As the recent news of the earthquake continues to come in, the Haiti situation
looks grim. When serious events such as this happen, kids (especially younger ones) naturally turn to their parents for explanations and reassurance. Here a few pointers on helping guide your kids through the emotions resulting from serious natural disasters:
- Ask them if they've heard about these events. If they are in school, they might have also discussed it there. Ask them what they think about the event, and if they have any concerns related to it.
- Assure them that you care for them and are doing everything you can to keep them safe. Answer any questions they have for you; it is important that children have a sense of hope and perspective on natural disasters.
- Work with your kids to develop positive and constructive action steps to respond to the disaster. Children like to do things that make a difference in the world. Be creative. Encourage your children to write letters or donate "piggy bank" money to relief efforts. Pray with your children for the people who were affected. Help them focus on helping others in their time of need.
Do you have additional thoughts? How do you help your kids with difficult situations in the news?
Check out this video of Roland C. Warren, NFI's president, discussing why dads think they are replaceable at the release event for Mama Says: A National Survey of Mothers' Attitudes on Fathering.
Chase Bank is taking a new approach to corporate philanthropy by hosting a contest on Facebook - and YOU can vote for NFI to receive funding!
If you're on facebook, search for Chase Community Giving, download the app
, and search for "National Fatherhood Initiative."
Why should you vote for NFI? Well, we're working in all 50 states (plus DC and Puerto Rico) on an issue that affects every community - father absence. Our programs are changing lives and reconnecting families, ensuring that no child grows up without his/her father. This funding will enable us to continue to strengthen families, communities, and give you and your children a brighter future for a stronger America.
So...flex your facebook muscles and vote for NFI!http://apps.facebook.com/chasecommunitygiving/
In light of the execution of D.C. sniper John Muhammad last night, I thought that you would find of interest a piece that I wrote about 7 years ago in the aftermath of the shootings. Of note, this was very real and personal for me. On October 22, they caught Muhammad and Malvo sleeping at a rest stop that was one exit up from my wife's office. It's a pretty secluded setting and there is a gas station--that she frequently uses--right across the street.
In the days since John Muhammad and John Lee Malvo were detained in the Beltway Sniper case, we have all wanted to know why these crimes occurred. Who were these cold-blooded murderers? How do people become so unabatedly evil?
Many have made up their minds about John Muhammad. He is an angry, frustrated, middle-aged man with gripes against his ex-wives and his country. It has been reported that he was sympathetic to the 9/11 terrorists. It is not too difficult to put the pieces together with him.
But what about the 17-year-old boy, who is now believed to have been the triggerman in these vicious acts? As we learn more about Malvos upbringing and his tumultuous childhood, things start to become clear. How did a young boy with a bright smile and a promising future become a 17-year-old killer? The answer: John Lee Malvo did not have an involved father.
Malvos childhood was characterized by constant moves from one school to another, one island to another, and one caretaker to another. His mother, Una James, was constantly trying to find new work and a new life for her and her son throughout the Caribbean. Many of the people who knew James and Malvo became exasperated at the constant upheaval in the intelligent Malvos life. However, the biggest mistake James made was that she did not feel it was necessary for her son to have a father.
As Malvo grew up, he searched for his father from time to time, but had limited contact with him. Friends and relatives point out that Malvo was keenly in need of a father figure in his life and he tended to flock towards older males in his neighborhood. But his mother and her sister grew up without their father. James simply did not realize the importance of father-love for a child. Her sister said, We grew up without a father. We dont know father-love. She went on to say that James did not realize that her son needed the father-love they never had.
Leslie Malvo, the biological father, owns a construction contracting company in Jamaica. Reporters located him the day after his son was arrested, and he commented in American media that he had been following the sniper murders. This is not a poor man living in an isolated, backwards village. He owns a business and reads American newspapers. However, he was a failure as a father. He did not contest James attempts to keep him uninvolved with their son. He never sought out his son, or tried to improve his sons life despite his relative wealth and despite the fact that James was causing such upheaval in the younger Malvos life.
Eventually Malvo had become tragically accustomed to childhood without a father. But as a boy enters his late teens he wants to find out what it means to become a man. He looks for examples of mature behavior from the adult males around him. He loves his mother, but begins to pull away in an attempt to establish independence - to fill the hole in his soul in the shape of his father.
In one of the many unstable settings Malvo found himself in, this time alone on the island of Antigua and his mother in Jamaica, John Muhammad entered the picture. Muhammad was a human smuggler, getting people from the islands to the states. He was a powerful looking ex-military man with strong political and religious convictions. To the impressionable Malvo, Muhammad immediately became an attractive and authoritative father figure. Through many twists and turns, the two ended up living together in the United States, apart from James, and in relative poverty. Lee Boyd Malvo changed his name to John Lee Malvo taking the name of his new father and becoming his son. Muhammads interest in guns and shooting provided another means for the two to bond. We now know what the grotesque product of that bonding would become 10 dead, 3 wounded, millions scared.
The statistics of father absence are potent, and illuminate several aspects of the Malvo case. A study of 1,800 middle-school students found that children who did not live with both biological parents were more likely to carry a gun. The likelihood that a young male will engage in criminal activity doubles if he is raised without a father. Seventy two percent of adolescent murderers are fatherless. However, as helpful as these statistics can be, they sometimes obscure the human tragedies that lurk behind them. Lee Boyd Malvo was abandoned by his father, and kept away from him by his mother who grew up without her father. He then turned to another man, who also did not know his own father. Together they killed.
Many will continue to analyze why these two men committed such crimes and they may come up with some very definitive answers. Psychologists, criminologists, academicians, and forensic experts will feed us with countless explanations. But we must look at this crime at its roots, as a crime of fatherlessness. If we do, not only will we have the greatest understanding of what happened, but we will also begin to embrace the solution to this problem - men must be involved, responsible, and committed fathers so that their shoes will not be filled by the likes of John Muhammad.
The New York Times published an interesting article
that not only highlights the importance of involved fathers, but also the turnkey role that moms play in involving fathers. "A mother's support of the father turns out to be a critical factor in his involvement with their children."
It goes on to report findings that show that when a couple's relationship is strengthened and a couple has positive interactions, dads are much more likely to be involved and kids are much more likely to thrive. Truly a win-win situation.
This article explores the fact that the mother-father relationship is one of several factors that can affect father involvement. We know that dads don't parent in a bubble; that's why we built a session for mothers into our 24/7 Dad curriculum
and why we've developed Mom as Gateway
. These resources help break down the barriers between couples (regardless of marital status) so they can effectively co-parent.
As this article points out, more and more people are realizing just how important dads are - and that there are many factors to enabling their involvement. Helping moms and dads see eye-to-eye and respect each other's parenting styles is key to thriving kids and families.
Check out the inspiring ads just released by the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse
, a government project for which NFI is the lead contractor.
There are three ads in all, each one encouraging fathers that the "smallest moments have the biggest impact."
Below is my favorite. There are two additional ads: Double Dutch
, which are also very amusing.
Enjoy...and take time to be a dad today!
Oh my. Where do we even start with this one?
How about with TLC, which, by the way, stands for The Learning
So what exactly what are we learning from the Jon and Kate saga? More importantly, what are the eight Gosselin children learing?
This week, Jon was cut from the show and now he is refusing to let film crews on to the property that he and Kate still share.
Well, I suppose TLC has reminded us of the time-tested truth that selfish pursuits like fame and money - pursuits that tempt all of us - can easily tear our families apart. If there is anything we can learn about the Jon and Kate saga, it's to reassess our priorities. Hopefully Jon and Kate will have the opportunity to do just that now that the cameras are off, and, while the Gosselin kids may have to give up exciting trips and photo-ops, they'll have the dad and mom they need.
I was delighted to see this article
in the September 22 USA Today about a new book on the marriage of Barack and Michelle Obama. Christopher Andersen, a former editor of People Magazine, who called his book Barack and Michelle ObamaPortrait of an American Marriage, interviewed more than 200 people to get the details.
Although I have yet to read the book, on the surface, this is really good stuff. Frankly, I have often been frustrated, especially with stories about the President that encourage young people, in particular African American boys, to emulate Obamas modeling as a black man, and even as a black father, but are strangely silent on the need to follow his example as a black husband.
Interestingly, the President and I share a lot in commonwe are both African American men raised by single mothers, who attended Ivy League schools and who married accomplished women who graduated from Princeton in 1985. Accordingly, I think that I am on pretty sound footing when I state that, like me, the reason that Obama has been able to break his legacy of father absence is not because of his professional and political success, but rather because he is married to Michelle. No baby mama for Obama. You see, good fathering, like real estate, is about location, location, location and the fact that Michelle is in the houseWhite House or otherwiseis key to Barack being the kind of father that he never had.
That said, I do have one bone to pick with Andersens characterization of the Obamas relationship. He states, Theyre devoted to each other. Its unique
Actually, its not unique
its marriage. And lots of couples in the black community are doing the same thing. The problem is that the press spends more time covering black rappers than black weddings and often fails to highlight the benefits of black marriageand marriage in general. No doubt this neglect has been instrumental in facilitating a pernicious self-fulfilling prophesy that has yielded 2 out of 3 black children living in father absent homes.
Finally, I sincerely hope that in his book Andersen spent as much time chronicling the benefits that Michelle has received from being married to Barack. This article, like most that I have seen, focuses on the benefits that Barack has received. (e.g. She is the reason he is where he is, the author says.) I have been happily married for 27 years and I know first hand that a good marriage is about giving
. Over the years, Ive
had women friends who weren
t big on marriage or who had children with guys who clearly weren
t marriage material say, I can do bad all by myself. Accordingly, I think that its essential that women hear from the First Lady that you can do pretty darn well with him too. No doubt, this is the way she feels. Just look at the portrait on Andersens book cover.
This weekend, I attended a concert of guitar virtuoso and three time Grammy® nominee Stanley Jordan
. It was a pretty amazing concert for a number of reasons.
First, Stanley was a couple of years ahead of me at Princeton and it had been some time since I had seen him play. I didnt really know him while we were in college other than to nod hello when we would pass each other on campus. We played in different circles that didnt overlap
his a world of jazz and mine a world of football pads.
Second, Stanley developed a unique way of playing the guitar with both hands topping the fret board that creates a sound like no other guitarist. (Check out his rendition of Stairway to Heaven
.) Even in college, he was becoming quite well-known for this technique. Its really something to see and hear
At one point in the concert, Stanley strolled over to the piano and began to play a song. Nothing unique about this since lots of folks can play multiple instruments. But then, he started playing the piano AND the guitar simultaneously. Amazing.
When he finished playing, he explained that the song was called, Song for My Father and then he spoke a bit about the importance of fatherhood. Heres what he had to say in the notes of his fabulous new CD State of Nature.
Fathers of fathers, sons of sons
Fatherhood, that precious profession;
That sacred occupation.
Passing on strength and wisdom,
Leaving no stone unturned,
Moving heaven and earth
To teach and protect,
To love and inspire,
And ultimately, to free.
For we are all children of mystery.
When Stanley finished his remarks and moved to the next number, I could not help but linger there a bit. Ironically, his unique ability to play two instruments simultaneously with such grace and skill is the perfect metaphor for what good fathers do. They balance family AND work. They balance affection AND discipline. They balance patience AND urgency. They do all of thisand much moreto create a melody that their childrens hearts need to see and to hear. Like Stanleys music, its a thing of beauty.
I just read an item
from Time about a "personal site aimed at facilitating extramarital affairs." It is called AshleyMadison.com. Among the many ghastly things about this, one of the most interesting statements in the article was this: traffic on the site tripled the day after Father's Day. According to the site's CEO, it is because the day after Father's Day is a day when many men feel "underappreciated."
That is very sad - not a reason to cheat - but sad. Why don't we as a culture appreciate fathers enough? Too many bad ones, our own screwed up priorities, selfishness .... Any ideas?