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Category: Parenting

Being Your Best Self 0

Honoring Fatherhood: Acknowledging the Critical Role of the “Father” in their children’s lives


Father’s need our support, our guidance, and forgiveness as they are encouraged to strive to embody what does it mean to be a father, a good father, in their child’s life.

Starting from the beginning

Let me tell you a story. My father was perfect for me. I wish I knew that my whole life. My earliest memory is enjoying the closeness between myself and my father. He was tall, strong, brave and smart. When my father smiled, the world felt his energy and his joy.  They always smiled too. When he was angry, I felt as thought I fell from grace. I tried to gain his love back. It was the dance. When he left in the morning, he would leave to work at a prestigious job in the bank. He made lots of money. In my childlike mind. So much so that we lived in a beautiful home in suburbia. When he came home, I ran to greet him at the door. I was excited. I couldn’t wait to see him. On the weeknights we watched TV and slept on the couch. He always played with me and my sisters. On Friday nights he took us to Roti Hut. I will never forget our trip, the sound of calypso on the radio, the sweet taste of the polourie, the fullness in my belly from the potato roti and the union within our family. Sunday dinners were always the best. After church, we slept in, then I played make believe with my sisters, and afterwards set the dinner table. Our dinner was always amazing. I loved the food, the prayer, the togetherness, the memories, and my life. My father was not always perfect. I learned over the years that he struggled, like any other man. I didn’t know much yet about the external factors like racism, oppression, self hatred, cultural displacement, grief and loss, and that old friend trauma which played a critical role in our lives. At 40, I see it all now. But at 4, it didn’t matter. My dad was and still is my hero.

Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

As a therapist for 10 years and a social worker for 20 years, I have observed, witnessed and contributed unknowingly to the war on fatherhood. I don’t think I truly respected the role of the Father until my own maturity stepped in. For I was apart of that war for such a long time. It may have been the messages I learned as a child. Or the stereotypes created about gender roles and gender identity. It may have been part of the systemic racism embedded within the organizations I was employed that reinforced these values.

In my personal life, my daughters father was the love of my life, or so it seemed at the time. I never really understood why he picked me, and I felt that he was a 10 and I was only a 2 in a worthiness scale I developed. I suddenly took on the role as a parent for my daughter, while he was still in the role of himself. I didn’t know what I was doing, but now I know it was what everyone woman does to men that breaks them down. It’s what my mother did. It’s what my aunties did. It’s what my friends did. My pain was real that I could tell you what it felt like to have a knife lodged into my back. I could tell you what organs the knife punctured and how the blood drained from my entire body. I also didn’t need to feel that way again. As I did, I did a disservice to my daughter. I did what every woman who’s hurt does. I walked away.


In our search to reclaim our rights as females, our men paid a price. We did not do our due diligence to re-define their roles, to create young men who could become great fathers, and to address the perils that placed our men’s lives in jeopardy.

Nicole Perryman

In our society, we derived from a patriarchal society defined by men’s directions, rules and expectations. Feminists made significant progress in changing perspectives and laws about the rights of women. In our search to acclaim our rights, our men paid a price. In my feminist mind, I didn’t need a husband, a father or a man to mentor my daughter. I was capable of doing this alone. And I was. I did an amazing job, and my daughter is successful. But at what cost? Did feminism really seek to eliminate men, or was the movement more around sharing space and equity? And, can we begin to address intergenerational trauma? We did not do our due diligence to re-define their roles, to create young men who could become great fathers, and to address the perils that placed our men’s lives in jeopardy. As a Black woman, I am inherently aware that for many generations, Black men have been systematically prevented from caring for their children– from slavery, to systemic racism and oppression, imprisonment of young Black males, unhealed trauma and so much more. In some South Asian and African cultures, Western patriarchal systems became embedded as unwritten rules and laws which created a power imbalance, turning women into property. And, in Indigenous cultures men were stripped of their power, their culture, and their independence. These traumatic experiences have created and manifested circumstances that places our men’s lives in jeopardy.

We were wrong about fathers. Our children need them and so do we, as women.

Nicole Perryman

Moving forward, some of the stories stay in my mind as guidance, and reflection to understand the challenges fathers have experienced in their lives as they battled with systems to spend time with their children. Other men struggling to create peace and collaboration with their children’s mother. But I have also met father’s who lost control. Fathers who made legitimate mistakes and couldn’t recover from the shame. Fathers whose past skeletons continued to haunt them. Fathers who kept making poor choices. And fathers, who throughout the experience, had limited support. So what do we expect if we continue to dishonor fathers and fatherhood?

So where do we go from here?

Stressing counselling is almost a given from a therapist. However, it is important to consider that counselling is part of a supportive platform. For women, it is important for us to find ways to heal our hurt from ended relationships, and find a way to find safety, support, and guidance to nurture a healthy relationship with our children and their fathers. In relationships where there is intimate partner violence, it is important to develop safety plans to protect yourself and your children. Other strategies are listed under the article: Supporting our children through divorce. As mothers, we can help to develop our young boys as they become men to be caring, loving, supportive and emotionally aware people. Examine and reshape your own biases of gender roles, develop emotionally secure attachments with your children, attend to and respond to their emotional needs, reinforce values and principles with your children, and teach your children to self-regulate their behavior and emotions. The article, Raising Healthy Children may also provide helpful strategies.

Support for our Fathers

For our fathers, the path towards healing may be different. Individual Counselling and psychotherapy is extremely helpful to address your emotions and learn healthy strategies. In addition, exploring systemic racism/oppression, intergenerational traumas, and childhood experiences that influence how men perceive themselves, perceive their world, understand and treat women, and nurture healthy relationships with their children. Counselling can guide fathers to identify: what happened to me? as opposed to: what is wrong with me?

Mentoring and group support can create an additional source of holistic care and healing. Mentors can provide guidance, modelling and leadership to men who may not have had their fathers’, may have had not positive role models, and may need additional fatherly support. Support groups such as, Father’s programming, Alcohol Anonymous (AA), anger management, co-parenting support, parenting classes, partner abuse programs and more can provide education, reflection, insight, and connection among men experiencing similar problems.

Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

Unleashing ego and dealing with shame, are critical to growth for any person. However, for men, the concept of “toxic masculinity” and patriarchal society has rendered generations of men who harbor shame, self-guilt, doubt, self-blame, ego-driven, aggression, and much more. Taking the time to develop and grow emotional intelligence can help to address these identities that have developed for me. Suggestions include: journaling, reflection, and mindfulness as activities to learn how to be aware of thoughts, feelings and how they interact with behavior. A common website I suggest is: Self-Compassion Meditation. Identify: why? what happened? what are my triggers? how can I reduce my stressors? how can I react in a healthier way? how would the other person feel? how can I attend to their emotions in the moment? Emotional Intelligence encompasses four main principles: the ability to regulate your emotions, to see another’s point of view and perspective, to not take things personal and learn when someone is projecting their emotions on you, and to demonstrate self-awareness. Psychology Today produced an article on Emotional Intelligence, which provides a lay person’s way of understanding emotional intelligence. Self-help podcasts and books can also prove successful in empowering men to adopt a stronger, healthier self-identity, build their self-worth, and inspire them to become the best versions of themselves.

The power of giving back can shed it’s benefits to fathers and men. When you take time to support your community, to assist younger men in their journeys, and to sacrifice your time to support another– your heart grows. Your ability to manage stressful situations increases, as you develop values such as humility, patience, and understanding. You develop leadership skills in being able to support, guide and teach others in areas where you struggled at one point in your life. Giving back goes further than volunteerism… giving back in relationships with your partner, your children, your employer or employees, your parents, your friends, and so much can reinforce values that you are seeking to accomplish and create a loving, supportive and helpful environment for you to thrive.

Let’s move towards, Loving our fathers and creating opportunities for fathers to be successful, as well as recover from their mistakes.

Disclaimer: Research can show the benefits of children spending time with their fathers as beneficial to their emotional and attachment. Safety is critical. In areas where children can not be safe with either parent, it is critical that children are kept safe and their parents engage in supports to improve their capacity to meet the needs of their children. This article provides an overview, but does not address more complex issues that may arise within the father-child relationship. Stay tuned for more articles on this topic and many more.

Parenting 0

Book Review: “Creative Interventions With Children: A Transtheoretical Approach”

Creative Interventions With Children: A Transtheoretical Approach, edited by: Jeff Chang brings together a number of skilled clinicians and educators in a collaborative work of research and practice approaches in play therapy with children.  In the forward introduction, Jeff Chang highlights that the approaches and practices are the tools that encourage change for children in therapy; however, it is the relationship with the therapist that enhances and solidifies the process of change.   His enthusiasm and appreciation for child play therapy is inherent throughout the book as he writes, “this book is exciting to me because it emulates how most child and family therapists’ work— they create and “steal” ideas from others, and integrate these ideas into their work”.  He highlights the balance therapists create in maintaining their theoretical approach and integrating this knowledge into utilizing and creating interventions designed to appeal to children, youth, families and other counselling clients whose learning and healing style requires such creativity.

The Creative Intervention with Children edition has a rich collection of articles on creative art expressions, narrative therapy, genograms, child-centered play therapy, Theraplay, family therapy work, animal-assisted therapy approach and working with specific groups such as group therapy, families, cross-cultural work, divorce/separation and more.  The articles also include approaches which have been used with children and families with a range of difficulties and topics including trauma, attachment, grief and loss, gender variant children, and mental illness and more (Chang, 2013).  This is definitely a must-have edition to play therapists, family therapists and professionals who work with young people.

Some of my favorite articles include, “The Colours of My Family Tree- Creative Genogram Mapping of Multi-Generational Trauma” by Chloe Westelmajer under the section: Creative Expressions: Art in Children’s Therapy.  This section teaches therapists how to use the basic genogram to help the child explain and describe relationships in their family in an artistic and engaging manner.  The genogram can also be used as an assessment tool for children and family.  As Westelmajer explains the genogram provides rich information about the client, as well as sets the stage for further therapeutic work and focus within treatment (Westelmajer, 2013).

“The Magic Touch with a Cotton Ball” by Lorie Walton and “Caring for Hurts: A Theraplay Activity” by Evangeline Munns are both Theraplay ® approaches which uses touch, engagement and attunement to build connection and attachment within the child.  Both techniques are practical and easy to use with clients and families.

Another interesting article is Julie Tilson’s, “Friendly Ghosts: Re-Membering Conversations with Children” (Tilson, 2013).  Rooted in narrative practices, Tilson connects the symbol of the social media Casper the Ghost with the concept of developing narrative stories to help children grieve significant people in their lives.  In this structured approach, the therapist takes the child or the family on a journey to explore their lost loved ones influence on their past, their present and future as a way to help them as a way to honor and acknowledge their continued role in the family’s dynamics.  Out of this discourse come narratives which become part of the individuals healing and growth.  A definitely unique and very important piece to the grief and loss work (Tilson. 2013).

Finally, “Creative Empowerment for Girls: Strengthening Her Awakening Voice” by Carmen Richardson is another favorite particularly due to my own passion of working with young woman.  Richardson’s approach was designed for group work with pre- adolescent girls and includes art approaches, breathing exercises and body awareness together to develop activities to help girls transition into an important stage in their lives.  In one activity, Richardson encourages girls to create an art symbol that represents a girl speaking her truth or creating an art symbol that represents their Moon Cycle.  Her focus is upon providing girls with rites of passage which celebrates their changes into women and provides them a creative space to express themselves (Richardson, 2013).   Altogther this collection contains 48 articles, interventions, and approaches which can be of value to play therapists working with children and youth in many different circles.  A definite must-have for your collection!

References:

Chang, Jeff (edited), Creative Interventions with Children: A Transtheoretical Approach  Calgary: Family Psychology Press: 2013

Parenting 0

Book Review- Creative Interventions

Creative Interventions With Children: A Transtheoretical Approach, edited by: Jeff Chang brings together a number of skilled clinicians and educators in a collaborative work of research and practice approaches in play therapy with children.  In the forward introduction, Jeff Chang highlights that the approaches and practices are the tools that encourage change for children in therapy; however, it is the relationship with the therapist that enhances and solidifies the process of change.   His enthusiasm and appreciation for child play therapy is inherent throughout the book as he writes, “this book is exciting to me because it emulates how most child and family therapists’ work— they create and “steal” ideas from others, and integrate these ideas into their work”.  He highlights the balance therapists create in maintaining their theoretical approach and integrating this knowledge into utilizing and creating interventions designed to appeal to children, youth, families and other counselling clients whose learning and healing style requires such creativity.  The Creative Intervention with Children edition has a rich collection of articles on creative art expressions, narrative therapy, genograms, child-centered play therapy, Theraplay, family therapy work, animal-assisted therapy approach and working with specific groups such as group therapy, families, cross-cultural work, divorce/separation and more.  The articles also include approaches which have been used with children and families with a range of difficulties and topics including trauma, attachment, grief and loss, gender variant children, and mental illness and more (Chang, 2013).  This is definitely a must-have edition to play therapists, family therapists and professionals who work with young people.

Some of my favorite articles include, “The Colours of My Family Tree- Creative Genogram Mapping of Multi-Generational Trauma” by Chloe Westelmajer under the section: Creative Expressions: Art in Children’s Therapy.  This section teaches therapists how to use the basic genogram to help the child explain and describe relationships in their family in an artistic and engaging manner.  The genogram can also be used as an assessment tool for children and family.  As Westelmajer explains the genogram provides rich information about the client, as well as sets the stage for further therapeutic work and focus within treatment (Westelmajer, 2013).

“The Magic Touch with a Cotton Ball” by Lorie Walton and “Caring for Hurts: A Theraplay Activity” by Evangeline Munns are both Theraplay ® approaches which uses touch, engagement and attunement to build connection and attachment within the child.  Both techniques are practical and easy to use with clients and families.

Another interesting article is Julie Tilson’s, “Friendly Ghosts: Re-Membering Conversations with Children” (Tilson, 2013).  Rooted in narrative practices, Tilson connects the symbol of the social media Casper the Ghost with the concept of developing narrative stories to help children grieve significant people in their lives.  In this structured approach, the therapist takes the child or the family on a journey to explore their lost loved ones influence on their past, their present and future as a way to help them as a way to honor and acknowledge their continued role in the family’s dynamics.  Out of this discourse come narratives which become part of the individuals healing and growth.  A definitely unique and very important piece to the grief and loss work (Tilson. 2013).

Finally, “Creative Empowerment for Girls: Strengthening Her Awakening Voice” by Carmen Richardson is another favorite particularly due to my own passion of working with young woman.  Richardson’s approach was designed for group work with pre- adolescent girls and includes art approaches, breathing exercises and body awareness together to develop activities to help girls transition into an important stage in their lives.  In one activity, Richardson encourages girls to create an art symbol that represents a girl speaking her truth or creating an art symbol that represents their Moon Cycle.  Her focus is upon providing girls with rites of passage which celebrates their changes into women and provides them a creative space to express themselves (Richardson, 2013).

Altogther this collection contains 48 articles, interventions, and approaches which can be of value to play therapists working with children and youth in many different circles.  A definite must-have for your collection!

Work Cited:
Chang, Jeff (edited). Creative Interventions With Children: A Transtheoretical Approach. Calgary: Family Psychology Press: 2013.

Parenting 0

Reviews of, “No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture your Child’s Developing Mind” by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, PH.D.

No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, written by: Daniel J. Siegel, MD and Tina Payne Bryson, PH.D., is an engaging, practical, and informative parenting book aimed to guide parents on effective discipline practices for all children and youth. It is a must-have book for any parent, caregiver, teacher, and other professionals who work with families. This book ties nicely with Daniel J. Siegel’s and Tina Payne Bryson’s other edition, The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind and Daniel J. Siegel’s Brainstorm . I highly recommend this book as an addition to your library or one of your main go-to resources for effective parenting. This edition looks at customary discipline practices such as spanking and time-outs, and encourages parents to use a more positive behavior management approach by incorporating the youth’s brain development, by teaching the youth social behavior and emotional management skills, and by building connection and relationship with their youth. The authors emphasize that by focusing on the goals of discipline, you are able to create more learning opportunities for children and youth which will benefit them in the short and longer term. Effective discipline takes into account the child’s mindsight and helps reframe the child’s motivational factors which influence their behavior. No-drama Discipline encourages parents to understand the child’s own experiences, validate and reflect their feelings, use redirection in a strategic way to help their children develop insight, empathy, and their own solutions to solve difficulties. This book is not preachy or punitive to parents, and encourages parents to remember that they are human. In No-Drama Discipline parents are reinforced to know that relationship building and connecting with your child are critical elements in teaching positive behavior and determining future positive outcomes, a changed perspective on parenting, discipline and child brain development, and several concrete and practical strategies to incorporate within your home. The book is full of practical and realistic examples with cartoon pictures, stories of real situations, and concrete suggestions on how to successfully redirect behavior. As well the authors provide pros and cons with traditional discipline methods to help explain the short and long term benefit of using effective discipline practices with young people. This book is an easy-read and engaging book for anyone. Overall, No-Drama Discipline is definitely a bestseller in the Siegel and Payne collection (Siegel and Bryson, 2014).

Summary

As parents, caregivers, teachers, and many others who interact with children, we know that we impose discipline as a way to teach our youth new and positive behaviors. Discipline seeks to achieve TWO GOALS:
1. to encourage youth to make the right choices and to cooperate with others and
2. to teach our youth to develop long term skills on managing their emotions, handling difficult situations, and self-control.

Effective discipline is teaching our youth positive skills to help them in other situations which may arise in their lives. Siegel and Payne Bryson’s approach is not focused on instituting heavy consequences and punitive reactions to young people’s behavior, rather it is focused on encouraging parents to use discipline to connect and redirect their youth’s behavior. According to the authors, research shows that young people who have nurturing and connected environments as they are developing, characterized by open communication, clear limits and boundary settings and high expectations in a consistent way lead to better outcomes for their future (Siegel and Bryson, 2014).

This is not a usual “parenting” book which focuses on the “problem child” with behavior issues and focuses upon developing rigid rules and boundaries to keep the youth’s behavior in “check” at all times. This is also not your “pie in the sky”, perfect family serum that creates strategies which busy parents in our modern world would never be able to replicate successfully, daily. The authors are very clear in understanding that in our world, parents ARE busy maintaining work/career and in often demanding stressful environments. They recognize that families are usually on the go with schedules and programs which may make it difficult to take the time to address their child’s behavior with a teaching element. The authors recognize that one behavior intervention may not work for each situation all the time as well for many children. They acknowledge that a child’s temper tantrums and behaviors may also elicit a specific emotional response in even the most patient parent may struggle with, but they recognize that parents are human beings, striving to do the best for their children and optimizing their outcomes (Siegel and Bryson, 2014).

When parents initially respond to misbehavior by their child, they are encouraged to think, “WHY did my child react this way?”…. “WHAT lesson do I want to teach in this moment”… and “How can I best teach this lesson?” . It is a realistic approach where the parent is not reactive to their child’s behavior but rather proactive and reflective. It is important parents take some time to think about and become attuned to their child and understand where the behavior is coming from and how they can best help their child manage their behavior more effectively. The authors suggest alternatives such as time in’s and a calm zone can be effectively in helping parents manage their child’s behavior without feeling rejected or unworthy. In a “time-in” situation, parents are encouraged to spend one on one time with their child as a way to help them regain self-control and regulate their emotions. The calm zone can be helpful for children to develop their internal self-regulation when they are overstimulated, tired, and has difficulty managing their behavior well. The authors encourage parents, caregivers, and like to take time to reflect on what their discipline philosophy is and what they hope to accomplish in helping their child grow to be healthy adult as well as enjoy their relationship with their children (Siegel and Bryson, 2014).

The other teaching moment within this book is helping parents, caregivers and others understand the child’s developing brain in clear and concise manner. When parents begin to change their perspective on their child’s behavior by understanding their child’s perspective and where they are coming from, then parents can begin to use this angle to help them shift their thinking. This is termed as, “mindsight” and a central concept discussed in Seigel’s, Brainstorm edition. The authors write, “when we use our own mindsight circuits to sense the mind behind our children’s behavior we model for them how to sense the mind within themselves and others” . Mindsight is a skill which helps children to develop other skills such as empathy, compassion, insight and morality. According to Payne and Siegel, “mindsight is the basis of social and emotional intelligence ”. The authors also highlight that experiences changes the child’s developing brain, which then means positive and negative experiences will have a profound impact on how your child understands the world, develops their self-esteem, manages problems and conflicts in life and relationships, and how they develop resiliency. In addition to the impact of experiences on the developing brain, it is important to note that the brain is always changeable, complex in whole, and functions in many different ways. In the end, by integrating this understanding into parenting practices, we don’t necessarily create perfect robotic children who respond the same way all the time, but by using predictable, sensitive, loving and relational discipline you are in essence creating emotionally and socially healthy young people who then create adult lives in the same way (Siegel and Bryson, 2014).

By utilizing the No-Drama approach you are also changing how you respond to difficulties in your child’s behavior. The authors term this as proactive parenting where you begin to recognize difficulties ahead of time and institute effective interventions to deal with the difficulty. If the behavior has escalated beyond the proactive stage, the parent is encouraged to connect with their child to help calm them down so they can receive redirection from you, connection builds the brain and helps your child to learn ways to effectively calm themselves before reacting to difficulties, and finally, connection strengthens the relationship and bond between yourself and your child (Siegel and Bryson, 2014).

Connection does not entail that parents do not set limits or redirect behavior, but rather sets the tone for teaching the child how to calm their behavior and then rationally respond to the difficulty the child is experiencing. This is reinforced by teaching parents strategies on how to set appropriate limits and redirect behavior in a positive way (Siegel and Bryson, 2014) .

Included in the No-Drama Discipline is a No-Drama Connection Cycle which consists of communication comfort (aimed at encouraging your child to become calm once upset), validate ( helping your child to understand that you understand their feelings and what they are going through), stop talking and listen (allowing yourself to really listen to what your child is experiencing and saying without talking for them or talking at them), and finally reflect what you hear (reflecting to the child what you heard what they said to help them to feel heard and understood) . Within this cycle are specific strategies parents can attempt to ensure their child feels they have the support they require to manage their experiences at that time. There are also guiding steps to redirecting your child’s behavior which is important for parents to understand. The authors believed there are two principles: wait until your child is ready and be consistent, but not rigid . These principles are really about helping your child learn from their behavior, as opposed to the parent reacting to the behavior with rigidity and fear. The outcomes for implementing these strategies go further than just addressing the behavior in the moment, and is more about helping your child develop insight into themselves, instilling empathy as they learn understand how other’s may feel because of their behavior, and teaching your child to integrate insight and empathy and repair further challenges which may require in the future (Siegel and Bryson, 2014).

Using redirection as a discipline strategy is an effective way of incorporating the principles described above. The authors provide 8 simple strategies to teach parents how to redirect their child’s behavior effectively and teach them new skills. They are described as:
1. Reduce words- very simple, long lectures are not effective.
2. Embrace emotions- validate their feelings, but teach them how to manage them
3. Describe, don’t preach- feel free to point out the obvious to activate your child’s thinking
4. Involve your child in the discipline- work collectively on developing a solution
5. Reframe a no into a conditional yes-using alternative messages to respond to child’s immediate concerns without turning them down completing
6. Emphasize the positive- emphasizing your child’s strengths and past accomplishments to redirect behavior.
7. Creatively approach the situation- using creativity and playfulness in helping redirect behavior, being flexible at times when needed, and use humor if appropriate
8. Teach mindsight tools- reinforce mindsight tools as discussed above to help them understand their behavior and how they react (Siegel and Bryson, 2014).

In conclusion, the authors share messages of hope to parents, caregivers and others to help humanize their experience as parents and feel validated in their hard work in creating healthy, and successful adults.
Messages:
• There is no magic wand
• Your kids benefit even when you mess up
• You can always reconnect
• It’s never too late to make a positive change

(Siegel and Bryson, 2014).

You can find your own copy of No-Drama Discipline at your nearest book seller, Chapters/Indigo, Amazon or at: http://www.drdansiegel.com/books/no_drama_discipline/

Works Cited
Siegel, D., & Bryson, T. P. (2014). No-Drama Discipline. New York City: Bantam Books.

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