Group brings fathers, kids into play
SUMMIT COUNTY – Programs abound for mothers and young children, but only recently is more attention being focused on the needs of fathers who’d like to spend more time with their kids. With more families on the dual-income plan, experts say it makes sense to encourage fathers to learn more about nurturing, role modeling, positive play and other behavior that goes beyond simply playing “horsey.”In Summit County, a monthly play group for fathers and their children ages 0-5 is ongoing after beginning a few years ago as part of the National Fatherhood Initiative. Organizer Cindi Harris-Krane, who also administers the county’s Parents As Teachers program, is looking for more local dads to attend the monthly sessions.
“It’s not as easy to get fathers to this kind of thing,” Harris-Krane says. “But at one point we had a core group of four to six dads, and they really enjoyed it.”The local play group is a mostly unstructured environment where fathers are simply encouraged to come and spend time with other dads and their children. Books and toys are laid out on blankets, and pizzas, snacks and drinks are on hand so they don’t have to worry about dinner. A veteran dad or two with the program is on hand to answer any questions, and fathers can also find out about other county resources available to them.”Men are changing, realizing we are important and we’re stepping up in ways we haven’t before,” said Doug Gertner, a Denver-based fatherhood consultant who’s done workshops on parenting in Summit County.
“They’re also discovering that fatherhood is a gas, and it’s a lot more fun than a lot of things they do – like golf. I mean, come on, hanging with your kids is more fun than chasing a little ball around!”While the immediate benefits of dads spending more time with their children appear obvious, there are other plusses Gertner says have been identified through extensive studies.”Kids who have time alone with their dads have richer social and exploratory behavior,” he said. “They’re more likely to be adventurous, and that’s a good thing.”Gertner also said children with involved fathers do better in school and are better at problem-solving. Less sibling conflict and aggression is also correlated to father interaction and involvement, as are lower incidences of adolescent pregnancy and higher likelihood of attending college.
“You’ll also find a lot of the people in prison came from fatherless homes,” he added.Gertner is quick to point out that none of these benefits discount the value of the mother.”It’s not saying women can’t do it, that a single-parent household is somehow destined for bad things,” he said. “It’s just saying that when two loving parents are involved in the lives of their children, each parent has a different kind of approach that really benefits the children more than if there was just one.”Harris-Krane hopes the play group is simply a starting point for fathers who want to spend more time with their children. It is, she says, a great opportunity for newer fathers to gain some of the insight more seasoned dads in the group will have.”We hope to build a community of dads who can help each other and have a good time in the process,” she said. “We also have a new person with the program – Carlos Abel, a father of six – who speaks Spanish, so we want to see some of the local Spanish-speaking dads come, too.”
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