Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Daddy Whisperers: Why Dads Need their Kids

The Daddy Whisperers: Why Dads Need their Kids

“Michael” hunched over his paper – partly showing me his responses and partly hiding them. I could see the words “crying, mad, sad” scribbled on the lines where he should’ve been writing the reasons why he loved his Dad. This second grader was participating in a new project called The Daddy Whisperers developed by the Carson J Spencer Foundation (CJSF). The mission of the project is to help protect fathers from feeling isolation and distress by strengthening the bond they have with their kids.

One of the things I learned through my research with men who had been suicidal, but who are now doing well, is the protective power of the fathers’ relationship with their children. Some of these men credited their children for “saving their lives” – whether it was the responsibility Dads felt for their kids or the concern they had about the legacy they would leave should they die by suicide, children factored into the Dads’ decision making process. Because of this, the CJSF staff spent a full day at a local elementary school, working with preschoolers to sixth graders and helping them communicate why they felt their Dad (or other father figure) was special.

We set out to create a Father’s Day project to bolster this bond. Because Mother’s Day falls within the school year, Mothers often receive special school-supported projects that honor motherhood, but fathers, whose special day falls in June, often do not. We adapted the model of PostSecret, a hugely successful viral on-line network where people share their secrets by communicating them in the form of an artistic postcard. For our project, we asked kids to share with us the secret reasons they love their Dads – things they think are really special about their Dad that maybe their Dad doesn’t know about.

So, I asked Michael why he was writing the words “crying, mad, sad” on his Daddy Whisperers worksheet and he told me, “My parents are getting a divorce, and they are not getting along. I see yellow trucks everywhere, and I wonder if they are my Dad coming to see me.”

I told him, “Your parents might not be getting along, but you can still love your Dad. Why don’t you start by drawing a yellow truck?”

Fifteen minutes later he brought his postcard to me. On it was a yellow pick up with a smiling boy in the back. “Can you help me write the words?” he asked.

“You bet,” I said. “What is it you want to say to your Dad?”

“Please write, ‘I love my Dad because he lets me play with him, he is the Wolf Den leader, and I like hanging out with him a lot.’”

I wrote down his messages and patted him on the back, “Good work,” I said.

He nodded and walked away smiling and my heart swelled. I hope his Dad can cherish this too.

To follow additional discoveries from our Daddy Whisperers Project, please follow:

1 comment:

  1. You do such great work and such amazing things with wonderful ideas. Thank you for sharing this!