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

Episode 162 April 29, 2024 00:17:38
Skills for working with dads in the early years of parenting - part two
Emerging Minds Podcast
Skills for working with dads in the early years of parenting - part two

Apr 29 2024 | 00:17:38

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Show Notes

In the second episode of this two-part series, Mark Hoppe and Roger Currie from Family Support Newcastle continue to 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: We've tended to rely on mums and women to do that nurturing role, particularly in the domestic family violence space. Women have been supporting this area for too long and it's nice to have men sort of starting to come in and go, okay, this is our problem. We need to fix it. We need to support men. Have to support men to fix this issue. Patriarchy, I think, tells us to disconnect from everything, particularly ourselves. [00:00:27] Speaker B: Welcome to the Emerging Minds podcast. [00:00:32] Speaker C: Hi everyone, my name's Vicki Mansfield. Welcome to the second episode of the two part emerging Minds podcast series on practice skills for working with dads in the early years of parenting. In this podcast, we continue our conversation with Roger Curry and Mark Hopie from family support Newcastle. In part one, Roger and Mark spoke about supporting dads in their transition to parenthood, how they work with dads to tune in to childrens needs, and the group work skills that theyve developed in their group work practice with dads. In this episode, Mark and Roger will explore the importance of practitioners being curious about dads role in the childs life and in the family system, even when they are not presenting as the primary client. How collaboration within the village around the child promotes child wellbeing and share their practice wisdom about the relational skills of holding a therapeutic alliance with dad and being an advocate for infant and toddlers mental health needs. So Roger and Mark, when you're working with families in general, why it might be important to make dads visible in our assessment conversation when mother and child are maybe the presenting clients, or if there's been family domestic violence, what comes. [00:01:53] Speaker D: To mind there is around David Mendel's work and the safe and together model where, you know, it's very much about making men visible and that perhaps historically, in cases of domestic and family violence, there has been a lot of emphasis on the mother. And, you know, why hasn't the mother done a, b, and c? And dad remains kind of led off the hook and invisible. So it's really looking at that accountability and responsibility in that sense as a partner and as a parent. And the dad has a really active role there and choices to make and ways to show up in that role. So I guess that's one thing there that's really important, that they're visible and also just, I think from, I know there's in other situations, there's dads that I work with where they'd like to be more visible and they don't feel visible enough, say for example, with the school or whatever, in cases of separation. So making dad visible is really important. [00:02:49] Speaker E: And so in that I hear, Mark, that in some ways, there's also some responsibility for us as practitioners to be asking and being curious about dads. [00:03:01] Speaker A: Absolutely, yeah. I think it's very important whether we're all living under the same roof. We're still a family, mum, dad, children, and again, extended family. And I think that's a system and we need everybody's input from the system. I use this analogy with dads a lot with cows. You know, you've got the system that runs the vehicle. If anything doesn't work or you don't know how it works, then the system doesn't work. And I think that's the same with dads. Dads are part of the system, they have an impact on the system, whether it's a positive, one negative, one healthy, one unhealthy, and they need to be considered and supported as a part of that system. You know, if we're just dealing with one part of the system, then we're not benefiting the whole system. I think if we're trying to keep children safe, then everybody that is a part of that system and part of that child's life needs to be supported to support the child. [00:03:45] Speaker E: So how does collaboration with other professionals or services help keep the safety and needs of the child in mind? [00:03:54] Speaker D: I think it's really important, and I suppose the main thing there is having other voices. So if I'm working with dad, I'm only getting dad's perspective. And so it's really useful for me to hear the other perspective, to hear perspectives that have come from mum, to hear what's happening for the child, just to build a fuller picture, basically, of what's really happening here. [00:04:15] Speaker C: And from your experience, Roger? [00:04:17] Speaker A: Yeah. Sometimes the children might be acting differently at home as compared with what they might be acting at school. So sometimes investigating that discrepancy, what's going on, what's happening in the children's lives where they act differently in different places. If we're talking to health professionals, just trying to find out whether there's some sort of diagnosis that might be missed or something physically that's impacting the child. [00:04:37] Speaker E: Yeah. [00:04:37] Speaker A: So it's just adding to the story and finding out what's happening for all of the family. Sometimes, even with dad, talking to other people around in his life can sort of add to the story and it's generally just to get more information so we know how we need to work with dad, what's going to support him the best. [00:04:53] Speaker E: So in his work with men, Alan Jenkins talks about being accountable to women and children, but also maintaining empathy and curiosity, which I think, you know, is something you've mentioned in terms of unconditional positive regard as well. And when we spoke previously, you've mentioned the swimming between the flags approach when working with fathers. Can you explain to me what that means? [00:05:16] Speaker D: Yeah, so they're swimming between the flags. They talk about swimming between the flags and the two flags, one being empathy and the other being essentially challenging, I suppose. Challenging questions. So this side is around accountability and responsibility, and this side is empathy. And it's just feeling into where one should be between those flags at a given time. And I guess staying between them and not swimming too close to one, you're gonna lose the man and not staying way over there so that there's no challenging. So for me, what feels really important in that work is forming rapport, and that that man gets a sense of trust and safety, and that they feel seen and heard and met. And that, for me, lays the foundation that it's safe enough then for, if I'm gonna say something challenging, we have enough of a relationship there that it can hold that simply because if I do that, without that, I'm going to lose the man. And then we've gotten nowhere. [00:06:13] Speaker E: If we run with the metaphor, sounds like the foundation is you need some solid sand that you can go in the rip of kind of one way or the other, but you need that relational, solid foundation. [00:06:25] Speaker D: Yeah, I think it's really important, and I think it's amazing from that position how challenging you can be because that groundwork's there. But I think if we jump in quite too close to the challenging end too quickly, or if a man's feeling that there is a judgment in there, whether it's articulated or not, it might just be in there, then I think that muddies that water a little bit and makes the work difficult. [00:06:52] Speaker C: Yeah. [00:06:53] Speaker E: And how is it being conscious and being in the flags? What helps, you know, whether you're kind of maintaining that foundation and. Yeah, how does a practitioner attune to that? [00:07:06] Speaker D: Yeah, what a great question. I think that's just a felt sense thing as well. You know, you're present in the situation and you're feeling where the man's at and you can feel if you're losing them or obviously there can be really obvious signs where they jack up. So I think that that's just a feeling into are you pushing too hard or did that land or did it not land? And there may need to be some backpedaling or an adjustment if you feel like you've pushed too hard. [00:07:32] Speaker E: Yeah. So in lots of ways, what you're describing is that being sort of attuned to the nonverbals and repairing if it's not landed correctly and kind of being immediate about it. So it is a felt sense. [00:07:46] Speaker C: How do you hold that tension, Roger? [00:07:49] Speaker A: Yeah, I guess I'm constantly sort of thinking about who do I speak? Do I speak for the child here? Do I listen to dad here? What else is going to happen here? Bit of a guessing game. Am I going at the right pace? Are the questions appropriate? Are the comments appropriate? Where is dad? Sometimes he might amp up. He gets a bit confronted with either something he's thought about or something I've said, and he sits up and now that's not fair. Okay, so then we need to bring it back, go back to the empathy side. So, yeah, there's a lot going on. [00:08:18] Speaker E: Yeah. [00:08:18] Speaker A: Sometimes it's your dad takes off with a story or something that's happening in the moment, and it's sort of like maybe it's useful to unpack where that might have come from, help them understand why they're behaving like this now. Sometimes it was a protective response back in their past and they're still in that protective response now. So it's joining those two up. So what I mean by that is dad as a child might have had a traumatic childhood, so very angry and confronting, but that's what they're doing now because they're protecting themselves from what might be coming at them. So it's helping them understand that that's a protective response. And I think that's really useful sometimes, is that it's a protective response, not a bad behavior. I mean, bad behavior can come from it, but initially it's a protective response. I don't like being confronted with whatever's coming at me. And so helping them understand that it's a protective response, but we can behave differently. And again, sometimes our children can confront us and amp us up and we do that protective response and we growl at the children. Okay, well, there's a better way of doing that. [00:09:16] Speaker D: Yeah. [00:09:16] Speaker A: You're confronted by the child's response. We don't have to get angry or get confronted. We can calm that down and then hopefully respond more appropriately with our child. [00:09:26] Speaker C: Can you tell me more about how you unpack or explore the confronted or protective responses? [00:09:32] Speaker A: I find the whiteboard very useful in drawing a picture, but I like to jump up on the whiteboard and draw stuff. And I think dads get a picture then of what's going on. And I use that neuro sequential model of Bruce Perry that the brain processes and develops from, you know, from the base of the brain up to the top of the brain. And I find that useful in explaining to dads that, you know, yeah, we've got to feel safe initially and our children have to be safe. You know, if our base of our brain is at face isn't safe, then we get into that firefly freeze behavior. [00:10:01] Speaker D: Yeah. [00:10:01] Speaker A: And then the next part is our, you know, our connection part of the brain where we need to connect with people. Relationship is really, really important. And then, you know, and then we can start problem solving. And often, you know, we all do it. We problem solve first without calming the brain down or calming the lower part of the brain. [00:10:18] Speaker E: Yeah. [00:10:18] Speaker A: So it's trying to flip that thinking. We need to regulate ourselves, regulate our children, calm our nervous system. Calm our children's nervous system. We need to connect with one another, love one another, attach with one another, and then we can problem solve. But yeah, we always go to problem solve. We always want to solve the problems, get this done and dusted, and then we can get on with our life. It's not that simple. [00:10:42] Speaker E: And how did dads respond to that sort of discussion and the visual sort of representation of it? [00:10:48] Speaker A: They seem to really enjoy it. I still find them coming a couple of, several sessions later, still problem solving, and I say, no, no, we've got to turn it around and they get it. But, you know, it's just what we do. But I do find they find it very useful. [00:10:59] Speaker E: Yeah. [00:11:00] Speaker A: And I think they also find it useful that this is how we all function. So again, it's normalising it. It's not just me. I've got a problem as a dad, I'm a bad dad. No, no, we all act like this. Everybody that's got a brain, we've all got a brain, we all act this way. So I think that's useful for them as well. And it also helps them, I believe helps them connect with their children. So when they're flipping their lid and dad's flipping his lid, okay, this is both of us flipping our lid. We're both doing that. Normal responses, that might not be appropriate because we're yelling and screaming stuff, but at least we can sort of feel like we're both in the same boat. Okay, what do we need to do? We need to regulate, calm down and that sort of stuff. [00:11:39] Speaker E: It sounds like it's a great way of giving a language and an understanding to it. [00:11:44] Speaker A: And I also think it helps them connect with their past, particularly in the traumatized situations where they've had trauma in their lives. Yeah. Your base of your brain is not safe. You didn't connect with yourself or with your parents, because the next part up of the brain. So I think, again, it draws that picture. That's useful for now, the past, what's happening between our children. I find it useful to explain a number of things. [00:12:09] Speaker E: So it helps them make meaning. Do you think, you know, you mentioned before about knowing themselves. Do you think that making meaning is an important part of kind of the work that you do? [00:12:19] Speaker A: So I think sometimes part of that process of healing is actually understanding what happened, what happened to me. Why doesn't this make sense to me? Or didn't it make sense? So trying to make sense now, it's sort of like, oh, okay, that makes sense. So I think that's really useful. And again, connecting to their kids. When I often ask parents, particularly in parenting programs, how often do you ask your children, what were you thinking, say to their kids aren't thinking. They're stuck in their survival brain. When they're in the fight, flight, freeze. They're not thinking. So stop expecting our kids to think. Cause we're often not thinking as parents if we've lost it as well. [00:12:54] Speaker E: And what you're describing is the making meaning of it in a top brain, thinking brain kind of sense of it, but also in a physiological, physical way and having a physical way into it. Sounds like that. A good concrete way of accessing. [00:13:09] Speaker A: Yeah. So how do you feel, you know, often in your body, you know, that tensing up and the grinding of your teeth or the sweating or the, you know, whatever those are responses to you not feeling safe. So I think, again, that gives a sense of, okay, that makes sense. Just helping dads understand what they're experiencing in the moment. And sometimes that'll happen in the room. Dads will get upset and they'll say, do you see what's happening? And they go, know what? They'll say, you sat up? And they go, oh, yeah, did too. And so I'm able to what happened? And then they can connect all that. That's what's going on. So it's useful. [00:13:41] Speaker C: What do you like best about working with dads? [00:13:44] Speaker D: I think there's a real gift in that, in meeting somebody and having. Meeting them with unconditional positive regard and without judgment and just making space to see them and hear them and meet them where they are. I think there's something really powerful in that when we're talking about, say, domestic and family violence, and from a gendered perspective and a patriarchal perspective, we talk a lot about accountability and responsibility, and we talk a lot about power and control for men. But I also think that the experience of patriarchy for men is very disconnecting. So men are trained into be strong, disconnect, don't feel, don't be gentle. So I think being able to provide some kind of gentle invitation to that for men, for me, feels really rewarding. [00:14:36] Speaker C: And, Roger, would you like to add anything further about your favourite things about working with dads? [00:14:42] Speaker A: I think being a dad and a male supporting dads and males, I just find that good and useful. I think we've tended to rely on mums and women to do that nurturing role, that particularly in the domestic family violence space. Women have been supporting this area for too long, and it's nice to have men sort of starting to come in and go, okay, this is our problem. We need to fix it. We need to support men. Have to support men to fix this issue. Patriarchy, I think, tells us to disconnect from everything, particularly ourselves, which is really traumatising in itself. So I think being part of that process of being able to connect men back with themselves, with their partners, with their kids, with their family, it's a long road. Sometimes it's a hard road, but I think being able to be part of that is a special. I suppose you could say it's an honoured place to be. [00:15:33] Speaker E: What are the three take home messages you'd like our audience to walk away with today? [00:15:39] Speaker D: I mean, I think that lots of the dads we see have had a lot of trauma in their lives. And so the nature of and the quality of the connection they've received hasn't been great. And I think sometimes we expect people to show up in ways as a parent that's actually completely foreign and unfamiliar to them. And so, like, we were speaking about starting to give them a sense of being met and heard and seen and not judged. And I think it's amazing how that can lay the platform for transformation. [00:16:12] Speaker A: Bring dads in. If you're working with Mum, Mum and the children, what is dad doing? Where is dad? What's he. And even if he's not with the family separator, he's got another family or whatever, what's he doing? How is he interacting with the children? Bring them in, talk to them. Even if it's just a phone call, they don't have to specifically come into the organization or into the building but find out about them. I think the other one is too. Is. Don't be put off by the gruff. I think sometimes we can be worried about the gruff. It's just a protective strategy. Now, listen, how can I help? Be curious. Yeah, often we're not curious. We've got an idea in our heads that we know how it is, so be curious. [00:16:48] Speaker C: What fantastic parting messages. Thank you, Roger and Mark, for being so generous and sharing with us your practice skills for working with dads. There are many important points for reflection and examples of practice skills that our audience can consider in their roles. [00:17:06] Speaker B: Visit our website at 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 program.

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