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Fathers

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    20 Reasons Your Child Needs You

    A dad's presence is important. Here are 20 reasons why.

    1.  Lets your child know that you love him/her.

    2.  Provides your child with greater financial resources.

    3.  Gives your child a positive role model.

    4.  Provides your child with emotional support.

    5.  Enhances your child's self-esteem.

    6.  Provides your child with guidance and discipline.

    7.  Enhances your child's intellectual development.

    8.  Gives your child someone to rough and tumble play with.

    9.  Provides your child with someone to talk to when he/she has questions.

    10. Increases your child's chances for academic success.

    11. Provides your child with an alternative perspective on life.

    12. Lowers your child's chances for early sexual activity.

    13. Lowers your child's chances for school failure.

    14. Lowers your child's chances for youth suicide.

    15. Lowers your child's chances for juvenile delinquency.

    16. Lowers your child's chances for adult criminality.

    17. Provides your child with a sense of physical and emotional security.

    18. Facilitates your child's moral development.

    19. Promotes a healthy gender identity in your child.

    20. Helps your child learn important skills.

    From Reasons Why Your Child Needs You to be an Active Father by Stephen D. Green, Ph.D., Child Development Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife

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    Letters from Dad

    Greg Vaughn lost his father to Alzheimer’s years ago.

    “I remember it like it was yesterday,” says Vaughn. “I know my dad loved me because he made sure our family was taken care of. But he never could say ‘I love you,’ or ‘Son, I am proud of you.’ That void left a hole in my soul.”

    As Vaughn was going through his father’s things, he kept looking for something left from his dad to him. The only thing he found was a rusty old fishing tackle box.

    “I was mad at my dad for dying,” Vaughn says. “I was mad at myself for not trying harder to connect with him and started to throw that old fishing box in the trash. Then I decided to see what was inside. There, I found the remains of my father – fishing lures.

    "As I felt myself getting angrier, a question popped into my head, ‘Hey big shot, you are out here mad at the world. If you were to die here in the garage, what would your wife and children hold in their hands tomorrow that would let them know they were the treasures of your life?’”

    The answer caught Vaughn by surprise. He had always told his children and wife how much he loved them. Additionally, they made it a point to go on family vacations, which brought great memories. However, when it came to something tangible they could hold in their hands and treasure forever from him, he couldn’t think of anything he had given them. That's when he had the idea for Letters from Dad.

    “I called 12 of my closest friends and asked them if any of them had a letter of love and blessing from their father – not counting cards,” Vaughn says. “Not a single one of them said yes. Then I asked, ‘What would you give to have one?’ The answer was always, ‘More than you could imagine.’ Then I asked each of them if they had ever written a letter like that to their children. None of them had. I looked at each of them and said, ‘Don’t you think we should?’”

    That was the beginning of a very special journey for these men. They decided they wanted to leave a legacy of faith, hope and love through the lost art of letter writing.

    “Men hate to write letters,” Vaughn states. “But we decided to write four letters, the first being a letter of blessing to our wives. We had some divorced men in the group. One guy chose to write a letter to his ex-wife of 10 years thanking her for making him a father. It was a healing experience for both of them.”

    The second letter the group decided to write was a blessing to their children. Since Vaughn has seven children, that was a real stretch for him.

    Vaughn's daughter, Brooke, shared that until her dad gave her a letter of blessing, her most-prized possession was a coat hanger from age 10 where her father wrote, "Hey Beck – I love you – Dad." On her 22nd birthday, she got the letter with 15 reasons why she was a blessing as a daughter. Now she says, “I have more than a coat hanger to remember my dad.”

    “The third letter we chose to write was a blessing to our parents,” Vaughn remembers. “Some of us had parents who had died so we wrote letters of tribute. The fourth and final letter was by far the hardest to write. It was for our families to read after we died. Most of us leave wills and trusts and rusty old stuff. What do we leave for our families to treasure forever?”

    After they finished writing their letters, the guys decided to continue meeting monthly just to stay in touch and walk the fathering journey together.

    Letters from Dad has increased in popularity as fathers seek to leave a legacy to their wives and children. If you hate to write or find yourself at a loss for words, the book has lots of samples. Plus, the author is happy for you to use some of the words yourself.

    Whether your children are young or old, live near or far, are estranged from you or considering never leaving the fold, you can still leave a legacy. So, consider writing a letter… or two.

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    For the Guys: Tips for Putting Your Wife First (Without Hurting Mom's Feelings)

    When you tie the knot, family relationships change. 

    Your mom was probably your first teacher, encourager and biggest cheerleader. And chances are, she's one of the first people you've gone to for advice since... well, as long as you can remember. 

    But now things are different, and while your mom is still there for you, your wife takes the top spot.

    Think of it this way: You've added an all-star player to your team who wants to be there for you in every way possible, and she is at the top of your priority list.

    Adapting to marriage and navigating the changing road with Mom will take skill and finesse, especially since you don't want to hurt Mom's feelings, but these tips can help.

    • Do your best to speak positively to your mom about your wife. If your mom starts to criticize her, honor your wife in the conversation. And let Mom know that although you value her opinion, you don't want to hear her speak badly of your bride. 

    • When you and your wife make decisions together, present your decisions as a united front. You should be the one to tell your mother about the choice you made. Don't make it sound like it you only went along with it to avoid rocking the boat--that will only create problems.

    • Check with your wife before making plans with your mom. Never, EVER commit to something with your mother (like bringing her to live with you) without completely talking it over as a couple first.

    • Got problems in your marriage? DO NOT talk about them with Mom unless your bride says she's ok with it. (Hint: Make sure she's REALLY ok with it!)

    • Remember, you're no longer single. Turning to your parents for emotional support is not a bad thing, but turning to them BEFORE you reach out to your wife is not the best idea for your marriage. Your wife is now your number one support system - make sure she knows that.

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    6 Keys to Being a ScreamFree Parent

    Hal Runkel and his family went to the Waffle House for breakfast one Saturday morning. Upon arrival they received coloring books and paper hats just like the cook wears.

    “Shortly after ordering, Brandon, our 2-year-old, became restless,” says Runkel, marriage and family therapist and author of ScreamFree Parenting. “Nothing made him happy. The waitress brought him a waffle which ended up on the guy’s leg who was sitting at the next table. At that point I picked Brandon up to go outside and in the process hit the same guy in the head with Brandon’s leg. By this time everybody in the restaurant was watching. As I went out the door, it slammed behind me, shaking the glass.

    "I stood outside shaking my fist and yelling at my son. When we came back inside I sat down and looked across the table at my wife who was trying to contain the smirk on her face. At that moment I realized I still had the Waffle House hat on my head. Clearly, I looked pretty silly, but the truth is I didn’t need that hat to make me look foolish.”

    Runkel contends that in many instances it isn’t the children acting foolish; it's the parents.

    Becoming a ScreamFree parent isn’t about becoming a perfect parent with the perfect techniques to raising perfect kids. You don’t have to have all the right answers at all the right times in order to be the parent you want to be. Instead, you just have to learn to calm down.

    “I am convinced that good parenting is about parents learning how to take back their own emotional remote control,” Runkel says. “Parents have to make sure they are being the grown up in every situation… no matter what the children do.

    "When a parent is screaming what they are really saying is, ‘Calm me down, I can’t handle what you are doing right now.’ At that moment the parent has lost control and handed the emotional remote control to the least mature person in the household.”

    According to Runkel, when parents focus on calming their own emotional reactivity, they begin to make parenting decisions out of their highest principles instead of reacting out of their deepest fears.

    There are six keys to being a ScreamFree parent:

    • Give your child physical and emotional space. See children as individuals in their own right, with their own lives, decisions and futures.

    • Don’t preach or threaten. Let the consequences of a child’s choice do the screaming.

    • Be an advocate for your child’s development.

    • Change your vocabulary. Don’t label children or pigeonhole how they see themselves. Labels can be very destructive and should be avoided at all costs.

    • See yourself as being responsible to your children - not for them. For example, when your child throws a temper tantrum in WalMart, you’re not responsible for it, but you are responsible for how you handle it.

    • Know that the greatest thing you as a parent can do for your kids is learn to focus on yourself.

    “What every child wants are parents who can keep their cool, even when things get heated,” Runkel says. “Children want parents who are less anxious and prone to knee-jerk reactions and far more level-headed. Your children want you to remain unflappable, even when they flip out. Most parents’ biggest struggle is dealing with their own emotional reactivity. That is why the greatest thing we can do for our children is learn to focus on us, not them.”

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    How You Can Help Prevent Suicide

    “What in the world do you have to be depressed about?”

    “Did something happen to make you sad?”

    “Just snap out of it.”

    Susan* has heard all of these statements her entire life from friends and family as she battled clinical depression.

    “Growing up I was a very shy person in a family of extroverts,” says Susan. “My siblings all love being social and funny. I’m the one who just wants to stay home and read. Throughout my childhood I was very moody.”

    It wasn’t until law school when she was waking up in the middle of the night with her jaw clenched that she decided to talk with a counselor. During her first session, the counselor asked, “At what point in your life did you determine it was your job to be the savior to everyone?”

    “It was at that moment that it hit me,” Susan recalls. “Up to that point, I was the person everybody came to with their problems. I learned I needed some serious boundaries in order to stop letting people walk all over me. I also learned I was clinically depressed.”

    Susan knew she had much to be thankful for, but that didn’t stop her from feeling horrible on a daily basis.

    “Living with depression is like this fog that minimizes joys and magnifies hurts and criticism,” Susan shares. “People who don’t have depression see the world in color. People with depression see the world in black and white. I have dealt with suicidal thoughts for 20 years.”

    Susan recalled a time three months before her wedding. She was driving home from work, planning her suicide in her mind. She wanted the pain to be over. Clearly, she did not follow through with her plan. Susan’s fiance was out of town on business, and she could not think of one other person who would know what to do. She got the help she needed to get through that moment, but every day is still a battle. 

    “In listening to people talk about the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, I think people don’t understand that when you suffer from depression, it’s like every day on this earth is a living hell,” Susan says. “My depression is so severe, it often interferes with my ability to function. For me, and I think many others dealing with depression, the thought of not having to deal with the pain anymore is very appealing.”

    When asked what people say as they try to help, Susan shared that it isn’t helpful to tell a depressed person to just snap out of it, pop a pill or ask if they had a fight with their spouse. 

    “It is helpful to ask, ‘What can I do?’ or to send a text to check in or call and ask how things are going,” Susan says. “Both my husband and I suffer from depression. He knows that when I am having a hard time, the best thing he can do is give me space and let me be quiet. I know that when he is struggling, the thing that helps him most is to get out and do something.”

    Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can feel awkward. But if you're unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask. You can't make a person suicidal by showing that you care. Giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express his or her feelings, however, can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative feelings, and may prevent a suicide attempt.

    If you want to be helpful to a person who you believe may be having suicidal thoughts, here are some things you should do:

    • Be yourself. Let the person know you care and that he/she is not alone. The right words are often unimportant. If you are concerned, your voice and manner will show it.

    • Listen. Let the suicidal person unload despair or vent anger. No matter how negative the conversation seems, its existence is a positive sign.

    • Be sympathetic, non-judgmental, patient, calm and accepting. Your friend or family member is doing the right thing by talking about his/her feelings.

    • Offer hope. Reassure the person that help is available and that the suicidal feelings are temporary. Let the person know that his or her life is important to you.

    • Take the person seriously. If the person says things like, “I’m so depressed, I can’t go on,” ask: “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” You are not putting ideas in their head, you are showing that you are concerned, that you take them seriously, and that it’s OK for them to share their pain with you.

    • Ask them how you can be helpful. They may not be able to immediately answer this question, but asking it encourages them to think about it.

    Here are some things you should not do. DO NOT:

    • Argue with the suicidal person. Avoid saying things like: "You have so much to live for," "Your suicide will hurt your family," or “Look on the bright side.”

    • Act shocked, lecture on the value of life or say that suicide is wrong.

    • Promise confidentiality. Refuse to be sworn to secrecy. A life is at stake and you may need to speak to a mental health professional in order to keep the suicidal person safe. If you promise to keep your discussions secret, you may have to break your word.

    • Offer ways to fix their problems, give advice, or make them feel like they have to justify their suicidal feelings. It is not about how bad the problem is, but how badly it’s hurting your friend or loved one.

    • Blame yourself. You can’t “fix” someone’s depression. Your loved one’s happiness, or lack thereof, is not your responsibility.

    If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are a number of websites and organizations with excellent resources for you. HelpGuide is a great place to start, along with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).