Have you heard the term “perennials?”
No. Not the type of flower.
I ask instead whether you’ve heard the recently coined term that describes people of all ages who have “an inclusive, enduring mindset.” Their perspective and behavior defy the stereotype of their own generations. They are of all ages. They have friends of all ages. They embrace today’s technology. They are curious. They want to learn and grow.
The notion that there are perennials bucks the human tendency to put people into boxes—to separate humans into “the other.” It connects rather than disconnects. It breaks down walls rather than builds them. It expands rather than constricts.
If you try hard enough, you can put dads into any number of boxes.
- Young dads and old dads.
- First-time dads and dads with multiple children.
- Custodial dads and non-custodial dads.
- Married dads and single dads.
- Urban dads and rural dads.
- Dads of different races and ethnicities.
- Blah, blah, blah.
You can also combine those boxes to create larger boxes.
- Young, first-time, non-custodial dads.
- Old, married, rural dads.
- Single, custodial, urban dads.
- Blah, blah, blah.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t ignore how the characteristics of dads affect their fathering or how you should serve them. That would be foolish. But when it comes to the most important reason you serve dads—to connect them to their children and to maintain that connection—it’s vital to remember that every child needs the same two things from their dad, regardless of who he is:
- Every child needs an involved, responsible committed dad who…
- Provides, nurtures, and guides.
That means you need to teach dads the pro-fathering knowledge, attitudes, and skills that help any dad become involved, responsible, and committed; thus helping him to provide, nurture, and guide.
Helping dads provide what all children need is why the fatherhood programs and resources of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) focus on universal aspects of good fathering. Rather than separate dads into boxes, our resources break down walls and treat dads as a community of men with a desire to do their best to raise their children. (Indeed, independent evaluations of our programs have shown them to be effective with dads of different races, ethnicities, and ages, for example.)
Creating this community should be the foundation of your work with dads. After you lay that foundation, you can add elements to it—other resources, programs, and services—that address the characteristics of the dads you serve. One such NFI resource is the five booster sessions that comprise the FatherTopics™ Collection for Non-Custodial Dads. Many organizations use these sessions to enhance the 24/7 Dad® programs’ universal sessions to help non-custodial dads in areas that help them address the issues that so many of them face, such as a lack of knowledge about child support and how to achieve and succeed at access and visitation.
How have you laid a foundation to create a community of connected dads?
How does your work with dads address what every child needs and, yet, help dads address their unique challenges?