Being a School Dad
Being a School Dad!
Kids are back in the groove of school- studies, activities, events, and friendships. Undoubtedly, they will have this year’s circle of friends, they know which subjects (and teachers) they like and the ones they are struggling with, they have decided which extra-curricular activities to participate in and are even looking forward to the holiday breaks that are right around the corner. While great strides have been made with getting people vaccinated, there are still children and other adults who are on opposite sides of the fence regarding the vaccine. You must remember, from your children’s perspective, school is not only about the learning, but also the social component. It is important that you support both components of their education. Your districts and schools are doing what is in the best interest of your children and their staff (whether you agree or not).
Where do you fit in your child’s school community? For our children, school is where they spend most of their awake time each day. Just like adults with work. Our kid’s teachers, classmates, and activities mean the world to them. There are fantastic days and there are bummers. This is the very reason we, as their parent, need to be involved in their school world too. They need our guidance and support. Since a return to home schooling still may be a possibility, especially in some states, it is even more important you are on top of what is going on with their education.
All too often, as a single dad, you might feel awkward or unwelcome in the school community. Perhaps, your child’s Mom tries to keep you away, or you believe the school is her domain with the kids, so you do not get involved. It is important for you to realize that your child wants and needs you too. Get engaged. Do it for your child, if for no other reason than they deserve and want to know you care! It helps them succeed too!
What about those kids you have in college? Yes, they are young adults and 18 or older, but that does not mean you stop being engaged. Your adult children may not need you to tell them to do their homework, what time to go to bed or meet with their professors on their progress, but you DO NEED TO BE ENGAGED! Being engaged does not mean you are a helicopter parent. Find that balance.
Attend Parent- Teacher Conferences
Call or video chat nightly to find out how your child’s day went
If your child’s school does not have their calendar & events online, ask the school to send you the calendar.
When you are having parenting time, help with homework
Volunteer with their activities, such as a field trip or sports team
Ask the teacher to email/mail you your child’s report card
Get to know your child’s friends – if covid-19 conditions allow, take them for pizza
Display their school picture, schoolwork and report card on your refrigerator
Find out their favorite subject so you can find interesting information to share with them and use as conversation starters
Dad’s Homework if you have children in college
Go to Freshmen Orientation and help get them settled. Simply don’t drop them off and leave. Determine your departure based on the schedule created by the college or university.
Make sure your name is on any release forms giving you permission to have access to their medical records and in some cases, their academic progress.
Laws now govern that colleges DO NOT have to release information regardless of who is paying the bills. Your child is 18 or older.
Get their college calendar which is available online. Stay appropriately engaged.
Reach out to your college student often. Even if it is a text or email. Simply to check in. Remember, they don’t need you to hover even though you may want to do that.
Avoid just showing up to surprise them. If you want to surprise them, communicate your intentions. If it can’t be the dates you had hoped, I am sure there are other times. Be flexible.
Allow your college student to problem solve when discussing issues they are having. Even if they ask you for the answer, guide them to the answer. You want independence and self-reliance.
Remind them if they need anything, day or night, to call you.
Okay, you have your homework assignments. If you complete them on time, I promise you will have an
A+ in fatherhood...
Grief is Normal, Necessary & Healthy
Over the years, I have presented workshops and written articles about
the grief process. In the aftermath and continuation of COVID-19, the
grief process is just as important now. Yet many still find it a form of
weakness, blame and vulnerability. Grieving is time consuming but doesn’t stop you from moving forward. Choosing not to grieve can stop you from moving forward. Grieving is a natural part of loss, especially when that loss is close to the heart. Unfortunately, despite all the brain research, books and experts telling us that grief is a natural process, and we must work through our grief, most still want a quick fix via a pill or simple denial. Today’s society often does not allow for proper grieving. Keep in mind, even if the loss is under the best of circumstances, it is still the loss of a way of life, known security, support system and change, which all human beings tend to resist.
Often if a grandparent, older aunt or uncle passes away, parents seem to be more tolerant of the grieving process for themselves and their children as a natural progression of life and tend to be more supportive and patient for grieving. However, if the trauma is due to a more direct loss such as a divorce, telling their children they are adopted or their spouse has died, parents tend to feel that their children’s grief is a negative reflection on them as parents for their child’s pain and heartache. Often parents will deny their child’s pain if they see them laughing, playing and carrying on like nothing is wrong and/or choose to pre-occupy them with distractions, gifts, activities and refusal to admit their children’s heart is hurting and broken, an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. There is nothing wrong with distractions, gifts and activities, but not as a permanent substitute for or avoidance of grief. To pretend nothing is wrong, dismiss their pain or tell yourself or your children “that’s life and move on” does not help work through their grief any faster. You would never deny your children their medication to keep them healthy, why deny them the ability to grieve? To allow grieving also keeps you and your children healthy physically, mentally and emotionally. Brain research has proven that if you are not healthy emotionally, you are not going to be healthy physically nor mentally. As you know, children lack the experience and tools to work through what they are feeling. Even if they know others who have gone through similar circumstances, like adults, no one feels their pain like they do, because their pain is personal.
Think about the pain your felt when you lost someone close to you or even when your divorce was final, or spouse died. You’re an adult with life experiences; yet your pain made you feel helpless, vulnerable or like a child all over again. If you, the parent, have those feelings, imagine how your children, who have little, or no, life experiences must feel? Regardless of why the loss occurred, the blame and guilt cannot consume you to the point of long-term denial for yourself, your children, nor can you simply feel that a few months of grieving or short-term support system is all you need. The deeper the loss, the longer it will take to grieve.
It is never easy to ask your children how they feel about their parents no longer being together. Even if you did ask them and they said they’re fine or simply shrugged their shoulders, doesn’t mean they are okay with it. Often, the reality sets in six months or a year after it happened. This usually coincides with family and friends that stop coming around on a regular basis to give support or help you and the family, or a move to a new home or state.
At the end of the day, to grieve (adult or child) takes time. How much time it takes to grieve is truly unknown. Simply understand you cannot put a time limit on it. Part of raising your children is teaching them to cope with life’s bumps in the roads. Those bumps may be caused by us, the parents, and we must be prepared to help them cope with that also. Choosing to do nothing and denying the pain will simply cause greater issues and perhaps greater heart ache for you and your children. I know if a speeding bus was coming toward your children, you would do anything in your power to prevent your children from being hit by that bus. The unresolved grief is a speeding bus.
To help you and your children start the grieving process in a healthy manner, consider some basic steps:
• All technology is off or put away. No distractions.
• Acknowledge the loss and validate their feelings (often that starts with sharing your feelings).
• Crying is ok and healthy.
• Make time to discuss “their world” and the impact the loss is making on them.
o Don’t set a time limit, facilitate the discussion, don’t run it. Guide it.
o If it must stop, try to end it on an upbeat note and a promise to continue.
o Reassure them you will be there to help them every step of the way.
• Understand, your children’s time to talk may not be convenient.
o They may very well wake you at night to talk.
o They may do very little talking…but they are listening and watching.
• Consider counseling or a peer support group for your children.
o www.rainbows.org is one form of peer support.
• Parent your children consistently with appropriate boundaries.
o Parenting out of guilt tends to have negative long-term effects on your children.
• Feelings are neither good nor bad, they just “are.”
o It is how the feelings are expressed that should be monitored.
o Never dismiss their feelings even if they are angry at you.
o They need to verbally express themselves and may not know how.
o Listen more than give reason or excuse. Be empathetic.
o Pity and sympathy usually don’t work…especially with adolescents.
o Conversations with younger children may be limited, and you may need to ask them to draw what they are thinking and feeling while explaining it to you as best they can.
• Tell them each night you love them and reassure them you are in this together.
Parenting is never easy.
Adding an emotional trauma such as a divorce, death, pandemic, deployment, incarceration or deportation, makes parenting more difficult. Anything worth doing is often difficult and, regardless of how hard parenting is or becomes, your children are counting on you! When tackling grief, try to break it down into chunks. Sometimes looking at grief long-term can be overwhelming. Chunking the process may not make it easier, but it will make it more manageable.