Guided by Faith: Communication Strategies for Divorced Parents

Unfortunately, separation and divorce happen. When there are children involved, divorcing parents can’t and shouldn’t just move on. Both parents’ continued cooperation and a healthy co-parenting partnership is best for children.  Maintaining civil conversations after a divorce, especially for the sake of your children, can be challenging. Here are some suggestions that might help.

Communication Strategies

  1. Focus on the children – Keep the conversation centered on your children’s needs and well-being. Avoid bringing up past grievances or using the conversation as an opportunity to attack your ex.
  2. Stick to facts – Avoid emotionally charged language and accusations. Instead, focus on stating facts and proposing solutions to specific issues.
  3. Listen actively – Truly listen to your ex’s perspective without interrupting or judging. Acknowledge their concerns and try to understand their point of view.
  4. Use “I” statements – Speak from your own perspective and feelings, using “I” statements like “I feel concerned about…” instead of accusatory “you” statements.
  5. Choose the right time and place – Avoid discussing sensitive topics when stressed, tired, or in front of the children. Choose a neutral location for communication, like email or text, if phone calls tend to escalate.

Be careful! Email and text messages can be easily misunderstood. Take care to maintain a respectful tone. Avoid sarcastic and negative language.  Double-check for typos, grammatical errors, and factual mistakes before sending.

Setting Boundaries

  1. Establish ground rules – Agree on communication guidelines, like avoiding certain topics or disrespectful language.
  2. Respect boundaries – If the conversation becomes heated, take a break and resume it later when you’ve both calmed down.
  3. Maintain separate lives – Respect each other’s privacy and avoid getting involved in their new relationships.
  4. Don’t co-parent through your children – Avoid using your children to relay messages or get information from your ex. Communicate directly with each other.

Communicating About Household Rules

Creating household rules for children after a divorce is crucial for providing stability and security during a challenging time. Here are some tips to help you navigate this process:

Collaboration is Key

  • Work with your ex-partner – If possible, create the rules together to ensure consistency across both households. Discuss your individual expectations and find common ground.
  • Consider a mediator – If working directly with your ex is difficult, consider involving a neutral third party, like a mediator or therapist, to facilitate communication and agreement.

Focus on the Child’s Needs

  • Age-appropriate and understandable – Tailor the rules to your child’s age and developmental level. Ensure they clearly understand them and why they exist.
  • Emphasize respect and responsibility – Frame the rules positively, focusing on mutual respect, responsibility, and healthy living.
  • Address core values – Align the rules with your shared values as parents, focusing on important aspects like kindness, honesty, safety, and responsibility.

Consistency is Vital

  • Similar rules in both homes – As much as possible, strive for consistent rules and expectations across both households. This reduces confusion and provides stability for your child.
  • Clear consequences – Establish clear and age-appropriate consequences for breaking the rules. Ensure both parents enforce them consistently.
  • Open communication – Encourage open communication with your child. Listen to their concerns and provide explanations for the rules.

Flexibility and Support

  • Allow for some variation – While consistency is important, allow for some flexibility based on individual circumstances and situations.
  • Address emotional needs – Acknowledge that your child may be struggling emotionally. Provide support and reassurance, and be empathetic to their feelings.
  • Celebrate successes – Celebrate your child’s efforts to follow the rules and make positive choices.

Additional Tips

  • Involve your child – Consider involving your child in creating the rules, giving them a sense of ownership and responsibility.
  • Review and adjust as needed – Over time, you may need to review and adjust the rules as your child grows and matures.
  • Seek professional help – If you’re struggling, consider seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor specializing in co-parenting or divorce.
  • Focus on the future – Remember that you are on the same team, working together to raise your children.
  • Prioritize your children’s well-being – Even if you can’t be friends, be civil and respectful for the sake of your children.

Remember, there will be good days and bad days. Be patient, consistent, and focused on creating a healthy environment for your children to thrive in.

Transforming from a couple relationship to a co-parent team

After a separation, parents need to transform their former partnership into a parenting team around their child. It’s important for the child that each parent takes care of them – plays, cooks, shouts, reads bedtime stories and picks them up after basketball practice – but also how the parents interact with each other. This actually plays an unexpectedly large role for the child.

At the same time as you build your own new homes and family lives, you also need to build a structure that carries the child between the parents, through a sustainable network of communication and collaboration. A parenting team helps the child put their world together and creates a feeling that they are parents together, no matter where they live. Even though parents will experience new relationships, get mad at each other and sometimes only communicate through email, they will continue to be parents together.

For the child, what has happened in your relationship is less important than you being its parents.

Malin Bergström, child psychologist and researcher

Guidance from the Holy Scriptures

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. – Philippians 2:3-4 NLT

To see the value of a strong family in a child’s life please read our report on “The Long-term Consequences of Growing Up Without a Father.”

 Join

We invite you to join this new and growing community of fathers, Fathering Strong. To register, go to www.fatheringstrong.com, download the free app, and turn on the notifications. Explore the many resources, engage in conversations with other fathers, and share your story.

Your financial contributions allow us to serve fathers at no cost. Please consider donating. Fathering Strong is powered by Urban Light Ministries, Inc., a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 in Springfield, Ohio. Our mission is to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to the Heavenly Father.  Go to www.fatheringstrong.com to donate. To learn more about Urban Light Ministries’ history, work, and mission, explore www.urbanlight.org.

Unlocking Effective Communication: A Blueprint for Successful Co-Parenting

In today’s world, there is a wide variety of families with children. In addition to traditional nuclear families (married father and mother, and children who are sharing a household), there are:

  • Cohabiting mothers and fathers raising children.
  • Shared parenting families: Parents in separate households who share custody of their children, with the children alternating between their homes.
  • Single-parent families: One parent has custody and raises the children without the other parent’s involvement.
  • Noncustodial parenting: The nonresident parent is granted scheduled parenting time.
  • Grandparents raising grandchildren.
  • Foster families, adoptive families, blended families, and so many more.
Speak Less Listen More

Each type of family presents potential challenges to effective communication between parents. For example, when the custodial parent is hostile to the noncustodial parent and sometimes withholds access to the children while also demanding child support. I have seen such rage, pain, and bitterness in many cases. Interactions between parents in similar circumstances may become volatile at any time and without warning.

Although space and time prevent us from making suggestions for each scenario, what follows are some general ideas for creating and maintaining an open and understanding atmosphere for effective communication between parents to create and maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship in the children’s best interest.

The Goal: Achieving Understanding

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood” is commonly attributed to Stephen R. Covey, author of the best-selling book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” It’s the fifth habit in his framework and a cornerstone of effective communication in families and other settings.

In the context of communication between parenting partners, seeking first to understand means putting aside your assumptions and biases to truly listen to and comprehend the other person’s perspective, feelings, and needs. It’s about:

Active listening: Give your full attention to the one speaking, make eye contact, and avoid distractions.

Empathy: Try to see things from the other person’s point of view and experience their emotions as if they were your own.

Asking clarifying questions: It’s about not jumping to conclusions or interrupting but gaining a deeper understanding of what the person is trying to communicate.

Resisting the urge to respond immediately: Review what you’ve heard before formulating your response.

By seeking first to understand, you create a safe space for open and honest communication with your co-parent. This can lead to:

  • Stronger co-parenting relationships: When your parenting partner feels heard and understood, they are more likely to feel valued.
  • Reduced conflict: There’s less room for misunderstandings and arguments when everyone is focused on understanding each other for the children’s sake.
  • More effective problem-solving: When you understand the root of a problem, you’re better equipped to find solutions that work for you and your children.
  • Increased trust and respect: Open and honest communication builds trust between parenting partners.

Remember, seeking first to understand is an ongoing process, not a one-time action. It takes practice and patience, but the rewards are well worth it. By consciously listening to each other, you can build a strong parenting relationship despite no romantic relationship.

Here are some additional tips for practicing “seek first to understand” in your family communication:

  • Schedule regular family meetings (when possible and appropriate): This can be a time for everyone to share their thoughts and feelings without distractions.
  • Use “I” statements: This helps you focus on your feelings and experiences without blaming or accusing others.
  • Avoid interrupting: Let the other person finish their thought before you respond.
  • Be mindful of your body language: Make eye contact, nod your head, and lean in to show your engagement.
  • Validate the other person’s feelings: Even if you disagree, let them know you understand them.

Calling a Timeout

Recognizing the heat rising in a co-parenting disagreement can be tough, but stepping back can save the situation. If tempers flare, calmly proposing a “time-out” isn’t a weakness; it’s a strength.

By suggesting a quick breather, you prioritize clear communication over charged words. This pause allows both of you to cool down, regroup, and approach the issue later with calmer minds and a greater focus on finding solutions, not assigning blame.

  • Take an agreed-upon pause.
  • Set a time for continuing the conversation. It’s a time-out, not the end of the game.
  • Then return to the conversation with cooler heads and talk it out.

Remember, you are on the same parenting team. It is okay if you’re momentarily out of sync. A well-timed time-out can preserve your parenting relationship and pave the way for a more productive conversation.

Working Through Conflict

In every human relationship, there will be clashes. I have never seen a perfect couple in my 70+ years of life and nearly 40 years of ministering to parents. That is because there are no perfect individuals. Two imperfect people will have conflicts. It is inevitable. However, those disagreements do not have to harm the relationship permanently. For the sake of their children, parents must work hard to keep the lines of communication open between them.

When conflicts have caused separation or divorce, creating and maintaining a healthy co-parenting relationship is still possible. It requires a willingness to forgive, even after the romantic love has faded.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is complicated when the pain associated with a broken romantic relationship is deep. To give your children the best life possible, however, the children are better off with both parents’ love and support. This requires cooperation between parents. If you agree with that premise, you might also agree that letting go of bitterness is worth it, for their sake.

The bonus of forgiveness is it is also good for you. It has been said that refusing to forgive is like drinking poison, hoping that the other person dies.  To begin healing, start with forgiving.

What is Forgiveness?

In R.T. Kendall’s “Total Forgiveness,” the definition of forgiveness goes beyond simply letting go of anger or resentment. It’s described as a deliberate and complete release of any offense or hurt, refusing to hold it against the offender and choosing to bless them instead. This goes beyond feelings and involves a conscious decision, an act of will, to release the offender from your bitterness and pain.

Kendall emphasizes that true forgiveness isn’t about condoning the offense or forgetting what happened. It’s about choosing not to let the offense control you or define your relationship with the other person. It’s about setting yourself free from the emotional prison of bitterness and resentment so you can experience inner peace and healing.

Here are some key points of Kendall’s definition:

  • It’s a choice: Forgiveness is not something that happens automatically. It’s a conscious decision you make, even when it’s difficult.
  • It’s complete: True forgiveness doesn’t hold onto any part of the offense. It lets go of everything, even the desire for revenge or justice.
  • It involves blessing: Kendall teaches that forgiveness goes beyond simply not wishing harm on the offender. It involves actively wishing them good and seeking their well-being.
  • It’s an ongoing process: Forgiveness is not a one-time event. It may require repeated decisions and prayers, especially for deep hurts.

Overall, Kendall’s definition of forgiveness challenges the reader to go beyond superficiality and embrace a radical concept of releasing pain and choosing love even in the face of deep hurt.

Remember: Forgiveness is a process. It is not the same as forgetting. Forgiveness is choosing to forgive every time the offense is remembered. With God’s help, eventually, the pain and other negative emotions associated with the offense will fade. That is when forgiveness is complete.

Restoring the relationship to the point where beneficial communication can occur regarding the children is worth the effort. If this is your struggle, I encourage you to seek professional counseling for help working through this.

Guidance from the Holy Scriptures

32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32

For more helpful posts on communications and improving as a father go to www.urbanlight.org.

Join

We invite you to join this new and growing community of fathers, Fathering Strong. To register, go to www.fatheringstrong.com, download the free app, and turn on the notifications. Explore the many resources, engage in conversations with other fathers, and share your story.

Your financial contributions allow us to serve fathers at no cost. Please consider donating. Fathering Strong is powered by Urban Light Ministries, Inc., a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 in Springfield, Ohio. Our mission is to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to the Heavenly Father.  Go to www.fatheringstrong.com to donate. To learn more about Urban Light Ministries’ history, work, and mission, explore www.urbanlight.org.

5 Tips for Fathers to Become Better Communicators

Think of your family as a team. You’ve got players with different strengths and weaknesses working together to make things run smoothly. Just like any team, though, good communication is key to success.

Defining Communication

What is good communication?

Effective communication is simply getting your message across clearly and understanding the message you receive with equal clarity. It’s not just about talking but also about active listening and ensuring mutual understanding.

Imagine throwing a ball to your child – you want to throw it with the right force and aim so they can catch it easily. Try to catch the return throw, even though it may be off the mark. Keep it up until both throwers are good at it. Remember the object of the game: A fun game of catch with your child! It would be no fun if both players were not engaged in an exchange of throwing the ball. Likewise, effective communication requires sending, receiving, and returning information.  

Five Communication Strategies for Fathers

How do you chat with your family in a way that builds each other up, solves problems, and keeps everyone feeling heard and loved? Here are some tips for effective communication in a family setting:

1. Be an active listener.

This means putting away distractions, making eye contact, and trying to understand what the other family member is saying.

  • Don’t interrupt!
    • Try to rephrase what you heard to ensure you’ve got it right.
    • Imagine you’re putting on a detective hat: your job is to gather all the clues (words, body language, tone of voice) to crack the case of what your family member is trying to tell you.

2. Use “I” statements. ️

Instead of blaming or accusing, talk about how things make you feel.

  • For example, instead of saying, “You never clean up your mess!” try, “I feel frustrated when dishes are left in the sink.”
    • This takes the focus off attacking the other person and puts it on your feelings.

Think of “I” statements as little life rafts: they help you navigate tricky conversations without sinking into blame or anger.

3. Choose your timing wisely. ⏱️

Don’t try to have a deep conversation when everyone’s stressed or rushed. Pick a calm moment when you can all give your full attention.

  • Think of your family like a garden: sometimes, the plants need a little time and space to grow before they’re ready to be pruned or nurtured.
    • Choose your communication moments like you would choose when to tend to your garden.

4. Be respectful, even when you disagree.

Having different opinions is okay but be mindful of how you express them. Avoid name-calling, yelling, or interrupting.

  • Remember, you’re all on the same team: even though you play different positions, you’re working towards the same goal (a happy and healthy family).

5. Celebrate your child’s successes.

Take time to acknowledge and appreciate each other’s accomplishments, big or small. This helps build strong bonds and makes everyone feel valued.

  • Think of your family like a cheering squad: be each other’s biggest fans and celebrate each other’s victories, no matter how big or small.

Children love attention from their dad. When he was a small child, my oldest child craved compliments and pats on the back from me. I learned that:

  • You get more of what you pay attention to. When you lavish “attaboy!”s or “attagirl!”s upon kids, they will do more of what got them your attention.
  • On the other hand, if they only get attention when they fail or do something wrong, you can expect more of the same.

Bonus tips for communicating with children of different ages:

Little ones: 

  • Keep it simple; use clear and concise language. 
  • Ask open-ended questions to encourage them to talk. 
  • Show lots of love and patience!

Teens: 

  • Give them space, but tell them you’re always there to listen. 
  • Respect their privacy but encourage open communication about important things.

Adults: 

  • Lead by example! Show good communication skills yourself and model healthy conflict resolution. 
  • Be open to hearing different perspectives and be willing to change your mind.

Next time, I will share some more suggestions, especially for parenting partners.

Wisdom From the Holy Scriptures

19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. – James 1:19

Remember:

Effective communication is a journey, not a destination. There will be bumps along the road, but by following these tips, you can create a family atmosphere where everyone feels heard, respected, and loved. Remember, communication is a muscle that gets stronger with use, so keep practicing, and you’ll be a family communication champion in no time!

Join

We invite you to be a part of this new and growing community of fathers, Fathering Strong. To register, go to www.fatheringstrong.com, download the free app, and turn on the notifications. Explore the many resources, engage in conversations with other fathers, and share your story.

Your financial contributions allow us to serve fathers at no cost. Please consider donating. Fathering Strong is powered by Urban Light Ministries, Inc., a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 in Springfield, Ohio. Our mission is to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to the Heavenly Father.  Go to www.fatheringstrong.com to donate. To learn more about Urban Light Ministries’ history, work, and mission, explore www.urbanlight.org.

Building Strong Communities: The Essential Role of Responsible Fathers

In today’s blog, we will consider how responsible, civic-minded men and fathers are essential in making our communities better places for children and families. Male marriage partners can contribute to stable family environments. When engaged beyond their families, men can provide positive role models for young boys and girls in the broader community. Men can actively participate in community organizations and initiatives. Studies suggest that communities with higher levels of male involvement in family and community life have lower rates of crime and violence. Community fathers can lead the way in promoting cross-cultural harmony by setting examples of peacemaking. These are essential ingredients for stability and safety in a community.

Positive Impacts of Strong Community Fathering

Role models and mentors

Responsible men can provide positive role models, showcasing healthy masculinity, work ethic, and responsible behavior for young boys and girls. This can increase self-esteem, educational attainment, and reduced involvement in risky behaviors.

Family stability and support

Fathers and responsible male partners can contribute to stable family environments linked to improved child development, emotional well-being, academic success, and reduced childhood poverty. This stability can also benefit broader community well-being through reduced crime and social problems.

Community engagement and leadership

Responsible men can actively participate in community organizations, initiatives, and leadership roles. This can improve social cohesion, problem-solving, and resource allocation within communities.

Reduced crime and violence

Studies suggest that communities with higher levels of male involvement in family and community life have lower rates of crime and violence. This may be due to various factors, including positive role models, reduced social and economic disparities, and increased community cohesion.

Combatting Negative Stereotypes

The presence of mature, responsible, and wholesome male figures actively engaged in communities can counter the powerful, harmful male images prevalent in culture.

  • Absent fathers, incarcerated individuals, or men involved in criminal activity can contribute to negative stereotypes and create challenges for young men seeking positive role models.
  • Many of the male movie characters on television and in movies present an unhealthy portrayal of manhood.
  • Much of popular music and music videos feature violence by men and hatred of, aversion to, or prejudice against women.  
  • The normalization, even glorification of thug life, drug dealing, and other behaviors that characterize worldly lifestyles can be attractive to young people who are not exposed to righteous living – and even to some who are.    

These reasons and others make it important for wholesome men to be community-minded, active, and visible in their neighborhoods and institutions.  

Getting Involved

Men can get involved in their communities and positively impact in countless ways. Here are a few ideas to get you started, categorized by interest area:

1. Mentoring and Youth Development:

  • Become a Big Brother or Big Sister. Big Brothers Big Sisters pairs adult mentors with children facing adversity. Spending time with a young person can be incredibly rewarding and provide them with much-needed support and guidance.
  • Join a My Brothers Keeper movement in your community, or start one.
  • Coach a youth sports team. Share your love of sports and help young athletes develop their skills and practice teamwork.
  • Volunteer at a community center or after-school program. Assist with homework, organize activities, and provide a safe space for kids to learn and grow.
  • Mentor young men. Share your personal and professional experiences with young men looking for guidance.

2. Community Beautification and Environmental Service:

  • Join a park cleanup or tree-planting day. Help keep your local parks and green spaces clean and healthy.
  • Volunteer at a community garden. Grow fresh produce for those in need and learn about sustainable gardening practices.
  • Help build or maintain trails or bike paths. Promote outdoor recreation and healthy living in your community.
  • Organize a neighborhood clean-up project. Bring your neighbors together to improve the appearance of your community.

3. Supporting Vulnerable Populations:

  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Serve meals and provide companionship to those in need.
  • Become a foster parent or a mentor of at-risk youth. Provide a safe and loving home or guidance to children facing challenges.
  • Volunteer at a senior center or nursing home. Spend time with elderly individuals and help combat loneliness.
  • Support organizations that work with specific populations. Get involved with causes you care about, such as a father’s group, veterans’ group, or disability rights organizations.

4. Sharing Skills and Knowledge:

  • Teach a class or a workshop. Share your expertise in a subject you’re passionate about, such as cooking, woodworking, or financial literacy.
  • Offer free legal or financial advice. Help low-income individuals access essential services.
  • Provide career counseling or job coaching. Assist people in finding employment or advancing their careers.
  • Become a tutor or literacy volunteer. Help children and adults improve their reading and writing skills.

5. Advocating for Change:

  • Join a local advocacy group or committee. Work to address issues that matter to you, such as education reform, affordable housing, or environmental protection.
  • Contact your elected officials. Make your voice heard on important issues and hold your representatives accountable.
  • Organize or participate in peaceful protests or rallies. Raise awareness about important causes and advocate for change.
  • Support organizations that work on systemic issues. Donate your time or money to organizations tackling the root causes of social problems.

Remember, even small acts of service can make a big difference in your community. Find something you’re passionate about and get involved!

Here are some additional tips for getting involved in your community:

  • Talk to your neighbors and friends. See what they’re involved in and find out if any local organizations or initiatives need your help.
  • Contact your local government. Many cities and towns have volunteer programs or community engagement initiatives.
  • Search online. Many websites list volunteer opportunities in your area.
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new. Step outside your comfort zone and explore new ways to make a difference.

For more ideas for servant leadership in your community and help set up a Fathering Strong Dad’s community, chat with me on the Fathering Strong app or email ewilliams@urbanight.org.   

The Christian Mandate

If you are a Christ follower, there are teachings in the Holy Bible that instruct us to be community servants motivated by love and obedience.

Instruction from the Holy Scriptures

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:13-16 NKJV

Working for Healthy Community

This teaching of Jesus Christ instructs His followers to impact their community positively. As salt preserves unrefrigerated meat, our presence should make our communities healthier as we serve as preservers of order, stability, peace, and prosperity.  As society descends into increasing spiritual darkness, the active presence of Christ’s followers should be a bright light to attract those who seek Him.

Caring for Fellow Community Members

The Great Commandment requires that God’s people love the Lord their God and their neighbors as themselves (Deut. 6:5). How are we to demonstrate love for God? Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15).” He has commanded us to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34). Love of neighbor looks like feeding the hungry, visiting prisoners, sheltering the homeless (Matt. 25:31-44), caring for widows and orphans (James 1:27), working for justice (Mic. 6:8), and other acts of kindness (Eph. 4:32).

Making Peace

The Savior promised, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God (Matthew 5:9).” With the growing social divisions, peacemakers are desperately needed. Being a peacemaker is a noble calling; even small actions can make a big difference.

Some practical ways of making peace include:

Communication:

  • Active listening. Truly listen to people’s concerns and perspectives without interrupting or judging. Ask clarifying questions to ensure understanding.
  • Empathy. Try to see things from the other person’s point of view. Acknowledge their feelings and validate their experiences.
  • Calm and assertive communication. Use “I” statements to express your own needs and boundaries while respecting the other person’s right to theirs. Avoid inflammatory language and accusations.
  • Mediation. When two people are in conflict, offer to facilitate a conversation by helping them identify common ground and potential solutions.

De-escalation:

  • Identify triggers. Notice what tends to escalate situations and try to address those factors first. This could involve offering space, changing the subject, or proposing a break in the conversation.
  • Focus on common ground. Remind people of shared values or goals that can be a foundation for building understanding.
  • Humor and kindness. A well-timed joke or gesture of goodwill can break the tension and create a more positive atmosphere.

Proactive peacebuilding:

  • Promote inclusivity. Encourage diverse perspectives and celebrate differences as strengths.
  • Address prejudice and discrimination. Speak up against harmful stereotypes and advocate for fairness and equality.
  • Build bridges. Create opportunities for people from different backgrounds to interact and build relationships.
  • Lead by example. Model respectful communication and conflict resolution skills in your own interactions.

Remember:

  • Practice patience. Peacemaking is a process, not a quick fix. It takes time and effort to build trust and understanding.
  • Choose your battles. Don’t try to mediate every conflict. Sometimes, stepping back and letting others work things out independently is the best approach.
  • Take care of yourself. Being a peacemaker can be emotionally draining. Make sure to prioritize your own well-being by setting boundaries, practicing self-care, and seeking support when needed.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. There are many ways to be a peacemaker; the most important thing is to act with compassion, courage, and a genuine desire to create a more harmonious world for children.

Working for Unity

Beginning within the local church and extending to the surrounding faith community, Christ-followers are responsible for maintaining oneness. Our directive is to make every effort to keep ourselves united in the Spirit (Eph. 4:3). Like peacemaking, working for unity is a process that takes time and patience. It is a part of spiritual warfare (2 Cor. 10:4) and requires supernatural help. Jesus prayed to our Father that He would help us be one (John 17:20-23). As men and community fathers, we can lead by example in this. In doing so, we can model for youth and our pre-believing neighbors what genuine brotherly love looks like (John 13:25).

Read the other blog posts on the impact fathers make in a community:

Educational Impact: How Fathers Make a Difference in Schools

Fathers: The Missing Pillars in Faith Communities – Why Your Presence Matters Now More Than Ever

Join

We invite you to join this new and growing community of fathers, Fathering Strong. To register, go to www.fatheringstrong.com, download the free app, and turn on the notifications. Explore the many resources, engage in conversations with other fathers, and share your story.

Your financial contributions allow us to serve fathers at no cost. Please consider donating. Fathering Strong is powered by Urban Light Ministries, Inc., a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 in Springfield, Ohio. Our mission is to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to the Heavenly Father.  Click here to donate. To learn more about Urban Light Ministries’ history, work, and mission, explore www.urbanlight.org.

Educational Impact: How Fathers Make a Difference in Schools

The presence and involvement of men and fathers are essential to the health of communities. You’ve often heard the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I agree and would add, “It takes the entire village, including its men.” When mature, responsible men and fathers actively engage in their children’s schools, they are safer and more orderly.  In today’s blog, we will provide some suggestions for how you can be part of serving your community and your child’s school.

Servant Leading in Your Child’s School

Positive male role models greatly benefit elementary and secondary school campuses.

When mature, responsible men and fathers are present, they demonstrate that education is important. Some students, unfortunately, live in homes where education is not emphasized. In other cases, some of their peers discourage academic excellence by making it seem uncool. For further insight into building strong fatherhood communities, read my blog post “Joining in Community to Strengthen Your Fathering.”

Three Benefits of Father Presence in Schools

1. Mentorship and Support:

  • Male Role Models: Volunteers can provide mentorship and guidance for students lacking positive male figures, especially relevant for boys facing societal pressures or navigating adolescence.
  • Academic Boost: Volunteers can offer one-on-one tutoring or assist with homework, addressing individual learning needs and potentially improving academic performance.
  • Social and Emotional Support: By building relationships with students, volunteers can provide emotional support and encouragement, helping them develop social skills, confidence, and resilience.

2. Enrichment and Engagement:

  • Diverse Skills and Expertise: Volunteers can bring their professional skills and hobbies to share with students, offering unique learning experiences and sparking new interests. This could range from coding workshops to woodworking projects, financial literacy lessons, or music production sessions.
  • Extracurricular Activities: Volunteers can coach sports teams, lead clubs, or assist with field trips, providing additional opportunities for students to explore their interests, develop skills, and build teamwork.
  • Career Mentorship and Guidance: Volunteers can share their career paths and offer real-world insights, helping students explore future options and make informed decisions about their education and future goals.

3. Community Building and Support:

  • Fatherhood Engagement: Male volunteers can encourage and facilitate fathers’ involvement in their children’s education, strengthening family connections and contributing to a more supportive school environment.
  • School Events and Initiatives: Volunteers can lend a helping hand with school events, fundraisers, or community service projects, fostering a sense of collaboration and contributing to the overall well-being of the school.
  • Positive Male Presence: Simply having more positive male figures present in the school can help break down stereotypes and create a more inclusive environment for all students.

Adult male volunteers also enhance the security of students by providing extra sets of eyes, and they reduce bullying.

Ways for Fathers to Get Involved in the Child’s School

Contact your child’s school administration or local community organizations for potential volunteer service opportunities. Some communities have organizations and programs that focus on male volunteerism in schools. One good example of an organization that provides fathers opportunities to become involved in their child’s school is an organization called “Watch DOGS.”

Watch DOGS is a national educational initiative in the United States that encourages fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and other male figures to volunteer at their child’s elementary school for at least one day a year. DOGS stands for “Dads of Great Students.” The program aims to provide positive male role models for students, enhance school security, and reduce bullying.

Watch DOGS History:

  • It was founded in 1998 in Arkansas by Jim Gillum, a retired law enforcement officer, after witnessing a lack of positive male role models in his grandson’s school.
  • Grew rapidly through word-of-mouth and media coverage, expanding to all 50 states.
  • Now serves over 50,000 schools and involves millions of volunteers nationwide.

Watch DOGS Program Structure:

  • Schools typically hold “Launch Events” or information sessions to introduce the program and recruit volunteers.
  • Fathers or other male figures sign up for a day to volunteer at their child’s school, participating in various activities like:
    • Assisting teachers in classrooms
    • Mentoring students individually or in small groups
    • Monitoring hallways and lunchrooms
    • Participating in special events or field trips
    • Sharing their careers and hobbies with students

Watch DOGS Benefits:

  • For Students:
    • Positive male role models and mentors
    • Improved academic performance and classroom behavior
    • Reduced bullying and an increased sense of security
    • Exposure to diverse viewpoints and career paths
  • For Schools:
    • Additional support for teachers and staff
    • Enhanced school safety and climate
    • Increased parental involvement and community engagement
  • For Volunteers:
    • Meaningful opportunity to contribute to their child’s education and the community
    • Connect with their child and other students
    • Gain new skills and experiences

Learn more at the Watch DOGS website: https://dadsofgreatstudents.com/parent-volunteers/

Additional Organizations and Programs Focused on Father Volunteerism in Schools

National Organizations:

Regional/Local Organizations:

  • Project READ: (Boston, MA) Volunteers read with elementary school students, specifically targeting boys with low reading scores.
  • Dads on Duty: (Chicago, IL) Male volunteers patrol school hallways and foster positive relationships with students.
  • Men of Valor: (Washington, DC) Mentorship program pairing retired black men with at-risk youth.
  • Man Up Texas: (Houston, TX) Initiative promoting positive male role models and fatherhood engagement.
  • Fatherhood Incorporated (Los Angeles, CA) Supports fathers through workshops, support groups, and community events.

Blessing Your Community

The fathers in your community can benefit greatly from your servant leadership. Consider organizing a weekly gathering of dads. Together, you can:

  • Get encouragement and support from other dads on the same journey.
  • Learn new tips and strategies for parenting, marriage, and relationships.
  • Have fun and build memories with your kids.
  • Make a difference in your family and community.
  • Discuss the content of these Fathering Strong blogs and other resources on the website.
  • Share your stories.

The Fathering Strong app lets you and your village dads connect virtually on mobile devices.   

For more ideas for hosting a local father’s group and/or helping set up a Fathering Strong Dad’s community, chat with me on the Fathering Strong app or email ewilliams@urbanight.org.   

Instruction from the Holy Scriptures

Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”

– Romans 15:1-2 The Message

Join Fathering Strong

Register, download the free Fathering Strong app, and turn on the notifications. Do it today and become a part of the Fathering Strong Community of Dads.

Your financial contributions allow us to serve fathers at no cost. Please consider donating. Fathering Strong is powered by Urban Light Ministries, Inc., a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 in Springfield, Ohio. Our mission is to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to the Heavenly Father.  Click here to donate. To learn more about Urban Light Ministries’ history, work, and mission, explore www.urbanlight.org.