Engaging fathers through appropriate programs, workshops and events helps builds deep connections between fathers and children and sets the stage for responsible father involvement, which is why the Petawawa Military Family Resource Centre (MFRC) hosts the Daddy and Me program.
“The Daddy and Me program was an excellent opportunity for me to connect with my two kids. Having been deployed on taskings and operations on a frequent basis, I felt that opportunities such as this allowed me to leverage my time with the kids. It also provided my wife with a chance to wind down. I think that’s important given that military spouses often take on much greater responsibilities in the household than average Canadian families so that we can do our job and our duty,” said Major Edward Jun, father and participant.
Once a month staff also host an evening Play ‘n’ Learn Drop-In for fathers, grandfathers and male caregivers.
“We offer a playroom, a well-equipped gym and a free supper so fathers and their children can spend quality time together. We also try to engage community partners like the Petawawa Garrison Military Museums, so that our programs move beyond the MFRC,” said Natasha Degready, integration & support programmer, The Family Centre, Petawawa PMFRC.
The Petawawa MFRC is part of Dad Central Renfew County (DCRC), a committee consisting of various community partners including Family and Children Services Renfrew County, Ontario Early Years, Phoenix Centre and the Renfrew County Health Unit.
Through this community relationship the MFRC launched, Super Dads-Super Kids, a Saturday parenting program for fathers in 2014. Created by Brian Russell of Dad Central Ontario, the program is interactive, activity-based and provides parenting tools designed to help fathers raise Super Kids.
“It’s a safe venue for dads to discuss parenting questions with other dads, eat a delicious breakfast, and spend quality time with their kids,” said Degready.
As a way to recognize and promote the importance of dads and male caregivers in the lives of children, on June 6 DCRC held its second annual Dad’s Day in the Park, a Saturday event for the entire family that included a BBQ, magic show, music, bouncy castle, balloons and face painting.
Facilitators strive to overcome unique barriers that might keep fathers from using the Petawawa MFRC through initiating positive action and constantly evaluating and redeveloping programming.
According to Degready barriers could include programs that run only during traditional operational hours, programs or facilities not designed for men. An example being, having no change tables in men’s washrooms. Even the perception that fathers are babysitting as opposed to parenting when they are with their children can be a barrier to fathers attending programming.
“An excellent after-work resource to help reconnect with my kids in a clean, safe, and fun environment. The administrators do a fantastic job of making the families aware of the events through the Petawawa MFRC app as well as reminder phone calls. Never a dull visit, my kids look forward to it every month,” said C. Johnson, father and program participant.
The Petawawa MFRC strives to promote the importance of fathers in lives of their children. Staff constantly have a high number of participants for programs and a growing number of fathers attending their daily Parent/ Child Drop-In program. To Degready these numbers indicate to them that programs are on track engaging and then strengthening fathers.