12 Dec

Helping Military Dads Stay Connected

first_imgBehnke suggests, “You might invite dads to a “how to” session on finances or investing.  Or an activity on helping their kids succeed in school or staying connected while apart using technology. These topics can become a spring board for teaching ways that dads can be even more “amazing.” Most dads like to be told what they are doing right and even seen as experts, they don’t like to be told how to parent.  One approach that I like is offering a personal invitation to a dad to attend a program so they can act as a mentor for other dads or learn some things to help the other men in their units. A lot of times it really comes down to fathers feeling that they are heard, and that their opinions are respected.”Other tips from Behnke for helping military dads rejoin their families:Military Dad with Little GirlA child’s caregiver, often wives (for married dads) and girlfriends or relatives (for other dads) are the gateway to maintaining the connection with their children when dad is deployed. Help dads find their personal style for communicating more and make it a pattern they follow every week.Fathers can be each others’ greatest support. Take time to encourage dads to seek out a natural mentor or a friend that they can relate to and look up to as a father.Church support is also a powerful source of strength for many military dads. Where many other things in their lives change so much a faith community can be a source of stability and support. Helping dads find a church or a community group they really connect with is a great source of strength.According to the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), nearly two million children of military dads are affected by the unique stresses of military life.  Approximately 593,000 active-duty service members and nearly 300,000 U.S. reservists are dads.  Today there are approximately 150,000 military fathers currently deployed.As there are lots of military dads there are also lots of resources. To help prepare fathers and their families for the stresses of deployment, transitions, and times away, the NFI offers quality resources developed by seasoned military personnel and offers training and workshops to prepare families for both deployment and reunion, as well as tools for strengthening families.The Deployed Fathers and Families Guide produced by NFI has numerous resources to help dads anywhere in the deployment cycle.Another great resource is the Pay it Forward Parenting free online parenting program for military moms and dads.  This free class (normally $299) is taught by one of the world’s foremost authors on parenting Amy McCready and offers an amazing opportunity to learn skills and techniques to be the parent you want to be. Military Dad Playing Ball with SonIn his white paper, Deployed Dads: Strengthening Military and Veteran Fathers, Families and Communities, Richard Lewis says that the negative impact of a father’s military service, especially pre- and post-deployment, can be mitigated by increasing the family’s access to resources.But where do you start?  What makes sense in terms of helping military fathers transition from active duty to “full-time” dad?Andrew Behnke, Professor and Human Development Specialist at North Carolina State University, says that we should start with fathers where they are.  Behnke shares, “They might not want to learn about being a dad, or a better spouse, but they will likely want to do things with other dads or with their families—like playing basketball, working out, going on a picnic, or hiking. Educational programs are most effective when they involve ‘stealth education’ – education that is hidden in fun activities and focuses on their kids or things they would do naturally with other guys- that allows fathers to come to programs on topics that interest them, while still providing dads some ways to learn to be the dad they want to be.last_img

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