Skills for working with dads in the early years of parenting - part one

Episode 160 April 01, 2024 00:16:15
Skills for working with dads in the early years of parenting - part one
Emerging Minds Podcast
Skills for working with dads in the early years of parenting - part one

Apr 01 2024 | 00:16:15

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Show Notes

In this two-part series, Mark Hoppe and Roger Currie from Family Support Newcastle share their practice wisdom of working with dads in the early years of parenting.
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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: That's tuning into the needs of the partner at that time. Like having that be in the man's picture, being aware of where the baby's at and what a baby's needs might be and self care, trying to talk to the man about being actively engaged as a parent, even in those early stages. Like, where can you show up as a parent, but in what ways can you show up and be supportive in that role? So it's not just that sort of thing? Oh, well, it's a baby and that's mum's gig and I go to work or do whatever. I do know that there's an active parenting role, however, that might look. [00:00:35] Speaker B: Welcome to the Emerging Minds podcast. [00:00:40] Speaker C: Hi everyone, my name's Vicki Mansfield. Welcome to episode one of this two part emerging Minds podcast series about practice skills for working with dads. Recently, emerging Minds interviewed Roger Curry and Mark Hopie from family support Newcastle for the development of our practice strategies for formulation infant and toddler course. This course is all about ways to bring your professional expertise together with the family's know how to develop a shared understanding of the infant or toddler's experience. In part one of our conversation, Roger and Mark reflect on the importance of supporting dads in their transition to parenthood, how they work with dads to tune into infants and toddlers needs, and their practice experience of group work with dads, where they aim to model safety, support vulnerability and build social connections. Welcome, Roger and Mark. To start us off, Mark, can you tell us a little bit about your role? [00:01:40] Speaker A: The majority of my role is with separated dads. So, you know, working with dads that might be going through the separation process or maybe they're going through mediation or court process. And part of my role, I suppose, is to really keep the kids central to that. So often there's conflict in those situations. So it's really just trying to support the men in becoming, remaining focused on how that is for the kids and their role as a dad, rather than their role as a partner and the conflict between themselves and their ex partner. Often, you know, there's an emotional support component for the man. It might be really challenging. And of course, there's always a degree of looking for safety concerns for the men themselves and for the women and children in their lives. [00:02:24] Speaker C: And Roger, what about your role? [00:02:26] Speaker D: So I predominantly work with men, but I can work with the families. So around any issues with parenting, self care for the dad and case management, if there's any other issues that they might need help with, referring them on to other places, other support services if we're unable to do it. [00:02:44] Speaker E: So how is it that dads arrive to your service? [00:02:47] Speaker D: So they can get referred by all sorts of services, gps, other family workers, hospitals, schools. And of course they can self refer. Sometimes they've heard about us through the grapevine somewhere, so they'll call us or they'll turn up at the front door, even asking for support. [00:03:03] Speaker E: From your experience, when a practitioner's working with a new dad, what's important to be curious about or to explore with dads? [00:03:12] Speaker D: I guess just their expectations. I think when we are pregnant for the first time, we've got lots of hopes and dreams for our children or our child, whether we're aware of those or not. I also think working with mum, supporting her and what she needs, it's a huge transition when a baby comes along for everybody, even extended family, so it's just being aware of all the roles, expectations, what's going to be required, what's going to be needed and just how we're going to keep the baby safe and secure and support that baby's development, you know, not for just now, but, you know, on into the future. [00:03:44] Speaker E: And so it's building a new relationship for dads in lots of ways, isn't that so? [00:03:49] Speaker D: It's building the relationship with the child, but also renegotiating, I suppose you could say, the relationship between mum and dad, because things change and so it's, you know, how do we navigate that? So supporting dad around, being proactive in that process, rather than just standing back, finding ways that we can support and help and learn and get excited as well, from the dad's point of view, you know, what are you excited about. [00:04:12] Speaker A: Even just having that awareness that it is a big life change, I think that it can be very. It's a challenging period and I think we don't necessarily as a society, talk enough about that to be, oh, you've got a baby, that's wonderful. But actually it is a really challenging time. So just conveying that that's normal, that challenges will come up and that's normal. I guess it's tuning into the needs of the partner at that time, like having that be in the man's picture, being aware of where the baby's at and what a baby's needs might be and self care. And then I think also there's just all that classic sort of stuff of sleep, you know, sleep becomes an issue. Trying to talk to the man about being actively engaged as a parent, even in those early stages, like, where can you show up as a parent. But in what ways can you show up and be supportive in that role? So it's not just that sort of thing? Oh, well, it's a baby and that's mum's gig, and I go to work or do whatever I do, but know that there's an active parenting role, however that might look, everyone looks at it as a beautiful time, and it is, but it's also really challenging and there's big changes and so it's just making space for that and I guess normalizing that as well, because I think probably men. I mean, it's a generalization, but be perhaps less inclined to talk about those things or, you know, to think that, oh, I should have this all together already. [00:05:32] Speaker E: I'm wondering, you know, when you were working with dads in that early infancy and toddler stage, what might be important to be curious about? [00:05:43] Speaker D: I think it's. Yeah, there's things that need to be done during the day with. With the family. You know, we've got things that we need to get done, you know, whether it's going to school or getting other siblings out and about. But it's also trying to take a break and step back and say, you know, how was everybody travelling? How the children traveling and even allowing the children to run some of the stuff, like when they're playing, you know, dads, I think, can often get quite boisterous and you want to run the game or whatever, but sometimes it's just good to let the child take over, particularly with young children, ask questions about how do you do that, rather than just do it for them. So you just allow and just be mindful that the child is, even though they're little, they've got their own entity and their own experiences. They want to experience life and learn and grow, and it's much easier to do that when you've got somebody in your corner supporting you through that rather than telling you what to do all the time. I think an example that pops to mind is sometimes when our children present us with beautiful artworks and we're struggling to understand what the heck it is. And so you ask them, what is it? And I think they look at you like, can't you see it? It's a dog or it's a dragon or something or other. And I think in that sort of example there, it's more, you know, tell me about it, rather than what is it? Because, I mean, that can be very jarring for a child because they know what it is. So, you know, tell me about that. So allowing them to talk about what they've done. [00:06:58] Speaker E: There's some research now that talks about how important rough and tumble play can be. So, you know, you sort of can get a bit too boisterous and maybe take over, but, yeah. Is that an area that you've ever sort of had conversations with dads about, like that rough and tumble or kind of, you know, the wrestling, the risk taking play? [00:07:18] Speaker D: Yeah, I think, again, it's one of those areas where it's great for development, where, you know, dads can often want to win. You know, I think dads can be very competitive, but, you know, dad needs to learn, needs to model losing as well as winning. So allowing the children to win a few games or. And I also think that rough and tumble stuff is getting kids to understand their strength and controlling that strength, but just learning about what, you know, the developing body and how it's working stuff, and not only their muscles and their body, but also how their head's working. Sometimes it's emotional and big, strong emotions will pop up when you lose, and dad needs to support that rather than get angry with it. So there's a lot of developmental stuff that can go on with that play. It's really important stuff. [00:08:02] Speaker C: Mark, in your role working with dads after separation, what might conversations about how dads are important to their kids development look and sound like the only one. [00:08:13] Speaker A: That'S coming to mind is a situation where someone hadn't had connection with their child and they were reconnecting after a period of that child being removed. And it was a supervised visit, and it was really just about being aware of what that child's experience might have been, you know, what the child would be expecting or how they're going to be showing up and kind of tuning into and meeting the child where they're at. I think part of it always is around. You know, there's a listening in it, I guess. I mean, they're almost energetic listening, like a feeling into where the child's at and meeting them where they are rather than, you know, coming at it from where dad's at, if you know what I mean. I think it's possible sometimes to parent from that place where, and we're not aware of it, but it's about our needs. Here's this little person. It's like just being aware that to really stay in that parenting role and what's that child need and reading where they're at and responding and that safety is key. And particularly in the situation I was referring to, that that child may feel a bit unsafe and unfamiliar. So how do we create that sense of safety and familiarity? [00:09:21] Speaker E: So yeah, it sounds like you're helping them kind of think about what it's like to be in the kids shoes in some ways. [00:09:26] Speaker A: Yeah, I think that's a huge part of it throughout the whole process and really recognising that this little person has their own, you know, their own world and their own experience and their own interiority that they're not just an extension of us and an object in our awareness, but they've got their own experience and how can we tune into that might be and as you say, get into their shoes and respond to that? [00:09:53] Speaker C: Awesome, thank you. I know both of you also provide a few different types of groups for dad. What are some of the strengths of working in groups? [00:10:03] Speaker A: Yeah, I love working in groups with men. I think one of the strengths is the sort of the commonality that gets experienced that when you get a group of men together that there can be this sense of oh yeah, that's my. I have that experience too and I've had that and that the sense of sort of connection and yeah, commonality that comes with that that I think is really settling for men or settling for anybody. But I think the other thing is that I don't know that men get a lot of those opportunities, to be honest, in those ways. I think the group space also can create, if it's done well and there's safety, it can create opportunities for vulnerability which tend to work then because men can be at very different stages of that. But being in a group space where there might be one or two people starting to go there, it's an invitation and whether they take it up then or not, it starts to. Can start a ball rolling. So yeah, those are the things I really like about it and I think there's just great potential for sort of growth and transformation in that space because of those things. [00:11:12] Speaker E: So when you're starting out with a group, what kind of things are you keeping in mind or that help you kind of model again in a group? [00:11:22] Speaker A: You know, there's all the classic sort of standard group work things of agreements and you know, we do things like, okay, well let's, let's. What are your children's names? And we may, for example write them on a bit of paper that gets brought into the room so it becomes more our space, you know, and the group agreements are all about safety and respect and it's kind of modelling, I think that behaviour and for me what that's very much about is unconditional positive regard. And in the men's space, particularly if we're talking about, say, for example, if there's been domestic and family violence, there's always the conversation about collusion. And so if I'm talking about unconditional positive regard, it sort of automatically invites that conversation. My view of it is collusion is something that happens with a behaviour or a viewpoint. So, you know, you know how it is. It's always like this. And I can collude with that by going, yeah, I know what you mean, but unconditional positive regard for me isn't collusion. That's something that's offered to the person that really says regardless of the behavior and the viewpoint, you as a being are. Okay. So there's a subtle difference. I guess it's kind of going in with that view and I guess modeling that. And I think the other thing we try and do a little bit of as well is not come from that sort of expert position. Like if we're in a parenting group, well, I'm a parent and so we include ourselves in that. So when we do rounds around the group, we'll tend to be engaged in that as well and say, well, for me, a, B and c. And I think that sort of tends to flatten, do you know what I mean? Any sense of hierarchy or expertness, which I think contributes to that as well. [00:12:58] Speaker C: I also wonder, Roger, do you feel that group work builds up a sense of social support for men? [00:13:04] Speaker D: Yeah, some of our dads mentioned towards the end of the groups that, you know, they'd like to keep the, the connection with some of the other guys. A lot of them will say, what's next? Can we do another group? We also offer to the dads that come to the group, we might not have met them before that. We can offer one on one support. So a lot of them come in through that gateway. Would they be able to get more support with whatever they're going through dealing with dad? [00:13:27] Speaker E: And one of the groups, I think is called understanding dads. [00:13:32] Speaker D: It was one of the ones that me and Mark put together to sort of help dads understand themselves. I think if you can understand yourself and how you operate, how you function, what you have challenges with, what you enjoy, if you become more aware of that, then you're more able to, I guess, support yourself. A lot of us can spend our lives on automatic pilot. You get up, you go to work, you come home, you go to bed. It's all mundane. Whereas if we understand ourselves a lot better and how we operate and function. Hopefully we get a bit more enjoyment out of life. So we've structured that group to look at the brain and how we function as a being. We also look at patriarchy, look at men's issues and those sorts of things, and then look, how can we actually look after ourselves again? We can often get stress from parenting, from our relationships, from work, and we end up at the pub or those sorts of things to sort of watching the footy. Nothing wrong with that, but we can spend a lot of time doing that, whereas we sort of look at other ways of self care that hopefully support our system to be able to calm down. And when our systems calm, we can function a lot better. [00:14:42] Speaker E: And if I was a fly on the wall for a self care conversation in a group, what might it look like? [00:14:48] Speaker D: One of the things that we often talk about is access to nature. There's a lot of research coming out at the moment where that's really beneficial, but everybody's different. Some people want to go and spend time in the bush, other people prefer the ocean. So it's just, how do we create that for you as an individual and how do you access nature? [00:15:08] Speaker E: So it's that linking kind of, you know, you said getting to know yourself and understand how you sort of what kind of helps make you tick, but also thinking about what new opportunities or ways of interacting and being. [00:15:21] Speaker C: Thank you so much, Roger and Mark, for sharing with us some really important considerations about how to keep infants and toddlers in mind when supporting dads in their parenting role. And thank you for sharing your practice wisdom about group work with dads. I look forward to delving into more practice skills with you both. In part two, visit our website at. [00:15:44] Speaker B: Www.Emergingminds.Com dot au to access a range of resources to assist your practice brought to you by the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health led by Emerging Minds, the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health under the National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health Program.

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