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The Father Factor

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When Dad's in Jail—He's Still Dad: NFI Connects Father to Family

“I never had my dad or nobody tell me they were proud of me until this program..." —William Jones, recent graduate of NFI's InsideOut Dad, the skill-building program for incarcerated fathers. 

At National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), we often speak of our two approaches to engaging society about fatherhood. 1) Top-down: through communications campaigns and social media and 2) Bottom-up: our "boots on the ground" -- our work with community-based organizations and other civic partners to train and equip leaders to better serve the fathers in their communities.

One such example is our work in jails and prisons. The Richmond Times-Dispatch recently featured a program that's impacting the capital city of Virginia. The city jail uses our InsideOut Dad material that helps prisoners to be better dads. Read the following story; it shows what we really do.  

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“The goal is to get everybody to communicate with their kids, to relearn some parenting skills you never knew you had,” Fries said. At the completion ceremony, the men shared how the program affected them. Below are excerpts from the news article:

  • Ronnell Glasgow, 26, said he grew up without his father in his life and was repeating that pattern with his own children, daughters ages 7 and 9.
  • Glasgow is behind bars at the Richmond City Jail, but even when he was out he said he thought giving them material things was enough.
  • Just weeks into a fatherhood skills training program at the jail, Glasgow said he had reached out to his own emotionally distant father and was communicating more with his daughters, who he said are no longer shy around him.
  • “I understand the importance of not having a father,” Glasgow said, adding that with his own father he was “building a relationship as a father and a man.”
  • One man described having a 15-minute telephone conversation with his daughter, who he rarely spoke to before. 
  • Another described overcoming fear of rejection and reaching out to an adult daughter and his surprise at her welcoming response. 
  • Another talked about writing to his 6-year-old son and getting a reply.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that one recent graduate said after the program, “Being there for my kids is better than any gift,” said William Jones, 22, father of four children. Jones is in jail on a probation violation and plans to enter an addiction-treatment program when he is released.

A new 12-week session of InsideOut Dad at the Richmond City jail starts tomorrow (Tuesday). What's the prison nearest you doing to teach fathers the skills they need to be better dads?

Connect with The Father Factor by RSSFacebook and on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

Image: [Daniel Sangjib Min/TIMES-DISPATCH] Dennis Fries (left) an instructor for the InsideOut Dad program, gets a hug from William Jones, a participant in the class who wants better relationships with his four children.

And the Nominees for "Fatherhood Movie of the Year" Are...

fatherhood movie of the yearWhile Hollywood gears up for the Oscars, we are asking you to select the "Fatherhood Movie of the Year" by voting on Facebook for the 2012 film that best communicates the importance of involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood.

The nominees are: Beasts of the Southern Wild (Fox Searchlight), Brave (Disney Pixar), The Odd Life of Timothy Green (Disney), and Parental Guidance (20th Century Fox).

Voters can visit NFI’s official Facebook page, watch the trailers of the four nominated films, and vote for your favorite once per day through Oscar night, February 24.

The contest is part of our effort to shine a light on cultural messages that highlight the unique and irreplaceable role fathers play in their children's lives. Given the power of film in shaping public perceptions, we applaud these four films for their efforts to depict fatherhood in a realistic, positive, and powerful way.

beasts of the southern wildBeasts of the Southern Wild (directed by Behn Zeitlin; starring Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry): “Faced with both her hot-tempered father's fading health and melting ice-caps that flood her ramshackle bayou community and unleash ancient aurochs, six-year-old Hushpuppy must learn the ways of courage and love” (source: IMDB.com). We nominated the film for its realistic depiction of a challenging, but loving relationship between a father and a daughter facing difficult circumstances.  

 

braveBrave (directed by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, and Steve Purcell; starring Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, and Emma Thompson): “Determined to make her own path in life, Princess Merida defies a custom that brings chaos to her kingdom. Granted one wish, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to undo a beastly curse” (source: IMDB.com). We nominated the film for its depiction of a fun-loving father who encourages his daughter’s adventurous spirit and who is affectionate and loving towards his wife.

 

odd lifeThe Odd Life of Timothy Green (directed by Peter Hedges; starring Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, and CJ Adams): “A childless couple buries a box in their backyard, containing all of their wishes for an infant. Soon, a child is born, though Timothy Green is not all that he appears” (source: IMDB.com). We nominated the film for its portrayal of a highly involved and loving father who is deeply, emotionally invested in his son’s life and well being throughout the entire film.

 

parental guidance

Parental Guidance (directed by Andy Fickman; starring Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei, and Tom Everett Scott): “Artie and Diane agree to look after their three grandkids when their type-A helicopter parents need to leave town for work. Problems arise when the kids' 21st-century behavior collides with Artie and Diane's old-school methods” (source: IMDB.com). We nominated the film for its realistic depiction of the generational struggles a pair of loving grandparents face, for its positive portrayal of the importance of marriage, and for the important role the father and grandfather play in their families’ lives.
 

Use the hashtag #fmy12 on Twitter to get the word out and tell your friends which movie you vote for daily.

We started the "Fatherhood Movie of the Year" Contest last year. The 2011 film, Courageous, was selected by the public as the winner.

Connect with The Father Factor by RSSFacebook and on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

Nominate a dad for the 2013 Military Fatherhood Award!

Military Fatherhood Award: Honoring Military Fathers and Families
Every year, National Fatherhood Initiative honors a military dad who goes above and beyond in his service to the nation and his responsibility as a dad.

NFI's Military Fatherhood Award™ recognizes and celebrates a dad who:

  • demonstrates ongoing dedication to his children
  • puts in extraordinary effort to stay connected with his kids
  • successfully balances his military duties and family life
  • invests in other military fathers and children

If you know a great military dad, nominate him for the 2013 Military Fatherhood Award™ today!  Nominations close on Monday February 4 at 12:00 p.m. EST, and we can only accept the first 600 nominations, so submit yours quickly!  (See Terms and Conditions to answer most questions about the award program.)

Share this blog post using the buttons at the top of the post to let other military friends and family know about this opportunity to nominate their dad or a dad they know!

 

Sponsors of the 2013 Military Fatherhood Award:
as of January 17, 2013

Protect and Defend Sponsors

Nissan USA   Acumen Solutions, Inc.

Supporting Friends

Boy Scouts of America

 

If you are connected with a company that would be interested in sponsoring, contact Renae Smith at rsmith@fatherhood.org.  Download the sponsorship kit here.

Good Dads and Bad Dads in TV Ads

My wife hates watching TV with me because whenever I see a commercial depicting fathers in a negative light, I go off on the same rant. So, she hears this rant almost nightly.

But to be fair to the Madison Avenue crowd, there are certainly lots of commercials showing dads in a positive, or at least realistic, light (note: showing dads acting like childish idiots is not realistic, nor is it helpful). In fact, NFI has given the Fatherhood Award™ to several of these companies, including Google, Subaru, and many more.

In the spirit of being fair and balanced, here is one good and one bad example of current TV ads depicting dads.

The good

As a baseball fan, former Little Leaguer (where my dad was my coach for several years), and high school player, I love this ad.

Some may argue that it is another ad showing a dad looking pretty dumb, but my problem is not so much with “dumbness,” but with ads that are not realistic. This one is. Not everyone can throw a baseball well. What matters is that this guy is so sincere, and he’s spending time with his son, one on one.

Most importantly, the ad does such a great job of telling a realistic and touching story. Look closely and you can see that the dad is still wearing his work clothes. He pulled into the driveway from work and his son was waiting for him in the front yard wanting to play catch. And he started playing with him right there – he didn’t even go inside to change his clothes! You can almost hear the kid saying, “Dad, dad! Let’s play catch!” And he, being the loving dad he is, dropped everything and started playing, despite his obvious lack of skills or comfortable clothes.

Humor, storytelling, and a positive message about fathers – this ad has it all. As opposed to this ad…

The bad

In contrast to the one above, this ad is not realistic. I do not know a single dad who would be this negligent and uncaring. Nor would a dad be “bought” so easily with the promise of food that was probably purchased with his own money. I also hate the recurring commercial theme of “if it weren’t for moms, American households would be bastions of chaos and permissiveness.” One could counter that the ad was “bending the truth” for a comical effect – but so was the above ad, and it was great and heartwarming and realistic. Again, note to commercial producers: you don’t have to make men and dads look like idiots in order to make funny ads. Frankly, I think it is lazy writers falling back on stereotypes who are making these kinds of commercials. The non-lazy ones are making gems like the VW ad above.

To be fair to Kraft, they are a sponsor of the upcoming Dad 2.0 Summit, so clearly they are trying to make a genuine effort to reach out to fathers. But with ads like this (and it is only one in a series of similarly bad ads), I don’t think they are going to have as much success as they’d like. To be sure, if they want to work with NFI, we would need to have a serious discussion about what they really think about fathers given the mocking nature of their ad campaign.

Have you seen any good fatherhood commercials lately? How about bad ones? Let us know.

Top Posts of 2012: #4 — 5 Questions Every Father Should Ask Himself

5 questions every dad should askThe Father Factor Blog is closing out the year by revisiting some of our most popular blogs of 2012! We've enjoyed talking parenting tips and tools this year with you. Today is our fourth most popular blog post of 2012!

From the blog: 

We call him the “24/7 Dad.” We believe that every child needs one. What we are talking about is an involved, responsible and committed father. We are talking about a dad who knows his role in the family. He understands he is a model for his sons on how to be a good man. Likewise, if he has daughters, he models what they should look for in a husband and father for their children. There are five questions every responsible father should answer. These five questions come with a guarantee: if you answer each one honestly and take action, you will become a 24/7 Dad!

The questions fit into five categories:

1. Self-Awareness. The 24/7 Dad is aware of himself as a man and aware of how important he is to his family. He knows his moods, feelings and emotions; capabilities, strengths, and challenges. He is responsible for his behavior and knows his growth depends on how well he knows and accepts himself. So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I know myself?

2. Caring for Self. The 24/7 Dad takes care of himself. He gets annual physicals, eats right, exercises, and learns about the world he lives in. He has a strong connection to his family and community, and chooses friends who support his healthy choices. So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I care for myself? 

3. Fathering Skills. The 24/7 Dad knows his role in the family. He knows he should be involved in the daily life of his children. Consider this: Who dresses and feeds your kids? Who attends parent-teacher conferences? Who supports their sports and other interests/activities? Who helps with homework and tucks them in at night? Said a different way, if you weren’t in the family, would anyone notice based on the daily household tasks? So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I “Father”?

4. Parenting Skills. The 24/7 Dad nurtures his children. Yes, nurturing is for men to do as well. He knows how his parenting skills help to develop their physical, emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, and creative needs. His children trust and feel safe with him because he cares about and nurtures them through the use of proven parenting skills. The 24/7 Dad uses discipline to teach and guide his children, not to threaten or harm them. So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I “Parent”?

5. Relationship Skills. The 24/7 Dad builds and maintains healthy relationships with his children, wife/mother of his children, other family members, friends, and community. He knows and values how relationships shape his children and their lives. So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I relate?

Read the full blog post: 5 Questions Every Father Should Ask Himself

Tell us: Which blog post did you like the most in 2012?

photo credit: Fabiana Zonca

Connect with The Father Factor by RSSFacebook and on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

Top Posts of 2012: #5 — Communicating with Your Child

communicating with your childThe Father Factor Blog is closing out the year by revisiting some of our most popular blogs of 2012!

We've enjoyed talking parenting tips and tools this year with you. From today through December 31st, we'll post our top five blog posts of the year.

Today is our fifth most popular blog post of 2012!

We posted "3 Rules for Communicating with Your Child" and proposed thinking about communicating with our kids as a racecar driver thinks about race tracks! 

From the blog:

Odds are good you didn’t wake up this morning and say to yourself, “You know, I should communicate with my kids better…or more…” No, that has never happened - EVER. Something must change in how we view communication. We understand the importance of communication, but we need something to help us remember that how we do it daily is of utmost importance...

We wrote three rules that can help you as you talk with your child. They are the same ideas that a driver must consider as he approaches:

1. Know Your Racetrack: 

  • Short tracks = Infants and young kids
  • Intermediate tracks = School-aged children
  • Superspeedways = Teenagers
  • Road Courses = College-aged children and beyond

2. Practice, Practice, Practice. And then practice more.
When a NASCAR driver isn’t on the track, he is practicing. A driver’s life is about way more than that short moment on the racetrack. And all of his time leading up to the moment on the track is spent in preparation. When is the right time to practice? Early and often.

3. You Must Make Adjustments. 
If Nascar drivers know anything beyond the track and practicing; they understand the importance of making adjustments. Adjustments are crucial in racing. Likewise, you as a dad will learn by trial and error. It’s good to understand you can learn both when you’re away from your child and during the moments you are with them. Great drivers know the importance of making adjustments, from “Research and Development” to “The Pit Box.”

Read the full blog post: 3 Rules for Communicating with Your Child.

Tell us: Which blog post did you enjoy the most in 2012?

 

photo credit: camille.eric

Give a Second Chance to Dads Like Shawn

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UPDATE: A generous donor has offered to match dollar-for-dollar all donations given to our “Give a Second Chance” campaign through September 30, the end of our fiscal year. Your donation will now have double impact!

And don’t forget – anyone who donates $100 or more this month will receive a copy of Choosing Fatherhood: America’s Second Chance, an inspiring book of photography and stories of dads who have been impacted by National Fatherhood Initiative’s fatherhood programs in their local communities – and by your support that makes our work possible!

One of those dads is Shawn Kennedy, of Mobile, Alabama. NFI’s programs for new dads helped him get the right start in his fatherhood journey and connect heart-to-heart with his brand new baby daughter. Shawn told Lewis Kostiner, author and photographer of Choosing Fatherhood, about what he learned from NFI’s fatherhood program.

describe the imageShawn Kennedy […] and his wife lived in a small and lovely vintage South-style bungalow in Mobile. I had spent a few days with his father-in-law, who was taking Milt Scott from National Fatherhood Initiative and me around to meet the fathers in the area. Shawn has this beautiful baby girl in his arms, whom he carried with him all over the house. He even wore a shirt and tie for the picture. After I took the picture, I sat with him at his dining room table, and we talked. He said he was always open to learning how to become a better father. He told me [he] had taken some classes with NFI and learned a great deal about small things about fatherhood he never thought about. He was very clear with me: his family’s faith in the Lord gave him the strength to be a good and loving dad. I imagined he would be, always.

Because of the financial support of friends like you, we are able to help dads like Shawn be involved with their children and build their fathering skills no matter what stage of parenting they are in. Sometimes, the support and inspiration these dads find through our programs is the second chance they and their families need.

donate now

Your financial support is crucial to reach more families like Shawn’s. Will you make a donation before September 30? We have almost crossed the finish line for this fiscal year and your donation will be the final push we need to end strong and get started on our plans to help more dads next year.   

Thanks for your support!

End Father Absence: Give a Second Chance to Dads Like Steven

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NFI’s fiscal year ends on September 30 and we are celebrating the end of an impactful year by sharing stories of real-life dads and their children who have found second chances through our work in their communities. 

Steven Gonzales of Sacramento, California, is one of those dads.  Photographer Lewis Kostiner met him as he traveled around the country at his own expense photographing and interviewing dads who participated in NFI’s fatherhood programs in local communities.  Mr. Kostiner shared his impressions of Steven’s relationship with his son in his book Choosing Fatherhood: America’s Second Chance.

describe the imageSteven Gonzales worked fourteen-hour days, seven days a week.  He lived amongst the ghosts of bygone eras of vintage cars.  Steven was the owner of the body shop that consumed him.  He also was a father who taught his children by example.  He told me that he regretted not being home for dinner every night, sometimes having to run out to give an estimate.  He told him his heart hurt when he had to do this.  Steven and his son took me on a tour of the body shop.  We visited the paint shop, rich in the aroma of the freshly sprayed paint.  His son was so proud of his dad.  My presence with the camera made the young boy feel important.  He knew his father to be a very special person and that I was sent there to take this famous person’s picture.  Steven and his son posed so proudly in front of the blue, beat-up Cadillac.  I envied that boy and the life he had with his father.  When I was done, they gave me a red t-shirt with the name “RED STAR California Original” [the name of the body shop] on the front of it.  I felt as special as the son when I left.

NFI is active in communities like Steven’s, helping dads in all walks of life build their fathering skills and connect with their children.  In some cases, the support and inspiration these dads find through our presence in their communities is the second chance they and their families need.

Your financial support is crucial to reach more families like Steven’s.  As we end the fiscal year on September 30, will you make a donation to help us finish this year and start next year strong?  We have almost reached our fundraising goal for the year, and your contribution will get us across the finish line and help even more dads and families next year.

describe the imageAs a special “thank you,” we will send a FREE copy of Choosing Fatherhood: America’s Second Chance to anyone who donates $100 or more.  Of course your gift of any amount helps us reach our goal for the fiscal year and start our next year of work strong.

Thanks for your help!

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Dad’s Guide to Back-To-School Gadgets

Thank God kindergarteners don't need laptops. With my firstborn attending kindergarten soon, clothes and supplies are enough expense. You have no doubt seen the legendary lists of supplies from your child’s school by now. NFI may not be helpful as it pertains to fashion (considering our president has written extensively, and sadly in favor of, the fanny pack!). But as it pertains to tech and gadgets, we can offer our "expert" opinion. 

pencils

Whether it is gadgets for your university student or middle-school scholar, we are here to help you save a few dollars and use the time to connect with your child. See our ideas below on what to look out for in purchasing the lastest mobile devices in three categories: 

Laptops

Dell UltrabookThe new Dell Inspiron Ultrabook (starts at $649) is one of the new "ultrabooks.” It's ultrathin, fast and is said to have a around seven hours of battery-life. Your child may want this laptop considering the offer of also getting an Xbox 360 with your purchase. Also, with your purchase, the machine comes with Windows 7 but Windows 8 can be purchased for $14.99 when you own Windows 7.

macbook airFor Mac families, there is the MacBook Air, starting at $999 for the 11-inch model (don’t forget: $949 with qualifying education discount). The new MacBooks come with OS X Mountain Lion, iLife, iWork and all the software your student will need. The 11-inch MacBook Air has an i5 processor, 4GB of memory and 64GB of flash storage (no hard drive) and at least five hours of non-stop, wifi-using battery life. This makes it one of the lightest laptops ever for carrying around in a backpack with other books all day. The MacBook Air also includes the popular FaceTime HD camera for HD 720p video calling. The Apple Store has Back to School deals that should not be missed. Deals include a $100 iTunes gift card with the purchase. And don't forget to ask about education pricing.

Tablets
Apple continues to have the market cornered with regard to tablet devices. But depending on your student, you may find Google's Nexus Tablet the right fit.

apple new ipadThe new Apple iPad is a powerful and very mobile option. Honestly, dads, the iPad may be a better and cheaper option instead of a laptop for many students. It is the best-selling tablet for many reasons. iPad prices start at $499 for the Wi-Fi-only version and 16GB of storage. Apple’s Back to School deals include a $50 iTunes gift card with new iPad purchase. Remember, education pricing can be used for iPads (same as laptops) because Apple considers this mobile device the same as a personal computer. 

google nexus

If it’s a smaller touchscreen you desire, there is the 7-inch Google Nexus Tablet (which starts at $199 for 8GB) for the student in your house. Consider this option when mobility is valued over storage. It is a great option as long as you have storage elsewhere.

Phones
With so many different phones on the market, students can be very mobile and pack very lightly. From taking notes in class, recording lectures or calling parents, phones can be a very useful tool. For some wondering what phone is best for their student, you may find this helpful:

iphone 4sApple's iPhone 4S (starting $199 for 16GB with contract) and comes with a great camera and tons of features like Retina display. The iPhone also has FaceTime so you can see how your child is doing when each of you are in a Wi-Fi hotspot.

HTCAndroid lovers also have plenty of good choices when it comes to phones. The HTC One V boasts a 3.7-inch screen, a powerful battery and great camera that rivals the iPhone.

When shopping for back-to-school deals, it is a good time to consider asking for an all-in-one printer when purchasing a computer. Most retail stores will consider adding a wireless all-in-one printer when at the time of purchasing a new computer.

Consider these options and for the student in your family when chosing laptops, tablet devices and smartphones. Dad, get involved in the process of shopping with your child this year. Shopping for the best deal and learning about the best device for your child can be a good time of connecting.

Discuss what is most important and useful in the devices with your child. Even though it is money from your pocket, try making it an enjoyable and teachable experience. Your child will remember these back-to-school shopping days. I haven't forgotten back-to-school shopping as a kid. Please, someone reading this, remind my future self of this post when my daughters ask for laptops. Happy shopping, dads!

What is one gadget the scholar in your family wants this year?

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photo credit: Melissa Hincha-Ownby
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photo credit: Imrishale
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photo credit: audiovisualjunkie

Throwback Thursday: Dance (Video)

Today we go back, way back, to the year 2006!

Check out this video showing that to be a great father, sometimes you have to dance!

As the video says, "It takes a man to be a dad!"

In the comment section, tell us: What's something fun you did with your child recently?


Check out our weekly Dad Email for tips on creative ways to be a better dad.

Help Us Reach Dads and Help Kids Through Texting

LDD Email banner

Did you know that 25% of Americans access the Internet through their smartphones instead of a computer?  That means millions of dads are not accessing National Fatherhood Initiative's web-based resources.
 
We want to deliver our expert fathering advice directly into dads’ hands through a brand new text messaging campaign, but it will cost $2,750 to create and maintain the new platform.

As a reader of this blog, you know how important it is that children have involved, responsible, and committed fathers.  You also know that our resources are making a difference across the nation by helping men learn how to connect with their kids heart-to-heart.
 
Texting LDD graphWe're looking for 110 people to donate just $25 each by August 12 to help us raise funds needed to create this new tool to reach more dads who currently don’t have access to our information.  Not only that, but if you are part of that 25% of who prefers to use your phone instead of the computer, your donation will go towards a resource that you can use too!  

Will you be one of the 110?  Donate $25 (or more!) today.

Kids Need Their Fathers: For Health, For Growth, For Life

nicu gabbyI’ll never forget the beeps. It’s been five years since first hearing the beeps from inside the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where my first daughter stayed two weeks due to pre-term labor.

She weighed four pounds, and I was scared to hold her with the wires coming from all directions. But the NICU nurses assured my wife and I that we would do no harm by holding and talking to her. She needed to hear the same two voices she heard throughout pregnancy. She needed to feel our presence in that cold, steel medical room.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America — one out of three — live in homes without fathers. Kids need their fathers.

Kids Need Their fathers…For Health
The same “NICU baby” from above recently proclaimed from the back of the car, “I want coffee, like Daddy!” as I ordered my favorite coffee from the Starbucks drive-thru. As I ordered a short cup of water to mimic my coffee, I realized something big — that for good or ill, the choices I make affect my children. As dad goes, so go the children. With Father’s Day in our rearview mirrors, we must be vigilant about impacting our children positively with the choices we make as dads.

Studies show that men who take care of their health with a good diet, regular exercise, and preventive screenings serve as role models for their kids’ health habits and are more likely to be around for all those important moments like graduations, birthdays and weddings. But more than being around, fathers model behavior for their kids, for good or ill.

Kids Need Their Fathers…For Growth
New research reveals that the love of a father is one of the single greatest influences on the personality development of a child. Results from the journal of Personality and Social Psychology Review showed that kids rejected in childhood felt more anxious and insecure as well as hostile and aggressive as adults.

Professor Rohner who conducted the research says, “children who feel unloved tend to become anxious and insecure, and this can make them needy. Anger and resentment can lead to them closing themselves off emotionally in an attempt to protect themselves from further hurt.”

The same is true for all children regardless of race, culture, and gender – the feeling and effects of rejection are universal.

Professor Rohner adds that the “same parts of the brain are activated when people feel rejected as when they suffer physical pain.” He continues, but ‘Unlike physical pain, however, people can psychologically relive the emotional pain of rejection over and over for years.’ His research shows a father’s input is particularly important for behavior and influences whether a child later abuses drugs or suffers mental health problems.

Kids Need Their Fathers…For Life
The National Center for Health Statistics reports that infant mortality rates are almost twice as much for infants of unmarried mothers than for married mothers.

Children whose fathers are stable and involved are better off on almost every cognitive, social and emotional measure developed by researchers.

How we start is usually a good indicator of how we finish. Of course we can make course corrections along the way. But giving kids a chance to start life in a healthy way matters. Involved fathers help infant mortality rates decrease and infant health increase. Being present and involved ensures children will grow and develop into mature, well-adjusted adults.

Dads matter–for good or ill. As dads go, so go the children. And as go children, so goes our society.

That is why National Fatherhood Initiative provides skill-building resources to help fathers increase their health literacy and get involved right from the start. Our Doctor Dad series of workshops help fathers learn about the well child, the sick child, the injured child, and the safe child. And our new Dad’s Pocket Guide contains practical tips on how dads can get involved with their newborns.

Parents, what was your most difficult adjustment after having a baby?
 

This post was originally written by Ryan Sanders for the National Healthy Start Association (NHSA). NHSA's mission is to be our nation's voice in providing leadership and advocacy for health equity services and interventions that improve birth outcomes and family wellbeing.

Photo credit: Sanders Family Archives

Celebrating Independence Day with Your Kids

us flagSwimming, barbeque and a day off work…sounds like freedom to me. But, in the excitement of activities, it's easy to forget the history and purpose of Independence Day. I’ll get to some ideas for celebrating, but first, some history so you can sound smart at the family get-together.

John Adams believed July 2nd was the correct date to celebrate the birth of American independence. He would decline invitations to July 4th events in protest (see History). Adams had an argument, because on July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of resolution for independence.

Realizing that once you read “Continental Congress” and “resolution” in the last paragraph that I lost most of you, I have a more history for you history buffs. It was July 2nd that John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail and explained that the day, "will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival" and the celebration should have "Pomp and Parade...Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other." Can you say “freedom?”

Two days later on July 4th, the Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. Even though the vote for actual independence was on July 2nd, the 4th became the day celebrated as the birth of American independence. If you’re like me, barbeque is barbeque; I’ll eat it on the 2nd and the 4th to commemorate this special event.

The Fourth of July was originally celebrated with concerts, parades, firing of cannons and speeches. By late 19th century, people started celebrating with outdoor activities, family time, fireworks and barbeques. Considering I kept your attention with all this historical trivia, here are a few ways you can celebrate this holiday with your family:

Independence Day Ideas for Your Family:

1)   Teach Your Kids: For older kids, The History Channel has an entire week dedicated to the “Founding Fathers” for learning about the history and celebration of Independence Day.Consider reading the Declaration of Independence with your teenager. They may complain, but it’s short and only one of the greatest documents ever written. For younger kids, have them draw and color the American flag or sing along to “The Star-Spangled Banner." Perhaps your kids like face paint as much as mine, paint the flag on their cheeks or for girls, paint their nails in red, white and blue (can you tell I have daughters?!).

2)   Get Patriotic with Food:  Let your kids help you make Independence Day themed food like American Flag Cake and Patriotic Pops.

3)   Get Involved with Your Community:  It’s a great time to get to know your neighbors. Attend a festival or parade and grill out with friends.


4)   Remember the Troops:  Write a letter or send a care package to a deployed service member to let them know you appreciate their service.

How are you celebrating Independence Day?

 

photo credit: *Micky

5 Steps to Success Before Breakfast

baconBefore children, I was a morning person. I used to conquer mornings. Back in college, I woke up with unrushed reading time. Remember unrushed reading time?! Once kids happen, unrushed mornings end.

Are you like me? I don’t plan any me-time at home before leaving work in hopes of getting a 45-second-jump on my neighbor. If I can cut my neighbor off at the toll road, I’m sure to get past the Capital Beltway before the traffic congestion really starts.

But my life is about to change. I found Laura Vanderkam’s article in Fast Company. I am now motivated more than ever to be a morning person because it seems mornings are when successful people get things done.

Actually, mornings for parents may be the only time to get anything done. Be careful about reading this article by Vanderkam. After you read, you can’t complain you don’t have enough “me time.” The short answer is -- wake up earlier! If you’re game for waking up earlier, keep reading this post for motivation and how to amp up your morning routine.

Parents, follow these steps from Vanderkam and you’ll get more done in the morning, before the kids wake up:

Step 1. Track Your Morning
Laura points out that you’re more likely to spend your time better when you know how you’re spending it. Write down what you’re doing as often as you can. Use Laura’s spreadsheet (yes, she has a time management spreadsheet!) or write things down.

Try this for a week. See how you're spending your time. So, you’re too tired and can’t wake up earlier, but you're only tired because you stayed up that extra few minutes watching The Colbert Report. Laura’s genius idea? DVR The Colbert Report and watch it at 5:30am while running on the treadmill. Whoa, I never thought about that. Mind, blown. Next step…

Step 2. Picture Your Perfect Morning
Once you see how you’re spending your mornings, take time to dream about your perfect morning. Would it start with a run? Actually eating real food for breakfast? Think about exactly how you would like to spend your morning and then move to step 3.

Step 3. Map Out Your Dream Morning
Actually write down what you want your new morning to look like and how you’re going to make it happen. Heck, write down the exact time while you’re at it. What time are you going to wake up? Yes, Laura goes here: write down the time you should go to bed. You know how much sleep you need. Ouch, okay, you’re almost to the morning of your dreams. Continue to step 4.

Step 4. Make the Dream Happen
If you want your dream morning, you’ll need discipline. Laura has some great ideas on how to make this happen:

  • Take baby steps: Start with getting in bed just a few minutes earlier. And don’t try to create EVERYTHING in your dream morning at one time. Work on one thing at a time. Actually waking up earlier is probably the best place to start.
  • Reward yourself. You have your goals and you’ve created baby steps. Be sure to celebrate small victories. This will keep you motivated. 

Step 5. Remember, Your Dream Morning is a Process
Okay, so you have kids. Life will happen in your house. Remember this whole deal is a process. Processes CAN change and be revamped. The best part about this is the idea that you can feel like your mornings are yours, not just death marches to your job! I know no one reading this has ever felt like his or her mornings are death marches. But you know what I’m saying.

You may never know how much you can get done or your full potential until you have time to stop and think for yourself. Remember to come back and tell us how things are going, what you’re working on, and what’s not working. Just remember, if you hate or love this idea and want to read more, the idea was Laura’s.

Dads, whether you want to conquer your mornings or not, try our series of 7 Habits of a 24/7 Dad for great ideas on becoming a better dad.

Now, what are you going to do with your perfect morning?

photo credit: Wade Brooks


What Was Missing in Sandusky Case? Fathers

SanduskyJerry Sandusky was found guilty of 45 counts of sexual abuse a week ago. Despite the verdict, important questions should continue to be asked. Why didn’t the assistant football coaches do something? Why didn’t the school administration do something? But the biggest, most pointed question is, “How in the world was Sandusky able to prey on so many young boys for so long?”

From our perspective, Sandusky would not have been able to do what he did had he not had access to so many boys growing up in father-absent homes.

Ronnie Polaneczky of the Philadelphia Inquirer brings up this point in her column, Sandusky case underscores importance of fathers. She asks, "What if so many of Sandusky's victims hadn't needed father figures in the first place?" She answers her own question: “This never would've happened.”

Sandusky intentionally surrounded himself with children from homes that didn’t have involved fathers by starting a foundation, The Second Mile, dedicated to helping boys from “disadvantaged” homes.

Polanecksky writes, “I'd bet my own dad's hypertension meds that Sandusky never would've groomed those Second Milers for sex had the children had active fathers whose wrath Sandusky might've feared.”

Of Sandusky's known victims, six had no father in their lives and three admitted to never having known their dads. On the witness stand, many of the boys said they thought of Sandusky as the father they'd never had.

One boy said, he (Sandusky) "treated me like a son in front of other people.” Another victim testified, "I looked at Jerry as kind of a father figure...I didn't want to lose somebody actually paying attention to me."

NFI understands children have an innate need for their fathers’ affirmation and attention. “Children have a hole in their soul the shape of their fathers,” says NFI President Roland Warren. And we know from decades of research that fathers matter. Whether a father is in the home and involved or not changes just about everything – for good or ill.

Sadly, folks like Sandusky know this and prey on children with absent fathers. Like drug dealers or gang leaders, they exploit what they recognize as a weakness or vulnerability in a child craving adult male attention.

To note, this is what DC sniper Lee Malvo said about how John Muhammad caught him up in his web: “Anything he asked me to do I'd do. He knew I didn't have a father. He knew my weaknesses and what was missing.”

We also know through social science research that children from father-absent homes are far more likely to suffer physical and sexual abuse than those growing up in two-parent families.

Economics will not fix this problem. Needy children exist in wealthy homes, too. Only a society willing to educate and train up a generation on the importance of fatherhood can change this problem.

In other words, we need to get to the root by asking the most-pointed question more often: “Why were these kid’s victimized?” More often than not, the answer is going to be because their fathers weren’t there to protect them physically and emotionally.

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