Support Available to Dads of Young Kids

Duane White works two jobs to provide for his family. But, he says his most important job is being a single father to four year old Anaya and six year old Myles - and that includes learning everything he can about parenting.

Duane is a participant in Nihiyazhi Ba'iit'ih , For Our Children - a home visitation program funded by the First Things First Navajo Nation Regional Council to support parents in their role as their child's first teacher.

Home visitor Sharrisa Ben raves about what a wonderful father Duane is. "He has his priorities straight and does everything!" she said. "He cooks, cleans, does the laundry, takes them to school, and attends all of our family trainings."

Sharrisa has helped Duane create a stable environment for Anaya and Myles. This is important when children have multiple caregivers. While Duane is working, the kids' paternal grandmother, Cecelia, cares for them. Both caregivers are making a team effort to constantly reinforce positive behavior, teach good manners, and promote healthy eating - all areas their confidence has grown in with Sharrisa's help.

Most importantly, they've created a consistent world for the kids at home. Routines teach children that people and the world around them are trustworthy. Cecelia said this has done wonders for Anaya's social and emotional development. Before, Anaya was a little shy when it came to talking to people or performing new tasks. Now, her grandma Cecilia said, "She wants to be involved in everything and she's trusting of people."

This Father's Day, remember to make the most out of time with your young children. Here are some tips, adapted from Born Learning-Kid Basics:

• Take charge of some everyday routines - Determine activities that you will manage, such as getting your child dressed or reading a bedtime story.

• Read up - Learn about parenting basics, such as ages and stages of development, or what toys and activities help a child learn and grow.

• Communicate with your child's caregiver - When you are away from your child, keep connected with simple questions like how much did my child eat or sleep? Or, what kinds of activities does my child enjoy?

Duane added his piece of advice: Don't be afraid to ask for help. He says there's a misperception that fathers don't need help, but he wouldn't be able to do everything he does without the support of his family and Sharrisa.

If you are a father who needs some support, there are First Things First funded resources available to help you promote your child's healthy development and get you through the rough spots of parenthood.

Nihiyazhi Ba'iit'ih Home Visiting gives young children on the Navajo Nation stronger, more supportive relationships with their parents. They can be reached at 928-523-8905.

Another resource is the Birth to 5 Helpline (1-877-705-KIDS). This is a free statewide phone service staffed by nurses and child development specialists who help families of young children get answers to their toughest parenting questions.

As we approach Father's Day, First Things First says thank you to all the great dads, grandpas and other father figures whose love and nurturing gives young kids the safety, security and support they need to grow and thrive!

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