How would your child describe you as a dad?
Dads Worker NikoIt’s been nine months since I started as a Dads Worker at Children 1st in Edinburgh and oh my – I have to tell you, it has been a fantastic journey. It was a totally new role for me, and it’s amazing what you can learn from others around you. The amazing dads I’ve been working with have also helped me grow – as both a professional and a father. But where to start?
In today’s world we are judged quickly, not given a chance to speak our own minds, or talk about our feelings and this can create real barriers – which can be even greater for men.
Each of us has our own story and our own issues, but if you’re a Dad willing to look into your fathering skills, improve relationships and the wellbeing of your child, then you’re a true hero. Being aware of your role is a gift. It comes with identifying as a father and being role model to a child, regardless of your own issues, family situation, living conditions or background. A willingness to make changes and accept that, with a bit of support you could do things better, makes you a winner.
Building relationships and effecting change
Every single Dad I’ve worked with has given me the chance to walk through their doors, sit down and talk things through. I have listened to their stories, asked uneasy questions and received their full trust in return.
Most dads referred to our service are keen on getting support. When I started, I was worried that I would have to try hard to keep dads engaged, but I was surprised by how open and willing they are. It was fantastic to see another stereotype crash. Most dads are approachable, happy to be talk about their role and want to play just as much as a positive role in their child’s life, as their child’s mother.
My role is about building relationships, identifying problems, being able to listen, reflect, share information and ideas, and be there for dads as we work together to improve things for their children and families. While professionals frame their work around the SHANARRI indicators, families don’t speak this language. But sharing and explaining where SHANARRI comes from turned out to be a great ground on which to build relationships. It made me think that to be able to support people better we need to talk to each other on the same level. This is as much about inviting families into our world as stepping into theirs.
I have had many tearful moments (more on this in my next blog), and many times I’ve felt helpless and unable to support dads to make the major differences they desire in the face of systemic barriers to change. I’m grateful for the great network of fathers and family workers in Edinburgh, with a variety of experiences – who all support each other and share their practical ideas and insights.
Facing the difficulties
Sometimes I have to ask difficult questions of the dads I work with, but in facing them together, we may even find an opportunity to share some laughter. For me, two of the biggest questions, which I’ll leave with you here are:
“How would your child describe you as a dad today?” and “How would you like to be described as a dad by your own child in five years?”