Champion. Find him at Madison Cowan, follow him on Twitter @Madisons_Ave and on Facebook. He writes this post for NFI's "The 12 Dads of Christmas." If you are interested in guest blogging for us, send an email.

madison cowanChristmastime for most of us is full on with memories. Whether of religious observances or the thought of gathering with loved ones to share cheer and compliments of the season. I recall as a child the magic of the holidays: playing in the snow, picking out a tree, the joy brought on by an original Marx Rock`em Sock`em Robots game, or the tantalizing aroma of Christmas lunch wafting throughout the house.

These are just a few traditions I’ve held onto and now share with my own family. It is equally important we not forget all those less fortunate children and families, struggling daily to make ends meet or put food on the table, or who won’t have a Christmas…again. From the age of 2 I’ve exposed my daughter to a life of volunteering and service to others as the spirit of giving extends well beyond this time of year.  

That said, one of my favourite holiday memories is making a large batch of my mum’s 7UP pound cake with my daughter a few years back to donate to a food pantry in London. Buttery, crunchy topping and feather light texture, her secret was to weigh or measure the flour again after sifting then mix everything together at once. Swans Down cake flour, a vintage metal crank sifter and an egg cracking munchkin evoked warmth of Christmases past.

The power is in the present moment, so pop in that Rudolph or Frosty DVD, put on Nat King Cole’s "The Christmas Song" and get stuck in creating new traditions with your lil’ ones…this Christmas and always.  

Jean Bean’s 7UP Pound Cake
 
Unbleached cake flour 3 cups, sifted
Unrefined cane sugar 2 cups
Unsalted butter 1 lb., softened at room temperature
Eggs 6, room temperature
Pure vanilla extract 1 tsp.
Lemon extract 2 tsp.
7up lemon soda ¾ cup, room temperature   

Heat the oven to 375F. Place the flour into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Add the remaining ingredients and blend with an electric hand mixer until smooth. DO NOT OVERMIX.  

Butter and lightly dust with flour a fluted cake tin or 2 to 3 loaf tins. Carefully pour the mixture into the tins as not to pack tight and bake mid-oven for 1 hour 15 minutes or until golden brown and an inserted table knife comes out clean.  

Another tip is to keep the oven door closed and check doneness only after the first 50 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes and remove from tins. Serve simply with fresh seasonal fruit or berries, whipped cream or icing sugar. Serves 12 to 15    

12 dadasWhat family recipe makes the holiday special for you?

Join in and share your most memorable holiday by recording a video, sharing a picture, or posting a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

Video: Is a father factor at play in the Newtown school shooting?

In case you missed it, Vince DiCaro was interviewed on Fox News discussing our recent blog on the father factor and its possible role in the Sandy Hook School shootings.

Parents: watch the interview and tell us; what should be done to prevent these tragedies?

Connect with The Father Factor on Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

A Canadian Dad’s Christmas Story

This is a guest post by Chris Read. Chris is father to two young children. Read his blog, Canadian Dad, and follow him on Twitter @CanadianDadBlog, or on his Facebook PageHe writes this post for NFI's "The 12 Dads of Christmas." If you are interested in guest blogging for us, send an email.

12 dadsIf I HAD to pick memorable moments, that I can remember at least, a couple come to mind. The first involves my father and my uncle, who decided to give us kids a Christmas treat by setting up an elaborate scene for us. They set it up so that we all thought Santa had visited while we were there for our annual Christmas dinner. They had set up reindeer prints outside and even created a loud thud on the roof to make us think Santa was there. To this day I have no idea how they did that but we were very excited about all of it and looking back, I really appreciate the effort they put into it. 

The other Christmas memory I have is of my father. Every year, we had a tradition of going for a family walk. We’d bundle up, drive to the local trail and walk for about an hour or so. As my brother and I got older, it became more of a forced walk than a voluntary one but we’d always end up going. It wasn’t until my father passed away, that I truly understood the importance of this yearly ritual; and it wasn’t a year later, when I had kids of my own, that I really understood the significance of the walks, to my father. I’m glad I never said no to his requests for a family walk but I wish I had shown a little more enthusiasm, in retrospect.

As far as my young family goes, with our kids being 2 and 4, we are still trying to carve out our holiday traditions. We have an Elf on the Shelf named Zerby and a 5 year old fake tree without a name, because naming it feels weird. We try to visit Santa at least once a Christmas season, we love going tobogganing and we have cheesy ornaments for our tree that we let the kids put wherever they want. 

I don’t know what the future will bring as far as family Christmas traditions but the one thing I am sure of, is that our Christmas Day walk will be the one that will always be there.

What's the one thing, like Chris' Christmas Day walk, that you must have in order to enjoy a bright holiday?

Join in and share your most memorable holiday by recording a video, sharing a picture, or posting a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

photo credit: Marc Lagneau

Is the Sandy Hook Shooting Another Crime of Fatherlessness?

In the wake of the horrific tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, our nation is collectively mourning and trying to figure out how something this terrible could happen. While it is not our job at NFI to figure out how to solve issues around gun control and mental health treatment, we would be remiss not to point out that once again, like in so many tragedies of this nature, there appears to be a significant “father factor” at play.

sandy hook

As we learn more and more about the troubled life of shooter Adam Lanza, it appears that the divorce of his parents had a significant, negative impact on his life.  

It is becoming clear that Adam Lanza suffered from some sort of emotional or psychological disorder that has not yet been specified. It also appears that this mental disorder contributed significantly to the heinous crime he committed. However, we know from research that children from father-absent homes are more likely to have emotional problems and are also more likely to commit crimes.According to this news article, he took the divorce especially hard – “The break up was traumatic, leaving the couple's sons devastated.” His father, Peter Lanza, had moved out and remarried in 2009; and although he had legal access to his child, he had not seen him in 6 months. In other words, there were no legal barriers preventing him from seeing his child, but he had not seen him since June. Adam Lanza was not alone in this – fully one third of children from father-absent homes never see their dads, and another third only see them once per month*. 

This blog has written several times about the father factor in mass murders (the Aurora shooting, the D.C. sniper, and Chardon High School, the Norway terrorist, and Tucson), and the patterns we see in each and every one of these cases is eerily similar. 

Had Peter Lanza been more involved in his son’s life -- helping him deal with the mental anguish it appears he was going through -- would things have turned out differently? Sadly, we will never know.

For now, all we can do is mourn with the families who were affected by this tragedy and start to work together to devise solutions that will reduce the likelihood of this sort of tragedy happening again. And certainly, part of the solution needs to be to ensure that all children have involved, responsible, and committed fathers in their lives who can help them navigate a difficult world, one that is especially difficult for the mentally ill.

*See: 

  • Stewart, Susan D. “Nonresident Parenting and Adolescent Adjustment: The Quality of Nonresident Father-Child Interaction.” Journal of Family Issues, 24 (March 2003): 217-244 
  • Aquilino, W.S. (2006). The noncustodial father-child relationship from adolescence into young adulthood. Journal of Marriage and Family, 68, 929-946

    photo credit: Rickydavid

Church, Chocolate & Charlie Brown: How One Dad Makes Christmas Bright

This is a guest post by Jon D. Wilke. Jon is the media relations manager for a major religious non-profit organization and a former U.S. Marine. He is a married father of two young daughters. Follow his blog at jonwilke.worpress.com or on Twitter at @jon_wilkeHe writes this post for NFI's "The 12 Dads of Christmas." If you are interested in writing for us, send an email.

12 Dads of ChristmasFor many children, the Christmas season is the most special time of year. In their little minds, the holidays brings new toys, candy, cakes, time off from school, parents possibly off from work and maybe even playing in the snow.

As Dads, this is our time of the year to shine. We can make lifelong memories, set family traditions and provide eternal perspective on this treasured time.

A few years ago, I read an article by a prominent Christian pastor that challenged me to become intentional about Christmas and not be a passive spectator. It challenged me to take charge of my family’s celebration and holiday schedule, set priorities and limits and focus on giving my time, my efforts and my love.

Last year, my wife and I started an Advent tradition that some call “The Jesse Tree.” Every night between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, we gather our family around a small tree where I read or tell a short story from Scripture relating to the birth of Jesus. My oldest daughter gets excited, because every night she gets to hang a new ornament on this little tree. We end with a short prayer that’s connected to the Scripture and the ornament.

All this may sound costly, but our tree was about $15, and my wife printed paper ornaments from the Internet and laminated them. There are numerous guides online as well. While this may sound boring and rote, it’s simple. This 3-5 minutes a night routine has become the core of our Christmas celebration.

My kids will never forget the next tradition. On Christmas morning, after opening gifts and having playtime, we eat birthday cake for breakfast and sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. While we eat, we listen to a short reading of the Christmas story from the Bible. We talk about what happened in the story and reflect on the gifts given to the baby by the wisemen.

 Other family traditions include:

• Driving my family around looking at Christmas lights.

• Watching classic Christmas movies like “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and "Charlie Brown."

• Drinking lots of hot chocolate.

• Taking my family to church.

• Giving back to community and global needs.

• Helping decorate without grumbling.

Many of the ideas above come from various places. My kids and wife don’t care where I got the ideas nor the motivation—they care about Christmas because I care about Christmas.

There’s more peace and joy in our house, my wife smiles more and my children are beginning to understand Christmas for what it really is.

Join in and share your most memorable holiday by recording a video, sharing a picture, or posting a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

 

NFI's Community Mobilization Approach Workshop

This is a guest blog from NFI Senior Program Support Consultant, Ave Mulhern

describe the image

Capacity-building is the way in which organizations build up their staff and organizational capacity to successfully run programs.

When is comes to training and serving fathers in your community, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) wants your fatherhood program to be the best it can be, and reach as many dads as possible. That's why capacity-building is so important and will help your fatherhood program succeed, thrive, and effectively serve fathers.

To that end, please join us for NFI's Community Mobilization Approach Workshop in Germantown, MD on January 30, 2012 where you will learn how your organization can create lasting change in your community by working to engage all sectors of society to increase the number of children who grow up with involved, responsible fathers. 

Hear from Ave Mulhern, NFI's Sr. Program Support Consultant, about NFI's work with numerous organizations in the over the years to successfully mobilize communities around responsible fatherhood. 

During this workshop you will learn about: 

• How to raise up new fatherhood champions that represent all sectors of your community

• A needs and assets assessment process you can use to jumpstart a community-wide fatherhood initiative 

• Other cities, counties, and states that have successfully implemented the Community Mobilization Approach

We look forward to you dedicating your time with us!

Click Here to Learn More and Register for Our Upcoming Capacity Building Workshop>>

The Connection Campaign: Troy and Xavier’s Inspiring Story

fatherhood connection troy and xavierRegular readers of The Father Factor know that this blog is a great source of helpful tips for dads and funny/inspiring stories from fathers and dadbloggers about their experiences in fathering. 

But perhaps you’ve wondered what else National Fatherhood Initiative does to fulfill our mission of improving child well-being by increasing the proportion of children who grow up with involved, responsible, and committed children.

Since 2004, NFI has distributed 6.3 million fatherhood resources to dads to help them be the best dads they can be. Troy is one of those dads. His story of connection with his son Xavier, despite the challenges of incarceration and loss, is an inspiration to those of us who work here at NFI. We hope it inspires and encourages you, too.

The story below is reprinted from NFI’s Executive Quarterly newsletter. Please consider supporting NFI financially with a gift of $25, $50, $100 or more to help us reach more dads and kids like Troy and Xavier.  

Troy Gaines knows firsthand the pain of wondering why his dad didn’t care enough about him to be part of his life. But thanks to NFI – and the support of people like you – his son Xavier doesn’t have to ask those questions.

“My father, as far as I was concerned, didn’t have any kind of role.” Troy’s dad never said anything of substance to him, offer guidance, or even show up to watch Troy’s football games. Troy felt like he had done something wrong to make his father not want to see him. The pain made him want to lash out. 

Troy looked for other people to fill that void and teach him things about life. Unfortunately, the people he turned to were the guys in his neighborhood who were doing “all the bad stuff.” Eventually, Troy ended up in prison.

One week prior to landing in prison, Troy became a father to Xavier. “I remember thinking that Xavier would feel the same way about me as I felt about my father. I’m not going to be able to connect with him and show him the path to growing as a man.”

One day, some men looking for drugs came to the wrong house and shot and killed Troy’s girlfriend, the mother of Xavier. This tragic event was a pivotal moment in changing Troy’s outlook on life. “I had to make a serious, serious change in me, my mind, the way I did things, and the way I presented myself to my community. I didn’t have all the answers and I needed to go to someone or go somewhere where I could find some guidance on fatherhood and being a better man.” 

Thankfully, his facility offered National Fatherhood Initiative’s InsideOut Dad® program. InsideOut Dad® gave Troy the inspiration to make a better life for himself and the skills to connect with his son. Troy is now committed to being an involved, responsible, and committed dad. He helps Xavier with homework and goes to his football practices – the very things he craved so much from his dad.

“The [National] Fatherhood Initiative program helped me realize that you have to make some changes in your life because what you’re doing is going to affect your boy. Kids do exactly what they see their parents do. If I didn’t straighten up how I did, he would probably follow in my footsteps because he wanted to be like me. I tell my son at least five times a day that I love him. We love each other. I think he understands and believes that my focus is to be the best man in this world that I can.”

The positive impact that Troy is making in his son’s life is obvious. Xavier told us, “With my dad at my games, I feel better and I care more. I love him a lot because he is a very good dad.  If you make a mistake, he’ll make you keep going and going and… make you lift your head up. My dad loves me and would do anything for me.”

These kinds of changes are only possible because of the financial support of people like you. NFI depends on the generosity of donors to make our programs available to dads like Troy. Ultimately, it’s kids like Xavier who really reap the benefits of your support. Please donate today to help us give more kids like Xavier a brighter future.

A Macaroni Dad’s Hanukkah

This is a guest post from Eric Cohen. Eric is the Co-Founder of Macaroni Kid. He lives in Southampton, New York with his wife and two kids. Follow the Chief Dad at Macaroni Kid on Twitter @MacaroniDad. If you are interested in writing for us, send an email.

hanukkah menorahAs a kid, Hanukkah was my favorite holiday. Of course the presents played a big part of it, but what made it really special to me was how for eight nights in a row, my dad was home to share dinner and the festivities. Most of us who are now fathers grew up in a time when dad was the breadwinner and worked long hours, and mom was home with the kids. Family dinners were reserved for Sunday nights.

But Hanukkah was a special time. Work for my dad eased off and he made it a priority to spend time with us. Sometimes we’d take a family vacation. I celebrated Hanukkah under palm trees in the tropics and at a ski lodge in Vermont. My parents would pack the presents, menorah and candles and we’d have Hanukkah “to go”.

With my own kids, I want to ensure that what they remember most is the time we spend together around the holiday, not the new iPod, Barbie or video game. So we have a few traditions of our own that put the emphasis on family.

We do this by “theming” several of the nights of Hanukkah. One night is always “book night” where we exchange books as gifts. Each child gets a book or two, and my wife and I exchange books as presents. This is a nice way to share the gift of reading and remind our kids how important reading is.

Another night of Hanukkah we declare as “sock night” where everyone in the family gets socks. Gym socks, dress socks, ski socks and more have made appearances on sock night. As much as this is something we need, it reminds our kids that not every present has to be about fun and games, and the important thing is being together. We probably laugh more on sock night than any other night.

The next themed night we have is “trip night.” Prior to Hanukkah, my wife and I plan a family trip sometime in the new year, and on trip night we share where we are going with the kids. It’s a way of extending Hanukkah and promising more family memories.

The last themed night and maybe the most important one is “charity night”. On charity night we give the children each a budget and package of information about non-profits that we feel will interest them. Then they pick which one they’d like to donate to. One year, they gave a goat and two chickens to a family in Africa. Last year my son selected Doctors without Borders and my daughter the World Wildlife Fund.

The other four nights are devoted to typical presents and Hanukkah fun. But we have seen that the true joy of Hanukkah is spending time together and celebrating our family.

Question: What's the one thing that makes the holiday season special for you?

Join in and share your most memorable holiday by recording a video, sharing a picture, or posting a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

photo credit: oskay

5 Ways To Say Thanks By Giving

We're finishing up our "Thanks, Dad!" campaign this week. Through November, we’ve given you tips and advise for raising a thankful childshowing thankfulness in your home, creating a memorable Thanksgiving and now we want your family to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness that continues beyond the Thanksgiving holiday!

One of the best ways to express thankfulness is to give to others! Check out our five ways of saying thanks through giving and be intentional about teaching and modeling these ideas with your kids today.

give

  1. Give Your Time: Whether it's volunteering at the local homeless shelter, participating in a community clean-up day or taking an hour to make cookies for your neighbors, investing time to help or encourage others is a great way to cultivate a thankful attitude or to say thanks to those who have helped you. When you take time to get your kids involved in the process, they will have fun and you will connect as a family as well! It's important that you explain to our child what and why are you giving your time to help others. You can explain in more detail depending on the age of your child. The point here is to not only give, but to teach your child about giving in the process.
     
  2. Give Your Talents: If your kids have musical or singing talent, nursing or retirement homes always welcome having young people to play or sing for their residents. If you're a handyman, consider offering help a single mom in your neighborhood with seasonal "honey-dos" and bring your kids along to help. There's an opportunity to serve for every kind of talent!
     
  3. Give Your Things: A couple times a year, encourage your kids to sort their clothes, books, and toys and set aside items in good condition and donate to a homeless shelter. This will help your kids realize how much they have to be thankful for and to experience the joy of giving to others who have less than them. It will also provide you a way of getting your kids to clean their rooms; at least twice per year. Go ahead and mark two cleaning dates on your calendar!
     
  4. Give Your Thoughts: Giving doens't have to mean money. Encourage your children to take a moment to say something thoughtful to the people around them, whether it's "thanks," "you look nice today," or "I appreciate your friendship." Set the example by regularly saying thoughtful and encouraging things to your family members and others. Remember, this attitude starts with you--the parent! How you talk and interact with people teaches your children to react the same manner.
     
  5. Give Your Treasure: For those with more money than time, consider supporting charitable causes and organizations financially. Encourage your children to donate a portion of their allowance or income to a specific cause. Talk with your kids about the charitable organizations you contribute to and why you give to those groups. Again, it's important to give, but it's also very important that you children know the why behind the what. Use giving as a teachable moment for your family.

As you and your children give, you will find it easier to notice all the things you can be thankful for in your life. Start saying "thanks" by giving today!

What's one thing you could change in your weekly schedule to help you and your family show thanks through giving? 

Thanks DadVisit our "Thanks, Dad!" page for more on how you can connect with your family and other dads just like you! Don't forget to say, "Thanks, Dad!" by recording a video, sharing a picture, or writing a short note on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor. Use the hashtag #ThxDad to tell the world why the dad in your life deserves thanks!

photo credit: Tim Green aka atoach

5 Ways to Raise Thankful Children

thankfulNational Fatherhood Initiative's Vincent DiCaro was recently featured on CNN for writing "5 Ways to Raise Thankful Children."

Vince writes about the first time he heard his young son say "Thank you, daddy" and gives parents five ways to raise thankful children. He says, "I can say with confidence that thankfulness does not come naturally to children, mine included." But Vince continues, "Parenting, like having a good jump shot, is a skill that can be learned through the right techniques and practice."

There are things you can do to help cultivate thankfulness in your children. Read "5 Ways to Raise Thankful Children" and take comfort that if you make habits out of these guidelines, you will start to see positive results in your children. And for that, you will most certainly be thankful.

Visit our "Thanks, Dad!" page for more on how you can connect with your family and other dads just like you! Don't forget to say, "Thanks, Dad!" by recording a video, sharing a picture or writing a short note commenting on this blog, Facebook or on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

photo credit: cheerytomato

5 Ways to Create a Memorable Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is here! Yeah, I can’t believe it either. It’s been a busy month and December is almost upon us. This month, we’ve shared ideas for raising a thankful child, showing thankfulness in your home, and now we have ideas for creating memorable Thanksgiving traditions! Check out our ideas and then read Thanksgiving traditions that NFI staff share with their family. After you read our traditions, tell us yours in the comment section!

Be Thankful

Here are five ideas to get you started:

  1. Get Active: One of the things we often take for granted is our health and ability to engage in physical activity. Being active together as a family is a great way to create a memorable time together. You know you’re going to watch football at some point during the day. You also know you’re going to consume great portions of turkey and dessert. Consider getting outside and throwing the football during commercials or halftime to be little more active this year. You can always take a nap between games later!
  2. Get Creative: I’ve heard of families having their kids make handmade place cards for every person at the table or letting your kids act out a skit to say thanks to those who made the meal. The point here is to get creative and to get the whole family involved. Consider having everyone (parents and kids) draw a picture of the things they're thankful for this year and then post drawings in a high-traffic location. Make it competitive by offering two categories for best drawing awards; one for kids and one for the parents’.
  3. Get Alone: Okay, maybe this step is over-reaching, but if at all possible, try and get a moment to yourself…just to think! Yes, even if it’s only a few minutes, take time to reflect on what is truly important. Seriously consider the question: What do I have to be thankful for this year? If you can make this step happen, you’ll be ready to lead your family from a deeper perspective. Perhaps it’s your family’s tradition to spend a few minutes before or during the Thanksgiving meal to take turns sharing what you are thankful for or to express thanks for a specific person at the table. No matter your tradition, be sure you take time during all the busy schedules to be grateful!
  4. Get REALLY Traditional: There is no need to reinvent the wheel during the holidays. Keep it old school. You can learn a lot from your parents about traditions! What made the holidays special when you were a kid? Consider incorporating those traditions into your family’s list this year. Continuing traditions from the past is a great way to help connect your children with previous traditions that your kids may not have experienced.
  5. Get Your Mind Off Yourself: There’s no greater time than the holidays to consider ways you can serve and help others. Whether you spend time buying gifts or serving food, find a cause or opportunity to serve with your whole family. Serving as a family can make for a very memorable family tradition.

NFI Staff Answers: What Makes a Memorable Thanksgiving?
Now that you have five ideas for how to create meaningful family traditions, take a look at how some NFI staff answered the question, “What makes Thanksgiving memorable to your family?

 “We take out a bit of our furniture and lay 3 long tables end to end to accommodate about 18 people (in my small house). Everyone brings something and it is quite noisy. Before we pray we go around simply to say what we are thankful for. Many feel a little embarrassed to share- but everyone is smiling when done. This year for sure - we will think of my mom and how we will miss not only her, but her cole slaw!”  Ave, program support consultant

“The girls give the turkey a name and then break the wish bone together. Grandfather plays the piano and we sing hymns before sitting down to eat.” Kayla, project specialist

“Each family member has a wooden acorn at their place setting and we pass around a little basket for everyone to put in their acorn as say what they are thankful for. Mom often makes cinnamon rolls for breakfast and then we enjoy the traditional American thanksgiving dinner. Every year my family watches the Dallas Cowboys play football… another American tradition!” Renae, outreach manager

“Watching football. Roasting chestnuts.” Vince, vice president

“Sharing around the table what you are thankful for. Going to see a movie (Bond, this year) then dessert afterward.” Melissa, vice president 

“We like to watch ET after the dinner is finished and everything is put away. Its a good family movie that everyone enjoys.” Connie, senior graphic designer

“Each family member has three kernels of corn at their seat and shares three things he or she is thankful for, putting them into a basket as they share.” Michael, programming director 

“We have dinner, go bowling, come back for dessert, and then play a family game of Pictionary so that members of all ages can play.” Lisa, programming director

You can see by reading our staff traditions that creating memories means a lot of different things to different people! Whether it's the classic American festivities of food, football and movies, or something unique and special to your family, establishing traditions and creating memories are a great way to make the Thanksgiving holiday meaningful for you and your children. The most important part of the holidays is that you spend time together as a family. That's what will make the holidays memorable and special for your kids - time with you!

What traditions make Thanksgiving memorable for your family?  

Thanks DadVisit our "Thanks, Dad!" page for more on how you can connect with your family and other dads just like you! Don't forget to say, "Thanks, Dad!" by recording a video, sharing a picture, or writing a short note on on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor. Use the hashtag #ThxDad to tell the world why the dad in your life deserves thanks!

photo credit: rustiqueart

One Father (and Community) at a Time

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). If you are interested in writing for us, send us an email.

Now that the presidential election is over, pundits have taken stock of what the candidates did well and didn’t do well that led to victory and defeat, respectively. A lot of it is standard stuff—who made gaffes, did well or not so well with specific demographic groups, etc. Others, however, provide unconventional wisdom that gets folks to think differently. Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup, provided such wisdom in a recent blog post.

american flagJim’s position as the head of, arguably, the most successful polling company in history places him in a position of authority regarding elections. Of this recent election he says, “Throughout this year’s long election season, I was often asked: ‘Who will be better for jobs and the economy, President Obama or Governor Romney?’ My reply most surely disappointed partisans from both sides: The president of the United States doesn’t make as much difference in terms of creating economic energy as you’d think, according to Gallup data.” Jim says that local leadership in cities is much more important to economic and job growth. He uses examples of similar cities with vastly different unemployment rates and economic growth to make his point. The differences, he notes, rest on the qualities of the leaders in those cities.

So what, then, is the role of national leaders? To provide an environment that helps local leaders to create good economies and jobs. This fact isn’t lost on many national leaders. The problem is that they have different ideas about how to create that environment, and those differences often lead to a dangerous game of chicken as the looming fiscal cliff illustrates, but I digress.

As the nation’s preeminent fatherhood organization, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) understands and embraces its role in creating an environment that helps local leaders in all sectors of society to increase the involvement of fathers in the lives of children, and the benefits that involvement brings to communities and our nation. How do we do it? With a laser-like focus on our 3E strategy—educate, equip, and engage.

We educate all Americans, especially fathers, about the important role of fathers through public awareness campaigns, research, and other resources. We equip fathers and develop leaders at the national, state, and local levels with the tools (e.g. curricula, training, and technical assistance) they need to create a culture, programs, and services that encourage father involvement. We engage every sector of society through strategic alliances and partnerships. This strategy guides our day-to-day decisions and reflects our commitment to children, father, families, and our nation.

Critical to NFI’s success is that we’re not static. Our strategy has evolved as the needs of fathers and local leaders have changed. NFI began as a public advocacy organization in 1994. The main thrust of our early years was to meet with national politicians on both sides of the aisle to argue for father-friendly legislation, convene local fatherhood practitioners via national summits on fatherhood so they could learn from each other, and partner with the Ad Council to launch a PSA campaign that garnered more than $600 million in donated placements. As awareness of fathers’ importance increased so too did the need among fathers and community-based organizations for high-quality, research-based tools that help fathers become more involved. In 2000 we started to add resources (e.g. curricula), training, and technical assistance to meet that need. Since then NFI has developed more than 100 unique resources, distributed more than 6.1 million of them, and trained more than 12,000 practitioners from more than 5,600 organizations.

As we near the end of our second decade of existence, we continue to evolve in new and exciting ways, but with our eyes fixated as always on meeting the needs of fathers and the organizations that serve them. That’s our commitment to every father, mother, child, and community. Jim Clifton of Gallup says, "Whether the country makes a historic comeback or slowly goes broke, it will do so one city at a time." At NFI, we agree with Clifton; and we also think our country's comeback has something to do with fathers.

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photo credit: Thomas Hawk

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