Father's Day offers us the opportunity to celebrate and show appreciation for all of the dad's in our lives. Whether it is your father, your grandfather, or a father figure in your life this one Sunday in June allows us to say thank you. Here at PA Parent and Family Alliance we wanted to do a blog post that spotlighted two fathers who have adopted 5 "hard to place" children and have created an environment of love an openness for their children. These dads shed some light on how they take active roles in raising their children, how they both are heavily involved in of each of their child's mental health wellness, and how they take a moment for themselves. If you are a dad who is looking to get more involved in your child's mental health journey, or just looking for some solace in knowing that you're not alone, keep reading to find out how this couple makes it work.
1. Why is it important for dads to be actively involved in their child and young adult's treatment and care?
"Because when you chose to make a baby or adopt, you chose to be an active participant in the child's life, for the smooth times and the rough times. Staying involved in the treatment helps in 2 major ways that pop right to the top of my mind.
1) for the child's well-being, it shows the child that you care about what is happening with the child, the same way as going to a sports game or arts demonstration (band, chorus, dance, gallery opening, etc.). This is invaluable to the child's healing process. It shows the child that their mental health problems don't make them so damaged that they are rejected by either parent.
2) It keeps the father from feeling isolated and uninvolved in the child's life. If one parent takes over complete care, the other parent can feel like an outcast and it can cause a rift in the family unit."
2. What’s one step that a dad who’s new to all of this (when I say new to all of this I mean their child is just starting to have difficulties) can take to get actively involved in their child/young adult’s treatment and care?
"Read, study, learn all that you can about the diagnosis. Attend as many of the appointments as possible and get to know the providers. Let the child know that you are there to support them, no matter what."
3. From a dad’s perspective, what can mom and dad do to support one another when they get overwhelmed and stressed out (if they are together or not).
"Communicate, communicate, communicate. I know that's a dirty word or anxiety inducing for some folks, but in order to support one another, the parents MUST communicate. Admit your fears to one another. Brainstorm ways to help your child, and yourselves, feel more in control. Often having a plan reduces the anxiety. When we first took in the child with the largest hurdles to jump, as far as mental health issues were concerned, we were called "the tag-team" parents. We would take turns dealing with tantrums or outbursts. We were both a little (or if I'm honest, a LOT) overwhelmed with this child's behaviors. When the child would go to bed, we would brainstorm ideas as to how to approach the next days inevitable explosions and how to work at reducing them. We made decisions together so as to show a united front to the child as well as the other members of the "team" (therapists, caseworkers, doctors, psychiatrists, TSSs, etc.). When everyone has the child's best interest at heart and puts petty grievances aside, the child benefits. If the parents are playing one against another or if they are actively trying to undermine the other, the child suffers needlessly. "
4. For a dad who has been out of the picture, what’s one step they can take to get involved?
"Talk. Talk to the child; talk to the other parent(s); talk to the "team". You get involved by learning, then helping. If you've been out of the picture because of something you have done, the "talk" should start with an apology for being out of the picture and a promise to do better in the future. But, don't make promises you can't or don't intend to keep. "
5. Dad’s get stressed out too, what’s one thing a dad can do as self-care?
"I'm beginning to sound like a broken record. Talk. Talk to a counselor, a friend, a priest, rabbi, Imam, pastor, or some other trusted individual. Get your fears and frustrations out there. If you hold them inside, you will be ineffective as a "team" member and father. "
6. What is your personal most rewarding moment as a father?
"My husband answers this this way: when you've spent time with them teaching them something they need to know, and they suddenly get it and apply it to their lives. It may be days, weeks, months, or years later, but when you see it click, there is a very rewarding feeling. For me, it has to be seeing their faces light up when we announced their adoptions. It's also rewarding to have our participation acknowledged and to know that we have a reputation in the professional community as parents who are very involved in the care of their kids, but most rewarding were the smiles."
7. What is your biggest lesson learned as a father?
"It takes more than love to heal some wounds. It takes a team of people working together with the child participating to begin to heal. You cannot go it alone without risking burnout or worse."
A lot of blogs on parenting are directed towards mothers. PA Parent and Family Alliance recognizes the importance of a dad or father figure in a child's life, and we want to celebrate those men. We also want to encourage dads to take an active role in keeping an eye on and being involved with your child's mental health. This day is to celebrate you and the bond you have nurtured and developed with your child, as well as you being able to take a minute for yourself. Perhaps the best gift you can give your child is a loving and open role model who takes care of their mental health, and looks out for those around them. We are thankful for our parents everyday, but Mother's Day and Father's Day offers us the opportunity to take a second out of our busy lives and show gratitude for the people who have done the most for us. Whether you are a grandpa, a dad, a stepdad, or a man who has stepped into a fatherly role for a child; thank you.