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Fathers

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    Why New Dads Should Take Parental Leave

    When groups of women who work together become pregnant at the same time, workplace conversations usually surround the fact that the department will have a hard time when these women all take maternity leave.

    Contrast that response to a story that hit the airwaves about seven firefighters at the same fire station in Oklahoma. Their wives became pregnant around the same time, but no one really commented about how the station would operate while these dads took time off to be with their newborn babies.

    While moms are essential to infant care, many people often overlook or don’t discuss the benefits to mom and child when the father is more involved in the caregiving process.

    Articles from the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) highlight the fact that father-infant bonding is just as important as mother-infant bonding. In fact, delayed bonding can alter the long-term course of paternal involvement as the infant progresses throughout childhood and adolescence. It can also increase the risk of paternal postpartum depression.

    According to the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing:

    • Fathers reported that they didn’t start to experience fatherhood until birth.
    • Mothers reported that they started to experience motherhood as soon they discovered they were pregnant. 
    • Although most fathers expect to bond emotionally and immediately with their newborns, some fathers still did not feel bonded to their infants as long as six weeks to two months after birth.  

    Successful father-infant bonding during the immediate postpartum period offers several benefits for the infant: 

    • It reduces cognitive delay,
    • Promotes weight gain in preterm infants, and
    • Improves breastfeeding rates.
    • Research shows that when the father frequently visits their prematurely-born child in the hospital, babies are more likely to get out of the hospital sooner, develop their brains better and have more psychomotor functioning. The more the father can be there, the better the child tends to improve.

    A study by Kyle Pruett at Yale University showed that even for children born full-term, the importance of father involvement is enormous. 

    • A father breathing on the child when it is first born helps the bonding process to occur and changes the dad’s brain, too. 
    • The sooner the father gets involved with the child, neurons in the male brain begin to develop and connect with each other - mimicking the mother instinct. 
    • When fathers are involved, their oxytocin levels go up and testosterone levels go down, and Dad is satisfied from the emotional intimacy with his child. Mother and child benefit from that, too.

    “Father-infant bonding is an issue that is not discussed enough and is just as important as mother-infant bonding during the immediate postpartum period,” said AWHONN's Chief Executive Officer, Lynn Erdman, MN, RN, FAAN. “It is vitally important for a father to interact and bond with his newborn to help the infant’s development and to reduce the risk of paternal postpartum depression.”

    Dads can bond with their unborn children by talking, singing or reading to them in the womb. AWHONN offers these tips to help dads continue the bonding process after the baby arrives: 

    • Jump right in. Don’t be afraid to begin immediately caring for and loving your baby. The more you hold your baby, the more comfortable and natural it will feel.
    • Take a night shift. Once mom is breastfeeding well, she may want to let you give the baby a nighttime meal. This way she can get more sleep and you will have the opportunity to bond with your newborn.
    • Read your newborn a book. Your newborn will enjoy the rhythm and pace of your voice while you read a book. In these early months, it’s not about what you’re reading; it’s about reading itself.
    • Initiate the bath. Bathing your newborn will enhance bonding and provide a multi-sensory learning experience.
    • Create a bedtime ritual. Infants will learn to depend on the consistency and predictability of a nighttime routine.

    The research is solid that fathers profoundly impact the lives of their children, even as infants. While you may be hesitant to take time off from work to be with your newborn because you think bonding with Mom is more important for the baby, you might want to think again. This is actually a one-time opportunity to give your child a gift money can’t buy - time with you, and more benefits for your family than you realize. 

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on June 21, 2019.

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    Life Lessons from Drew Brees

    Thousands of Saints fans have been very vocal about the Saints’ loss in the playoffs. They say they were robbed of an opportunity to play in the Super Bowl due to a game-changing missed call by a referee.

    Football fans around the world have seen the response from players who were impacted by such a huge loss: sullen faces, tears and a painful press conference where the magnitude of the loss got drilled down even further.

    So after Drew Brees’ loss to the Rams in the playoff game, one might expect him to be off somewhere alone, licking his wounds; that is, if you don’t know Drew Brees.

    Facebook user John McGovern, who was actually at the game, posted the following statement, along with a picture.

    “This has been on my mind all day... I don’t know who took this picture but I am in the group of people up against the wall to the right of the goal post. A couple hours after the game was over and the cameras were all gone, I stood and watched a man who was without a doubt THE most affected by the inexcusably ignored event that changed an entire season put everything aside and take care of what is most important. Most people would have wanted to go home and not even speak to anyone. Instead, he laughed and played with his kids and as seen here even held a football for his son to kick a field goal. If kids are looking for a professional athlete to look up to, they can find no one better than this man. Drew Brees makes me very proud to be a New Orleans Saints fan.”

    Perhaps his children knew how big this loss was for their father, but it’s quite possible they had no clue because of how Brees handled the situation. In fact, Brees has been quoted before reminding people that at the end of the day, it’s a game.

    The true character of a man reveals itself in the most challenging and difficult moments. Children young and old pay attention and take Dad’s lead.

    Sometimes it’s hard to separate one’s identity from these situations or to not take it personally, but what we do in the face of adversity teaches children important lessons like how to deal with disappointment, placing value on what matters and how to handle failure. 

    Here are three takeaways from watching Drew Brees interact with his kids after the controversial ending to the football game.

    • Deal with extreme disappointment in a healthy way. Disappointment is inevitable. When dads model how to walk through disappointment, talk about it, work through it and move forward, they are showing their children how to encounter and deal with hard situations.
    • Place value on the things that really matter. How Dad deals with his relationships when he experiences disappointment sends a powerful message about what he values most. The fact that Brees was out on the field playing and laughing with his children after such a huge loss lets his kids know they are more important than a game. Whether they innately understand that today or figure it out a few years from now, it is a powerful play for sure.
    • Don’t allow failure (real or imagined) to define you. Sometimes it’s really tempting to allow failure to invade your DNA and define who you are as a person. The most important lesson about failure is that it is not final. It is a moment in time where one has an opportunity to glean important and helpful life lessons for the future.

    Whether it’s a disagreement with their spouse, a toxic work situation, a car that breaks down, a financial setback or the loss of a championship game that was seemingly stripped right out of his hands, how Dad responds sends a powerful message to his children about what matters most in life.

    Photo Credit: Heather Cohen

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on February 3, 2019.

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    Keys to Multigenerational Communication

    “You got an iPhone?” said the millennial to her grandmother. “Why did you get an iPhone? You don’t need a smartphone. Do you even know how to text? I think you should just stick with making phone calls.”

    “Yes, I got an iPhone. And, I do too need an iPhone if I’m going to keep up with you and everybody else. I can learn to text,” said the grandmother in an exasperated tone.

    “This ought to be interesting,” the millennial said under her breath as she rolled her eyes.


    You have more than likely experienced a conversation with someone from a different generation about communication these days yourself. It may have been about tone of voice, facial expressions, body language, paper versus electronic means, or any number of things. 

    While it seems that most generations may have a preferred method of communication, it doesn’t mean that people aren’t capable of adapting and adjusting in order to keep the lines of communication open.

    Perhaps the place where communication differences seem to be magnified and often collide is in the workplace, where at least four generations typically work together. Some have five, which can definitely make for some interesting communication dynamics. This is especially true as communication methods have expanded in recent years.

    Here's a quick look at communication preferences by generation:

    • Baby boomers tend to appreciate face-to-face and personal interaction, which often drives millennials crazy. 
    • Gen Xers want direct and immediate communication. They are content with email, but get really excited if you allow them to express themselves with a whiteboard. 
    • When it comes to millennials, instant messages, texts and communicating through social media are the order of the day. And, if they do call you and you don’t answer, don’t look for them to leave you a message because that’s not typically in their DNA. 

    Needless to say, there is plenty of room for miscommunication.

    Here’s the kicker: not everyone fits “the mold” when it comes to the way they communicate to their peers and across the generations. This is why we need to guard against making assumptions about a co-worker or a grandmother just because they hail from a certain generation. Plenty of people have said, “I’m a millennial, but I communicate more like a Gen Xer.”

    There are several keys to effective communication between the generations:

    • Remember that no one on the planet is a good mind reader. Get to know the people around you and their communication preferences. Be willing to flex and get out of your communication comfort zone. Ask, but don’t assume you know how a person wants to be communicated with.
    • Value the differences. Instead of looking down on one generation or the other for the way they prefer to communicate, seek to see things from their perspective. Their preferences make perfect sense to them. For example, no matter the age, most people appreciate receiving a card or handwritten letter in the mail. At the same time, a quick text saying, “I’m thinking about you and hope you have a great day,” typically will bring a smile to the recipient’s face. Neither one is wrong, just different.
    • Be willing to learn and engage with others’ communication preferences and teach them about yours. Making the effort shows that you care.

    Communication differences have always existed, and there have always been barriers, whether it was having to pay for a long-distance call or waiting on a long-anticipated letter. Even though technology has made it faster, and in some cases easier to connect, it has also amplified our imperfections and heightened anxiety when it comes to communicating with others. Think being in the middle of a conversation and your watch starts vibrating because you have a call coming in. Resisting the urge to look creates anxiety and distracts you from the conversation at hand.

    Good communication skills can be learned and fine-tuned, and we can all grow together in this area. If you want to be a better communicator, take the time to observe, listen and ask questions without assuming your way is the best or the only way. It can truly enrich your relationships with family, friends and co-workers.

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on September 14, 2019.

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    7 Ways to Promote Good Sportsmanship

    Tennis phenom, Coco Gauff has quite the following as a result of her incredible tennis skills on the court.

    After losing at the U.S. Open to Naomi Osaka, a tearful Coco headed to the locker room when something amazing happened. Osaka approached Coco, hugged her and asked her to do the interview normally reserved for the winner with her. Coco insisted that she shouldn’t because she would cry. Osaka responded, “No, you’re good. Look, you are amazing.” 

    Coco joined Osaka in spite of the tears. When Osaka spoke she addressed Coco’s parents, telling them that they raised an amazing player. She said she recalled seeing them in the same training facility and that she thought it was really incredible that both of them had made it this far, again reiterating that she thought Coco was amazing. All of this came from the number one female tennis player in the world.

    A winner graciously sharing the limelight with her opponent was a powerful moment on so many levels.

    Perhaps parents and players alike could follow Osaka’s lead: playing hard, leaving it all on the court or the field and practicing humility whether you are the winner or not.

    You can encourage great sportsmanship by intentionally teaching your kids what it looks like. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

    • Bring your best to the game. Be as prepared as possible and give it your all.
    • Discuss what being a gracious winner looks like and how to accept loss without being a sore loser.
    • Talk about what good sportsmanship looks like during the game - playing clean and fair, helping opposing team members up, not bullying, and shaking hands at the end of the game regardless of whether you win or lose.
    • Avoid letting others’ behavior dictate how you behave.
    • Teach your child to learn from their mistakes versus sulking.
    • Discuss the importance of following instructions.
    • Talk about what it means to be a team player, even if you are the best player on the team.

    It's so easy to get caught up in the game when your kids are playing. But remember - your kids either follow your lead or are dying from embarrassment because you are that parent. Consider these things as you sit on the sidelines: 

    • They have a coach. Let their coach do his/her job.
    • Avoid arguing with the coaches or referees.
    • Be respectful of the other team regardless of their ability.
    • Keep your perspective. Regardless of the sport you are watching, these are kids, and even the college students are still in their teens. Most of them will not go on to play professional sports. They play for the love of the sport.

    Someone once said, “Sports don’t build character, they reveal it.” 

    Osaka’s gracious behavior was not a fluke. It is something she learned over time and has exemplified on more than one occasion. Although Osaka was the winner, she left her opponent feeling good about herself. That’s the sign of someone who has their ego in check and understands the impact of their behavior on others. Modeling great sportsmanship and character will teach your child skills they can use on and off the field. 

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on September 6, 2019.

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    How Hearing Loss Impacts Relationships

    Think hearing loss really doesn’t have an impact on your relationships? You might want to think again.

    Lorina knew that she had some hearing loss, but didn’t really think it was that big a deal. 

    “I knew over the years my hearing loss had increased, but it wasn’t until my friend pointed out to me that I was constantly saying, ‘What?’ and ‘Huh?’ and strongly encouraged me to get my hearing tested that I thought it might really be a thing,” says Lorina, who had moderate hearing loss on one side and severe loss on the other side.

    “When I was fitted with a hearing aid, I was amazed!” Lorina says. “I could not believe the difference in the clarity of people’s words and the sounds I was able to hear that I had no idea I was missing. It even impacted my relationship with my husband.”

    “We hear stories like Lorina’s all the time at the Speech and Hearing Center,” says Erica Newman, president and CEO. “In fact, just the other day, I was reading a study about the impact of hearing loss on marriage.”

    Couples in the study used words like "embarrassment" and "frustration" most frequently to describe how hearing loss impacted their relationships. One spouse would say, “I’m listening, but I can’t hear you.” The other spouse would say, “I can hear you, but I can’t understand you.”

    “The number one thing the study found that changed in marriages where someone experienced hearing loss was spontaneity,” Newman says. “The spouse with the hearing loss felt embarrassed when they had to ask people to repeat themselves because they associated it with being slow-witted and disturbing to the flow of normal conversation, so they just didn’t say anything. They found themselves wondering, ‘If I have to repeat myself three times, is it worth saying?’ Little side comments, a spontaneous exchange or funny off-the-cuff conversations stopped happening. This impacts closeness in the relationship and undermines confidence, intimacy, sharing and playfulness. It also impacts shared activities such as watching television together.”

    A 2009 British study found that out of 1500 people surveyed with hearing loss:

    • 44% reported that their hearing loss caused relationships with important people in their lives to suffer. 
    • 34% reported the breakdown in communication brought about the loss of relationships, including marriage.

    “Often when I am at a health fair, a spouse will walk up to me and point out their spouse, saying, ‘He/she needs to come see you, but I can’t get them to make an appointment,’” Newman says. “My response to them and to everybody is, we all need to have our hearing checked at age 50 so people have a baseline to work from.

    When Lorina finally did get hearing aids and was able to hear all that she had been missing, she said it rocked her world.

    “I have spent most of my life having people only on my left side because that was my good ear,” Lorina says. “Now I can have people on either side of me. We have also turned the television way down. I had no idea we had the volume cranked up so high. One of the funniest things that happened after getting my hearing aids was when I had my son in the car with me and I noticed a rattle in the back of my car. When I said something about it, he said, ‘Mom, it’s been there for forever!’”

    Newman says that while getting your hearing checked can be scary, most of her patients who get hearing aids wish they had done it sooner. She believes their quality of life improves and their relationship with their loved ones is better as well.

    Communication is key in building and maintaining relationships. Anything that hinders it can create loss of connectedness and intimacy. Hearing loss is often easy to deal with and improve with a little effort and the help of others who can see or hear things you cannot. Don’t let fear or stubbornness put a damper on your relationships or cause you to miss out on what is going on around you.

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on August 30, 2019.