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This is a guest post from Denise Pazur, executive director for The PDV Foundation, an organization dedicated to advancing suicide prevention. You can learn more at http://www.pdvfoundation.org.
It could well be the most frightening thing a parent can facedeath of a child by suicide.
Other sudden, unintentional deaths by murder or automobile fatality are horrific. Yet theres something incomprehensible about a son or daughter deliberately ending the life we as parents have given them. In this way, suicide stands apart from perhaps all other deaths.
Rates of suicide for American youths have tripled since the 1950s, and this should serve as a call to action for parents nationwide, especially fathers. The message is clear and resounding: suicide is the most preventable form of death there is, according to 16th U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher. Our children are dying by their own hand not because they want to die, but because they can no longer endure the psychache of living. This mental anguish is most often an outcome of mental illness, not bad or selfish behavior.
My own son took his life a decade ago, when he was just 18 and had entered his senior year of high school. It is hard for me to think of him as someone with mental illness. But depression, anxiety and other mood disorders are indeed illnesses of the mind and the emotions. When left unrecognized, untreated or undertreated, they can be lethaljust as untreated diabetes or cancer can kill.
Why is it vital to strengthen the engagement of fathers with their children who may have mental illness? Because when a child is abnormally anxious, fearful, angry, self-loathing or disengaged from life, fathers may not recognize these as symptoms of a biologically based brain illness. They may encourage their children, especially their sons, to buck up under pressure.
Boys dont cry are among our parental narratives, words we feel may strengthen our children to endure future trial and trauma. But there are unintended consequences for not recognizing and addressing mental illness in our children.
This avoidance of the reality of our childrens mental health may place them at grave risk for behaviors that can lead to self-inflicted death. What can seem at first as normal adolescent outbursts may in reality be cries for help. I remember my son telling me, Mom, I know what Im doing. I remember his anger and rebellion against our rules as he neared his 18th birthday. I also recall thinking these were age appropriate for the most part, and would end when he graduated from high school and started life on his own. That day never came.
The call to action to fathers is compelling: fathers need to engage deeply in the emotional well-being of their children if our nation is to do better at reducing youth suicide. It is their role as parent and provider to safeguard their childrens healthincluding mental health.
As long as emotional nurturing of children is mom-centric, each child does not benefit from a fathers acknowledgment that admitting emotional struggle shows honesty. That seeking help shows strength. And that accepting help from others may indeed save a life.The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of National Fatherhood Initiative.
Author Michael McQueen shared with us what he is thankful for in this guest blog post. Micheal's book,
Memento, is a great resource to help fathers pass down their legacy to their children. Learn more about Michael and the Memento story here.
My dad was one of most organized people I have ever met. He started every day with a task list numbered in descending order of importance, along with a carefully orchestrated schedule with hourly breakdowns. As a family of 7, I guess dad needed to be as organized as he was there was always someone who needed to be dropped off at soccer practice, swimming lessons, or scouts.
What I loved and respected most about my dad though is that in the midst of all this busyness and his drive to make the most of every hour of the day, he was never too busy for me, my brothers, and our mom. Sure, hed have times of being distracted and unavailable like every father (and human being), but when it mattered, he was there physically, mentally, and emotionally.
I am so thankful for the priority he placed on family and the things that mattered.
I am so thankful for the example he set.
He may not be with us any longer, but the example of his lived-out priorities, not the checklist of this accomplishments, is what I remember and am thankful for most.To join the campaign, visit www.fatherhood.org/thethankfulcampaign or tweet with the hashtag #thanksdad.
The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of National Fatherhood Initiative.
NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya told us what he is thankful for in this guest blog post. Read on and then tell us what you are thankful for at The Thankful Campaign.
To be a dad is a great feeling. There is no feeling like it in the world. The time I get to spend with my kids is limited so when I am home I try to be with them and share their daily activities. Seeing the way they change as they are growing up and always needing my support makes me feel that I am doing my job right. The best thing is when you have a rough day or weekend I get to go back home and receive hugs and kisses from them and it makes everything good again. There is nothing more important in my life than my family!To join the campaign, visit www.fatherhood.org/thethankfulcampaign or tweet with the hashtag #thanksdad.The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of National Fatherhood Initiative.
This is a guest post from daddy blogger Chris Singer, a stay-at-home dad in Lansing, MI. You can find him on twitter @tessasdad and at http://sahdinlansing.com/
As a stay-at-home dad to a precocious 19-month-old toddler, I spend a good amount of time during the day fixing and tending...to my own screw-ups. Whether it's forgetting to keep doors closed and gates up (especially to the bathroom, or risk finding my toothbrush in the toilet), or it's letting my daughter play with something she probably shouldn't (like the house keys, which can easily end up in my daughter's favorite hiding spot: the garbage can), I swear I've made enough mistakes to get fired from most jobs.
Seriously though, as much as I might screw up during the day, one of the things I've been successful at has been helping my daughter develop a love of books. As a child I loved being read to and really had a passion for books. It's been amazing for me to see Tessa enjoy books so much already at such a young age. Reading books and visiting the library twice a week has become a big part of our daily and weekly routines.
Reading is also an excellent way to bond with your child. I've been reading to Tessa since she was born, and I'm convinced that this has been a key component to the strong bond we have formed. Here are some things I've figured out over time which I think played a huge role in Tessa developing a love for books:Don't force it
- One of the early frustrations I had as a dad was that I really felt it was important to read to Tessa but I could hardly ever get her to sit still for a book. I don't know how I was able to do it, but I never forced her to sit for a story. When she wanted to be done with a book, we were done with that book. At times, we might try another one, but if she wasn't into it, I didn't force the issue.Small books for small hands
- I had all these lists of the best children's books I would take with me to the library. I would sign out three or four at a time and bring them home only to find that Tessa wasn't interested in any of them. I decided to stop taking the list with me and see what books Tessa would grab for herself. She kept going over to the baby board books and picking them off the shelf. At first I thought they were just easier to pull off the shelf until I saw her sitting there and holding the book in her hand and flipping through the pages. At home Tessa does the same thing and will pick up books and flip through them. We've even given her the small board books to keep her busy in the car and they've worked like a charm.
Let her ask or tell you she wants to read
- This is similar to my first tip in that I don't make any demands of Tessa when it comes to books. When she's interested in reading I know she'll either bring books over to me or will ask me to read to her. I will occasionally ask her if she wants to read books and she will usually respond by saying yes, but I want her to develop the initiative to read and look at books on her own.
Make reading fun
- When I read books out loud to Tessa, I make up voices for the different characters and try to make the stories fun. I do a pretty good Grover voice actually, so this could be why her favorite book right now is "The Monster At The End of This Book."
Daddy Chris and daughter Tessa reading togetherThe views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of National Fatherhood Initiative.