Father Knows Best: Support group helps dads bond with their children

Ronald Green, an employee at a waste management company, helps his 1-year-old daughter Jasmine with an arts project during the “Daddy & Me” support group. (Photo by Lisa R. Rhodes)

On the first and third Monday of every month, Fort Meade’s Family Advocacy Program sponsors a support group just for fathers and their toddlers.

“Daddy & Me” is an interactive play group targeted to active-duty service members and their children ages 2 to 4.

The group meets from 5 to 6 p.m. at the Family Advocacy Program at 2462 85th Medical Battalion Ave.

“This is something just for fathers,” said Valerie Green, who facilitates “Daddy & Me,” along with Brittney Yun. Both are parent support group coordinators at FAP.

“Many dads are deploying and they’re not able to spend time with their kids,” Green said. “Dads need something, too. It’s a bonding experience.”

Green said that FAP provides several activities for mothers, including a support group and a walking club. But the needs of fathers also need to be addressed, she said.

Sgt. Maj. Charles Ivey of the Defense Information Systems Agency tickles his 2-year-old daughter Alma during the “Daddy & Me” support group on June 5 as Jennifer Padilla, a Family Advocacy Program intern, looks on. (Photo by Lisa R. Rhodes)

“The group gives dads a direction,” Green said. “Sometimes they really don’t know what to do when it comes to their kids.”

In the group, fathers have free time to play with their children and participate in arts and crafts projects.

On June 5, Sgt. Maj. Charles Ivey, of the Defense Information Systems Agency, and Ronald Green, an employee of Waste Management in Gaithersburg, attended the support group with their daughters.

Ivey said coming to the support group gives him time to play with his 2-year-old daughter Alma and provides her with the opportunity to interact with other adults and children her age.

“This gives me time to reinforce how she should be treated as a young lady and show her how valuable she is as a person,” Ivey said.

Ronald Green, who attended the group for the first time, said he came because he wanted quality, one-on-one time with his 1-year-old daughter Jasmine.

“I want to guide her in the right direction,” he said. “She looks to me for guidance and fun. I am her protectorer.

“This is a pretty cool thing.”

The facilitators also provide parenting education materials from the National Fatherhood Initiative, a nonprofit organization that works to end father absence and encourages fathers to take an active role in their children’s lives, according to the organization’s website.

“Fathers make a world of difference,” said Dr. Beverly Lindsay, a pediatrician at Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center.

Lindsay said studies show that the presence of a father in a young child’s life improves verbal and social skills and academic readiness for preschool.

“Boys are less likely to be prone to juvenile delinquency or to drop out of school,” Lindsay said. “And fathers improve the self-esteem and ambition of girls.”

Lindsay said a support group such as “Daddy & Me” is important because it teaches children the different communication skills of each parent.

“A mother may be more nurturing and protective, while a father may be free and easy and assertive, letting the child go to explore in a physical way,” she said.

Valerie Green said a small number of fathers attend the support group on a drop-in basis.

“They like it and really enjoy it,” she said. “Father and child bonding is so important and gives them the special time dedicated to each other.”

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