November’s guest blog comes from Ryan Warren, Family Support Co-ordinator with Home-Start Glasgow South and founder of DadsApp. Ryan shares some of this thoughts around the importance of genuine and authentic engagement with dads. Find Ryan on Facebook and Twitter: @dadsapp and check out the DadsApp website: www.dadsapp.org
We the Church, the Ecclesia, the people of God, have the definitive image of a father that guides us, teaches us and cares for us even when we don’t realise it. Yet there are many children out there who may not have great opportunities (number and quality) to interact with their worldly fathers. Be it due to work commitments, family dynamics or just simply life getting in the way.
For many fathers the barrier can often be the confidence in spending time alone with their children. For some the paternal nature is strong and natural but for others this doesn’t come so easily and it can take great effort to establish and build strong relationships.
So what can I do about this? You may ask. Plenty, I would reply.
Let’s consider dads and their relationships with their children. Let’s think about about how we can incorporate bonding opportunities into our services, the groups we run, the support services that we provide. Support is not an easy subject for men to approach as it requires an action, much like repentance. So how do we accommodate for this? We engage, we talk, we ask, we discuss and we demonstrate.
Engaging with dads needs to be authentic and the conversations need not be with an end goal but simply for the purpose of genuine engagement. Be it a new visitor to your church or a dad at a play group, if they feel you have an agenda they’ll run a mile. Move at their pace and respond to their needs and be bold enough to lead by example without judgement.
Men find it harder to acknowledge a need for help/support and take much longer to access it, but this needn’t be the case. Check out the numerous resources provided by www.yearofthedad.org who have spent 2016 raising the voice of dads and looking at new and exciting methods of engagement. Be patient, and know that every organisation who work with or are seeking to work with dads start off slow and with few people. But make these few people feel valued, important and included and you have the opportunity of success.
Dads come in different shapes and sizes and so there is no one approach that works to engage them. The unifying factor of all dads is their children and that is truly the reason we are seeking to engage them. Research shows that dads with an improved sense of confidence, fulfilment and happiness makes for happier children and healthier mums. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-38076493..Try making the work less about the dads and more about the kids, accompanied by the dads and you just may get a few more people turn up. No promises.
So if your efforts to engage dads are falling short of your hopes and expectations know that it takes time for anyone working in this area. Hang in there, try new things, assess your approach regularly., don’t be afraid to try new things but most importantly DON’T GIVE UP!