Category Archives: Advice for Fathers
Guest post by Alex Summers
It seems like just yesterday you were explaining to your young children where babies come from (perhaps using this hilarious vintage illustrated guide). Now they’re a bit older and you have to tackle an even harder issue: how to avoid STDs.
Here’s how I handled the conversation with each of my two children. I have to admit, I kinda screwed up the first one.
The scene: My son’s bedroom in our Denver, Colo. home.
Me: Hi, Devon.
Devon, Age 15: Dad, you have to knock.
I knock, even though Devon can see me in the doorway. This is a bad start; I’m now beginning the conversation from a point of weakness.
Me: Um, so I wanted to tell you… you know you’re growing older, and…
Devon: Is this a sex thing? I already know about sex.
Me: Well, I actually wanted to talk about STDs.
Devon: I already know about STDs.
Devon looks at me as if realizing his dad is the biggest idiot on the planet, for assuming he doesn’t know about STDs. Humiliated, I leave.
That was the extent of my conversation with my son Devon about STDs. I wanted to tell him so much more; that we would love him no matter what happened to him, that we wanted him to make good choices, that sex was a huge responsibility that had to be handled appropriately — but not, of course, until he was much older! I wanted to tell him that he needed to get himself tested before every new relationship; that there were many STD clinics in the greater Denver area and that it wasn’t embarrassing to go get tested, it was actually part of being a real man and a good partner. It helped to know that our family lived less than a mile from a clinic offering the best STD testing Denver has to offer.
I never got to tell my son these things. I pulled a typical dad move and left the rest of his sex education to his mother.
Then Devon’s sister Abby entered her teenage years. As psychology studies note, a teenage girl’s relationship with her father is crucial to helping her navigate the road to adulthood. Without a positive, affirming, loving father in her life, my dear Abby would be more likely to look for that affirmation from other sources, including from boys that might not treat her like the special person I knew she was.
Here’s how the conversation went this time:
The scene: me driving Abby home from band practice. As many parents quickly learn, cars are often the best places for parents to talk to their children about important issues.
Me: Abby, I want to talk to you about something important, but I want to do it in a way where we don’t feel embarrassed.
Abby, Age 15: Okay.
Me: The teachers at school said that in your sophomore year, some kids start experimenting with sex.
Abby immediately gets a little uncomfortable.
Me: It’s okay, that’s kind of the age when everyone starts talking about sex. Including me. You’re becoming a sophomore, so I’m going to start talking about it too!
I accompany this statement with a huge grin. Abby begins to relax.
Me: Well, what I really want to talk to you about right now is STDs. I know I’m going to sound like an idiot, but you know that you can get diseases, right?
Me: You’re going to hear a lot of people say that wearing condoms is enough to protect you from disease, but there are some types of STDs that you can get even while wearing a condom. What I’m saying is that when you’re ready to start having sex — which I hope you’re going to be responsible about and wait for — you need to be really careful about spreading disease.
Abby: What do you mean?
Me: I mean that if someone asks you to have sex and doesn’t want to wear a condom, you have to say no. And even with condoms, you need to get yourself regularly tested for STDs. There are clinics all around the city, or you can go to your gynecologist. Or you can talk to your mom or me. We won’t be mad, I promise. We just want to help you stay safe and healthy. We’re all on the same team.
Then Abby smiled. She actually smiled! Score one for Dad.
Even the most trustworthy STD testing Denver teens have their disposal won’t matter if you don’t talk to them about it. Talking about sex and STDs can be awkward and embarrassing, but it’s something that all parents have to do. What I’ve found is that approaching the sex talk from a place of love, and not devaluing your child’s intelligence, is the best way to make this conversation a success.
How about you? How have you handled the big sex talk?
By Alex Summers
If you get asked this ultimate Halloween question “why it is called Halloween” over the next few days – here are some ready-made reponses for you:
1. Very short answer:
Because I said so
2. Short answer:
It’s complicated – go ask your mom
3. Answer for all kids older than 2:
The term Halloween, originally spelled Hallowe’en, is shortened from All Hallows’ Even – e’en is a shortening of even, which is a shortening of evening. This is ultimately derived from the Old English Ealra Maessedaeg (mass-day of all saints) which is now known as eve of All Saints Day (All Saints Day is November 1st). Halloween has roots in the Celtic festival of Samhain and is also thought to have been heavily influenced by the Christian holy days of All Saints’ Day (also known as Hallowmas, All Hallows, and Hallowtide) and All Souls’ Day. It is largely a secular celebration but some have expressed strong feelings about perceived religious overtones.
[thank you Wikipedia]
Happy trick or treating!
Guest post by Alex Summers
Whenever I thought about how my son would interact with his grandfather, I always pictured it to be a continuation of the way my dad and I used to play together: sports out in the backyard, making fun of the monkeys at the zoo, running around the park. I knew my dad would get older – he probably wasn’t going to run as fast as he did when I was a kid – but I didn’t really expect him to get old. No one ever does.
The truth is, he’s never going to chase the ball around with his grandson. He can’t really get around much any more; he broke a hip two years ago. When we went to the zoo for the first time, I had to push him around in a wheelchair. This was the first real shock, the one that opened my eyes to the fact that I might be taking care of my aging father and my young son simultaneously. I literally could not push Dad’s wheelchair and my son’s stroller at the same time. I let my son get out and walk around, and we cut our trip pretty short so neither of them got too tired.
Then I took everyone back home and started doing some research.
Turns out 47 percent of adults over age 40 are in what’s called the “sandwich generation,” meaning they have a parent over age 65 and a young child. It’s something they never prepare you for – having to talk to your parents about assisted living, medical treatments, and end-of-life care. We aren’t anywhere near those conversations yet, but I’m beginning to realize that it’s my responsibility to keep both my dad and my son safe.
Here’s what I’ve learned since that year I took my dad and son to the zoo:
1. Get the finances and paperwork in order
When your parent or older relative has an accident or illness, you’re the one who needs to know the details. Do they have insurance? Are they on Medicare? My dad hadn’t gone through the Medicare process even though he was eligible; we had to do that together. Even the little things – I never knew my dad was allergic to penicillin, for example.
You also need to get the finances in order. Do your parents have any savings? Are they in debt? Do they anticipate you taking care of the financial burden? These are all important questions to ask now, before the health emergency arrives.
2. Look into assisted living
When it became clear that Dad just wasn’t up to living alone in the old house, we had a few options. I could have taken him in to my apartment, but he wasn’t ready for that yet (and neither were we). Instead, we looked into an assisted living facility – these are more like dorms than they are like nursing homes. They allow people to retain independence while having a team on staff to provide medical care, cleaning services, and other resources as necessary.
If your parent is resistant to moving into an assisted care facility, look at the resources provided by Ravenswood Care Center. I used some of the tips they suggested to talk to my dad about why assisted living was important and to help him adapt to the change.
3. Talk to your children
I almost forgot about my son in all of this. We were carting him around as Dad and I visited hospitals and looked at care facilities. Turns out he was scared of what might happen to Grandpa and what all of this meant.
It’s important to talk your kids about what it means when Grandpa’s in a wheelchair or why Grandpa’s moving to a new home. It’s also important to make time with your kids even in the middle of a generational transition; I know I was bad at that myself, telling my son to sit still and play with the iPad as I spent weekends sorting out my dad’s possessions and helping him move.
4. Plan for what happens next
I know assisted living won’t be the end of our story. Someday, my dad is going to get sick or need additional care. My son’s needs are also going to change as he gets older and starts school. And I’m going to be the person balancing it all.
You need to start thinking now about the next stage. Do you go the nursing home route, or in-home care? Does your home need mobility assistance installations like bathroom and hallway rails?
Whatever you choose, you need to start planning – and saving – now. Better planning now helps prevent uncomfortable choices later.
How about you? Are you taking care of older relatives and kids simultaneously? Do you have advice to share?
By Alex Summers
Guest post by Dan Whiteside
We might just get a few more warm days this year, but when summer starts drawing to a close it’s time to start planning for autumn and winter. A little preparation and work now could save you a lot of time and effort later, so follow these tips to increase the chances of your household running smoothly even when the temperatures drop below zero.
Check your heating
There comes a point in the year when turning the central heating on can be avoided no longer. All being well the warmth it provides will soon heat up your property to a comfortable level. However, if your system hasn’t been used for a few months you might find it struggles to work effectively. So with that in mind, it’s always best to test your hot water and central heating before the cold snap strikes. If you want a little reassurance that you’ll not be left in the cold during winter it might be worth getting a fully-qualified plumber to look at your system or taking out boiler insurance, as certain policies include an annual service. And should something go wrong with your system you won’t have to fork out for new parts or repair costs.
Tidy up your outside areas
Whether you’re lucky enough to have a huge outdoor space or a more modest area, it’s worth sorting out your furniture and appliances sooner rather than later. This might mean washing down tables and chairs and storing them in a dry area and emptying watering cans and hoses to prevent the liquid freezing and potentially causing damage. It’s also worth taking the time to check water is flowing through your guttering and downpipes as it should be, as blockages can easily occur. Following an online guide to help you complete this process – and explain why it’s important – may help. While you’re up there it’s also worth checking if any roof tiles are loose and ensuring walkways are safe.
Purchase or repair products
When you’re unlikely to need to mow your lawn again for a while it’s worth getting the blades for your mower, strimmer and other appliances sharpened. Or if you think you’ll need to buy new, don’t wait until next summer, see if any are on sale at your local hardware store.
Draught proofing your house is a great way to slash your energy bills without spending a fortune. It’s also worth considering improving your property’s insulation and adding double glazing, as while these will require an outlay initially they will pay for themselves in a relatively short time frame.
This article is a guest post from Dan Whiteside, Dan blogs about money saving and DIY topics including home improvement and boiler repairs.
Being a dad of a 4 and (bad sleeper) 3 year old, and with both parents working, sleep is always at a premium. The words “it’s your turn” at 2am is not what you want to hear, and are usually followed by “no, I think it’s definitely yours”. Both parents end up awake and grumpy. So here’s a little tip from a friend in the same boat:
- have a standing agreement that if the child wakes between 12-5am it is Mum, otherwise it is Dad (or the other way round). Simple. No arguments.
- use the “odds and even hours” rule. 1:xx am is Mum, 2:xx am is Dad. Same principle.
- agree on alternate days for night duty.
The most important thing is to have a standing agreement, not leave the decision to a middle of the night negotiation.
Cam across this book recently – what a fantastic gift for new parents. Check it out – you should be able to get it in most high street book stores and online of course.
Guest post by Matthew Pink
The plaintive call comes in the middle of the night – “Daddy!!!”. The cause may be a desperate need to go to the toilet, monsters under the bed or it sharp-clawed dinosaurs who live in the cupboard sometimes, but whatever the reason, it is impossible to get angry when the call comes. With an estimated 50% of children aged 3-6 suffering nightmares,our paternal instincts kick in and we just want to make sure the little ones get back to sleep OK.
We’ve all developed different approaches on how to deal with this. Some parents keep a dimmed light on in the room or in the hall or landing outside the door, some opt for a calming period, and some let the child sleep in their room/bed. But if the occurrence of night disturbances becomes more frequent and a pattern is established, other changes begin to take place too. There is scientific evidence to suggest that for those fathers who choose to sleep closer to their children, a lower level of testosterone is commonly found.
Of course, while this does not mean that any great physiological changes (like the dreaded sag of the moob) will take shape, this lower testosterone level is likely to have complex implications for specific parenting behaviour and, as a consequence, the dynamics of the relationship between father and child.
Historically, fathers with higher levels of testosterone have been associated more with lower levels of parental involvement in the bringing up of the child; they were the ones who would take a more laissez-faire approach. In this particular study, some 360 fathers in the Philippines were tested to see how their testosterone levels correlated with (or not) their sleeping arrangements. ‘Sleeping arrangements’ in the case of the Filipino fathers might mean sleeping on the same surface, in the same room (on the floor or in bunk beds) or in separate rooms. Those who slept apart from their children retained higher levels.
Actually, testosterone levels have a big say in general behavioural patterns in fatherhood. It would appear that men are actually biologically hardwired to care for their babies. Testosterone levels in men drop substantially in the first month after birth. Some research has even concluded that this drop in testosterone can be a factor in the comparatively better health of fathers of the same age as single men of the same age, protecting men against chronic heart conditions.
This change in testosterone level after birth is actually another demonstration of how our physiology has adapted to suit the large shifts in the male’s psychological, emotional and physical state during this crucial period. It is unusual though because during a man’s lifetime the swings in testosterone levels actually do not alter hugely.
Of course, if a father’s testosterone is dropping, this is likely to make him more sensitive to his children’s needs and more equipped to take a bigger role in the child rearing process. The same study also revealed that the more time their participants were recorded to be spending with their children – playing, bathing, feeding, changing nappies etc – then the lower the level of testosterone would be.
This bio-chemical evidence flies in the face of the more macho of the species who would claim their traditional position of hunter-gatherer, laughable as such an idea is anyway. But the lessons here for the alpha males are clear: get more involved and more hands-on in child-rearing process and it will benefit everyone involved: your child, who will have a closer relationship with their father, your partner who can share some of the work, and you who will be happier, more involved and even healthier as a result.
By Matthew Pink
Here’s our list of handy hints and tips for selecting a daycare or childcare center for your child. We split our list of essentials into two parts – firstly things you should consider when selecting the center, secondly things the daycare staff should tell you about. Here it goes …
1) What to look for in a childcare / daycare center:
- Safe location – is it in a safe neighborhood / near a busy street?
- Safe building – is it clean and child-safe (by regulation, it has to be)? Or is it old and rundown?
- What are the play areas and toys like (new, old, dirty, clean)?
- Is there a pleasant outdoor area available, with appropriate shelter from sun and rain?
- Can the dropping off and picking up of your child be organized safely and with relative ease?
- What is the teaching and childcare philosophy? What are their policies and procedures e.g., about noise, behavior, TV watching, sleeps, and so on?
- Staff ratio – are there enough people to take care of the children at ALL TIMES?
- Staff abilities – are they trained and qualified? There are strict regulations in place for operating a daycare; don’t be afraid to ask about staff qualifications.
- How many children attend in total? How many under two year-olds and how many pre-schoolers.
- What food and beverages are served?
- What is the incident history, and how long has the center been registered with an official authority?
- What is the decoration like – does it look like a happy place with lots of photos, children’s paintings and other artwork on display?
2) Things the childcare / daycare center staff should show you / tell you (ideally without prompting them):
- Access to the building and how this is regulated / organized (e.g. keys, access card)
- Access register (who dropped off / who picked up)
- Play areas (for over 2s and under 2s)
- Sleep areas and sleep routines
- Activity log (recording sleep times, feeding, nappy changes, incidents, etc)
- Food preparation, diets and how special dietary requirements are catered for
- Outdoors play areas
- Safety procedures
- Qualification of all staff
- Child / teacher ratio
- Teaching philosophy of the center
- Examples of recent activities with children / stimulation (games, songs, etc)
Make sure you get a tour by a member of staff before you make a decision. Pay particular attention to how you are greeted and how the person showing you round treats you – there is a good chance that your children will get a similar treatment. The topics in the second list should all be covered by the person doing the tour. If they don’t explain key points to a satisfactory detail it’s a warning sign.
It’s a pretty tough and difficult decision to leave your child (or children) in the care of others. If you have decided to go with a childcare / daycare center (there are other options of course) make sure you do the importance of this decision justice by finding out as much as you can about the place you have in mind for your child. Definitely check with other parents whose children are using the daycare already and if available check government / council websites for ratings or references.
Finally – once you have made a decision and your child is in daycare, check the logs and observe your child closely to make sure all is well. If you are not happy with something you read in the log or notice behaviour / practices you are not happy with – talk to a staff member straight away. It may also help to speak to the center manager if you are unhappy about something especially if it doesn’t get resolved.
There are lots of really good childcare and daycare centers out there (and perhaps a few not so good ones) – so hopefully the points we mention here are useful to help you separate the wheat from the chaff.
Guest post by Robbie Smith
Ah, the ups and downs of being a new parent! For every sweet little sneeze, there’s a 3am wake-up call; every big-eyed smile comes with an extra messy spit-up. As the wee one starts to grow, parents also get to watch as each room of their home becomes a playroom. The months pass by and toys in every colour shape and size spread across the floor like an eerie time-lapse film.
After tripping on that toy fire engine for the 76th time, you may be tempted to collect every shiny, noisy, no-good toy and toss them all in the bin. Resist this urge. Toys, it turns out, are an essential part of your child’s development. Find out why:
Toys promote physical strength and coordination
Certain toys will allow your child to strengthen their tiny muscles, learn how their bodies work and develop key coordination skills. For infants, ‘baby gyms’ that feature hanging toys, with vivid, contrasting colours, are brilliant at promoting physical activity during this early stage.
As they grow up, kids enjoy outdoor toys like sand pits and swing sets that encourage them to be active and build strength in their arms and legs.
Toys encourage problem solving and communication
Toys can create opportunities for key learning moments in your child’s development. For example, small boxes with lids teach children a simple problem solving skill. To get the object inside the lid, they must learn how to remove it. To trap the object back inside, they must then learn how to place the lid back on. For older kids, Lego kits are a brilliant way to teach kids how to follow directions and use problem solving to achieve a goal.
Toys boost creativity
As a child approaches the age of two, he or she will see a massive surge in creativity. Their ever-growing understanding of the world, combined with their improving memory skills, allows kids of this age to develop an imagination.
As Harvard psychologist Dr. Woolley showed through research in 2009, a person’s ability to ‘imagine’ is vital to understanding reality. Without imagination, we wouldn’t be able to contemplate anything that we didn’t witness first-hand. Toys like play kitchens, sock puppets and finger paintswill help encourage this important step in your child’s cognitive development.
Books are perhaps the best ‘toy’ for promoting language and communication skills. The NHS suggests reading to your child from a very early age, as babies will learn from the sounds and rhythms of your voice before they even know what it is you’re saying.
So, while at times toys can be the bane of a new parent’s existence, they do indeed add value to your child’s life. Engaging, age-appropriate toys can greatly encourage a child’s development and are certainly worth keeping around.
By Jose Capelo