Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy Fathers Day, Part One: Looking at the Status of Fathers Today

As Father's Day approaches I've been noticing and collecting posts celebrating fathers, or at least discussing and honoring the challenges they face these days balancing work, family, and other areas of their lives. More and more men are actively parenting their children - something very different from when I was a kid and I saw my father on Sundays only, and even then he didn't want us to bother him while he enjoyed his one day off work to relax.

I'm glad things have changed.

This first collection of articles (there will be more tomorrow) examine the challenges fathers face, and some efforts to help them be even better fathers (including some legal changes to give them more rights when getting divorced).

The first two article are from The Center for American Progress.

Celebrating Father's Day Through Family Policy

SOURCE: AP/Lindsay Pierce

New policies addressing the needs of low-income families can help many families have a more joyous Father's Day.

Families across the world will recognize and celebrate the important role fathers play in keeping families whole and healthy this Father’s Day. Yet for millions of low-income families in America, fathers are unable to fulfill this role, a fact that has ramifications not only for the family’s immediate well-being, but also for their communities and the future of their children. Despite great efforts to alleviate the struggle of low-income families, current policy only targets children and mothers and does not recognize the role fathers play in the well-being of the family.

An upcoming report from the Center for American Progress makes the case that policies focused on strengthening families would better address poverty and the needs of children if they are more inclusive of fathers. Low-income men, many of whom are men of color, face significant obstacles in providing for their families. Scarce job opportunities and low wages make it difficult to maintain a family intact, put food on the table, and provide for adequate housing. These problems are often tied to a lack of education and skills—those with the least education earn the lowest wages. Declines in unionization, failures to increase the minimum wage, and the exploitation of immigrant workers for cheap labor have all negatively affected the wages of low-skilled workers. Many low-income men are disconnected from employment, society, and housing as a result.

We must tackle the issues that alienate fathers if we are serious about improving the well-being of poor families of this nation.

Read the whole article.

The Perfect Gift for Father's Day

Honoring Dads in Federal Legislation

The Obama administration has proposed a Fatherhood, Marriage, and Families Innovation Fund that could provide an opportunity to better serve families, especially with the need to foster better relationships between fathers and their children.

SOURCE: AP/Alex Brandon

Commercials released each year around Father’s Day often show eager children rushing into their parents’ room early in the morning with homemade gifts for dad’s special day. Like many things on TV, these notions often do not to meet reality as an increasing number of children wake up in homes in which their fathers do not live. Instead of rushing into their parents’ room, they will give dad a call, send him a card, or get picked up for a scheduled visit. Some kids may have no contact with their fathers at all.

These realities of the modern family exist in every region of the country, every socioeconomic class, and each racial grouping. Relationships between fathers and their children have shifted over the last couple of decades as more dads than ever now live apart from their kids. On average, 1 in 3 children do not live in a traditional nuclear family—generally defined as two married parents plus children living under one roof. Among low-income children that figure is 2 in 3.

Read the rest of the article.

This article comes from the American Psychological Association and looks at the impact on men of trying to stretch themselves too far between work and family -some fathers feel that they need to coach a sports team or lead a Boy Scout troop, and so on, to be good dads, but as a kid who grew up mostly without a father, I can that just spending time with your kids is HUGE for them - they just want to be with you.

I think that knowing how to read the signs of stress, before they become a problem, is crucial, so I am posting the whole article.

Fatherhood Balancing Act Takes a Toll on Men’s Health

Balancing work and family life can leave many men feeling as if they’re drowning in a sea of work, bills and the responsibilities of being a father. According to a recent poll from the American Psychological Association, men said work, family and money, as well as worries about the economy, are significant causes of their stress.

As Father’s Day nears, it’s a good time to recognize the challenges that dads face and so they can figure out how they can deal with the resulting stress.

APA’s 2007 Stress in America Survey found that 50 percent of men were concerned about their stress level. Men, more often than women, said stress negatively affected various aspects of their lives such as job satisfaction (50 percent of men vs. 40 percent of women) and their overall satisfaction with life (45 percent of men vs. 38 percent of women).

“Men in particular respond to stress by feeling irritable, angry and having trouble sleeping,” said psychologist Ron Palomares, Ph.D. “This stress is, unfortunately, often dealt with in harmful ways, such as unhealthy eating and increased drinking and smoking.”

As role models for their children, it is important that parents strive to set a good example. “Children mold their behavior after that of their parents,” Palomares said. “So developing healthy responses to stress will not only be good for you, but, ultimately, good for your children.”

APA offers these tips to fathers under stress:

Identify your causes of stress — How do you know when you are stressed? What events or situations trigger stressful feelings? Are they related to your children, family health, financial decisions, work, relationships or something else?

Recognize how you deal with stress — Determine if you are using unhealthy behaviors to cope with work or life stress. Are you a restless sleeper or do you become easily upset and annoyed over trivial things? Is this a routine behavior, or is it specific to certain events or situations?

Find healthy ways to manage stress — Unhealthy reactions to stress may seem like the easy way out, but the long-term effects of poor stress management causes more problems. Instead, consider healthy, stress-reducing activities like exercising or playing sports. Focus on the quality of time spent, not the quantity. Keep in mind that unhealthy behaviors often develop slowly over time and can be difficult to change. Put everything in perspective, think before you act or speak and make time for what’s really important.

Ask for support — Accepting a hand from supportive friends and family can help you persevere during stressful times. If you continue to feel overwhelmed by stress, you may want to talk to a psychologist who can help you manage stress and change entrenched, unproductive behaviors.

“No one can be the perfect father. It is essential to maintain balance between the ‘Super Dad’ fantasy and the realistic and attainable aspects of fatherhood,” Palomares said. “Stress management is not a race to the finish line—don’t take on more than you can handle. Instead, set goals and focus on changing one behavior at a time.”

From Gaiam Life, this article takes a look at how dads can be more a part of their children's lives. I like what Badalament has to say here.

The Modern Dad's Dilemma: How to Be Known by Your Children

An excerpt by John Badalament

John  Badalament
When I start talking about our emotional lives as dads — using words like needs, intimacy, vulnerability and closeness — to an auditorium filled with dads, a slight tension always enters the room. It’s what I call the group hug moment: the unspoken fear that all this talk about emotions and relationships will inevitably lead to my asking the whole group to join me in one big embrace. Yet when I ask that same group to describe the kind of relationship they want with their children, every dad in that auditorium will say without hesitation that, above all, he wants to feel emotionally close and connected with his children.

While I find plenty of humor in the group hug moment, it captures the central paradox and challenge of modern fatherhood and manhood: These so-called feminine or touchy-feely qualities we were raised to mock, disown and devalue in ourselves and other males — emotional expression, vulnerability, sensitivity — are the very qualities (along with courage, strength and other qualities associated with masculinity) we most want and need to build and sustain healthy, emotionally connected relationships as dads, husbands/partners and friends.

As modern dads we can and must resolve this confusing contradiction and show our sons and daughters that emotional connection and intimacy are positive, vital aspects of any male’s life.

The research is clear: A close, emotionally connected dad-child relationship is a form of risk prevention and source of health and happiness for both child and father. Renowned researcher John Gottman found that children with emotionally available dads do better in school, have better peer relationships, and relate better with teachers than children with more emotionally distant dads. Children with dads who are critical or dismissing of emotions are more likely to do poorly in school, fight more with friends and suffer poor health. The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health found that the single most protective factor for reducing behavioral risks, such as drug and alcohol use, early sexual activity, smoking and depression, is children’s connectedness to their parents; fathers were noted as being of particular importance.

Read the whole article.

That's enough for today - tomorrow I will have more articles from around the web - to all the dads out there, Happy Fathers Day!

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