A “Touchy” Thought: children thrive with cuddles, caresses, and connection

by John Hoffman One of the very first articles I wrote for fathers was about touch. That’s because, as a new dad, one of my first “aha moments” was that touch was, in many ways, the main “language” of communication with newborn babies.  Everything I’ve learned since then—the research I’ve read, interviews with child development …

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Fatherhood Matters: Nov 28, 2017

Fatherhood Matters is what Dad Central uses to stay in touch with you.  This is where we post interesting news, ideas, resources, and some fun stuff about fatherhood.  It is a mix of info for dads and info for those working to support fatherhood.  Enjoy! Fathers and Mothers Influence on Career Choices When children choose …

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From Here to Paternity: One dad’s story of taking parental leave

  by John Hoffman w/ Ryan MacIsaac Ryan MacIsaac is a member of a rather exclusive group of Canadian men: fathers who take extended parental leave. Outside of Quebec, which sets aside several weeks of parental leave that are only available to fathers, only about one in eight Canadian dads take any parental leave at …

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Letting Kids Do Their Thing

by John Hoffman Knowing when to back off is an important Dad skill  I love a lot of things about spring. But what I love best is that people come out of  hibernation. When the weather gets warmer you see people outdoors more often,  especially kids. I can still remember the heady feeling of spring when I was a kid. I could  go outside without a heavy coat, wearing my sneakers. I didn’t have to put a lot of effort  into staying warm. I felt lighter and full of energy.    I was reminded of this the other day during a visit to a relative and her new baby. Last  fall, Meghan*, her 12-year-old son Zach* and her new partner Sean* had moved to a new  neighbourhood where city planners had wisely included some green space in the plan. As I looked out Meghan’s back window and exclaimed about how nice the pond and wooded area looked, she started talking about how much time her son Zach* had been spending outdoors in the last two weeks. In their previous neighbourhood the kids were always on their devices, she said. “But the kids around here are always outside,” she said.     Zach and his buddies have been spending a ton of time in the green space. They used shovels and rakes to construct some jumps for their bikes. Recently they went over to a  nearby construction site and talked the workers into giving them some scrap building  materials, which they used to make a fort. One of the boys had a birthday a couple of  weeks ago and one present he asked for was a tarpaulin (I love it!). They used the tarp to  make the roof of their fort.   This is all great stuff. Kids outside being active, creative and happy; creating all sorts of  positive energy for themselves. But this blog is not about the virtues of outdoor play,  although I could go on about that. There’s a dad angle to this story that illustrates an  important, but sometimes tricky, aspect of fatherhood.    Meghan told me a story about how Sean, who is Zach’s stepdad, went with the lads one  day to check out the fort. They were really proud of their construction and wanted to  show it off. Sean was curious and wanted to see what they’d done and, as a dad, he likely  wanted to check the situation out for safety.    Sean liked the fort, but he also thought it was a little bit untogether. He could see how it  could be improved. Sean is a teacher, so giving kids ideas about how to do things better  comes naturally to him. But, – and this is the part I like – he kept his advice to himself.  Later he told Meghan, “It was hard to keep my mouth shut because I kept seeing ways  they could have made their fort better. But I didn’t want to interfere because it was their  thing.” I think this was a great call. Kids need to have their own things that adults don’t interfere  with, especially as they get older. So much of what children do these days is structured; adults are often involved as teachers, supervisors, coaches and, in some cases, participants. But kids need to have aspects of their lives where they are in charge (within  reason, of course); where they choose what to do and how to do it. Not only do they learn  from the thinking, planning and decision-making that go with being “in charge”, it also  gives them a sense of their own power and control over their lives. That’s important.  Learning how to run your own life is one of the most important tasks of growing up.     Free play is one of the best ways for kids to get practice in being in charge of little parts  of their lives. Outdoor play in places like kid-built forts is particularly good because  adults are least likely to be in kids’ hair — giving directions, correcting and doing the  planning. I’m not saying parents shouldn’t supervise and, at times, correct. I’m just  saying that kids need their own “things” and their own “spaces” where they can learn  how to be themselves.    Making the thousands of little decisions about when to step in and supervise and when to stay out of your child’s way is one of the trickiest parts of being a father. And honestly,  there is only one way to figure out how to do it right – trial and error. Letting kids build  forts and organize their own play spaces is a good way to practice that trial and error, just as it is a great way for kids to practice being responsible for themselves.  …

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The Joys of Being With Kids: How some Syrian children are helping me rekindle some of the best feelings of fatherhood

by John Hoffman Like many other Canadians, I have become part of a support group for a family of refugees from Syria. I came a little late to this party. I started out doing volunteer driving for various folks last summer. But recently one of the support groups here in Peterborough lost a couple of …

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You’ve Come A Long Way, Dads

by John Hoffman You’re not supposed to think about work when you’re on holidays. But on my recent trip to Europe I couldn’t help it. I kept seeing soooo many great examples of hands-on fatherhood. I guess I kind of have an eye for that sort of thing. Most of the dads and kids I …

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The Directive – Sept 6, 2016

Welcome to The Directive. This is a regular assortment of father related news stories, information, and fun stuff. Fatherhood gets a lot of press in a new publication: Research Perspective on Work and the Tranistion to Motherhood. Fatherhood is the focus of world-wide research: Rwanda Brazil Bulgaria and The Netherlands Bangladesh Become Father-friendly certified - …

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