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For parents, the number one responsibility is always the health and happiness of the kids. Many single parents, however, struggle to find time to focus on their own personal well being, and this can lead to some bad habits. While it may seem like a strange idea at first, taking a solo vacation is one of the best ways for single parents to recharge their batteries and gain some perspective. Here are some tips for first-timers on making the most of their solo vacation.
Choose your destination based on your personality and desires
It’s hard to recommend specific destinations for solo travel because everyone is different (but here are some). What one person loves may bore another. Some people love adventure (and even a little bit of danger) while others’ idea of a great vacation is calm and security. The best thing you can do is think about the top three things you want out of a vacation and research your options with those in mind.
If you don’t want to spend too much time having to interact with others, destinations with highly friendly/aggressive people may not be your cup of tea. If you don’t want to do too much in-trip traveling, a city destination dependent on public transport my not be a great idea. If you want to immerse yourself and purposefully give yourself some culture shock, try something that is vastly different from what you know – a trip to Southeast Asia or Japan, for example.
Don’t think about your kids
This may sound harsh, but you’re going on a solo adventure for a reason. Make preparations for your kids to receive the best care possible while you’re gone and then stop thinking about them. They will be fine. Some ways you can make sure of this, however, include: planning fun things for them to do while you’re away, talking with them about what you will do together when you return, and being completely open and honest about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
If you do want to periodically check in with your little ones while you’re away, it’s important you know how to do that. Depending on your destination, you may or may not have cell service. If service will be spotty, wi-fi-capable apps, such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, are an excellent way to keep in touch.
Remember why you’re traveling
Speaking of talking to your kids about why you’re doing this, why are you doing this? The more you know your own desires and motivations, the more of a mental boost your trip will provide you. One big reason people take solo trips is that they’re dealing with major life stress at home, like beginning the long path to healing and self-discovery during recovery from addiction, for instance. A solo vacation not only gives you time away from whatever is triggering you at home, it also provides one of the best backdrops for self-reflection that you can give yourself.
Many who travel solo discover an independence and self-sufficiency that they may not have known they had, and this boost carries over to their regular life when they get home and get back to reality.
There’s nothing inherently better about solo travel as opposed to travel with family, but for some it can provide a chance for rejuvenation. For single parents, it’s often hard to get over the feeling that doing something just for your is selfish, but it’s not. Giving yourself a break, even if just for a day or two, will help you put things in perspective and, much like stepping away from a difficult problem at work, allows you to refocus on your attention on the little things that make a big difference. Pulling away from the humdrum of everyday responsibilities will bring balance to your life and, in the end, help you refine your parenting abilities for the better.
Remember, we all need a break now and then. The fact that you have children doesn’t change that you are human, with needs, wants, and desires. In order to be the most effective parent and caregiver possible, you must also be the best version of you, and that starts with taking the time to remember who you are.
Every once in awhile I see something on Twitter that is actually interesting. The other week it was a Tweet crowing about how Finland is the “only country where fathers spend more time with kids than mothers.” The implication was that Finland was some kind of haven of gender equity in parenting.
I’ve been writing about how fathers and mothers share parenting work for a long time. I’d never seen a stat that showed dads spending more time with kids than moms. “OK. I’ll bite,” I thought. The tweet’s link was to this story in The Guardian, from last December. According to data published in an OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) report, Finn dads spend eight minutes more per day with their kids than Finnish moms.
Now, I always like to go straight to original source of data that gets reported by news media. You’d be amazed at the key information that is often missing from news stories of this nature. The classic example was an article I once read about a study that showed that being a stay-home dad was risky for men’s health. I traced that finding back to its research roots. And I discovered that, while the study did track men’s employment status and health, they collected no data whatsoever about whether or not the guys had kids. In other words the study was about unemployed men, not stay-home fathers. In all likelihood a lot of them were out of the workforce due to health problems. So the health problem was keeping them at home, not the other way round.
Back to our highly involved Finnish dads. Once again, a key fact was ignored. It turns out that, while Finnish dads do spend slightly more time with their kids than moms, they actually spend less time with their kids than dads in other countries.
The graphic actually shows two tables. Time spent with preschoolers is on the left and time spent with school-agers in on the right. Fathers are the squares and moms are the circles. As you can see on the right, Finland (FIN in the table) is the only country where the square is on top of the circle. But, check it out. Finnish fathers spend less time with their kids than fathers in seven of the other countries, including Canada. Finnish moms spend quite a bit less time with their (school-aged) kids than moms in any of the other nine countries included in this comparison.
And, ahem, when you look at the preschool side, Canadian dads are top of the table in terms of time spent with kids. On the school-aged side, Canadian fathers are still near the top. However, Canadian parents also have the biggest gaps between mom and dad time with school-aged kids and one of the bigger ones between mom and dad time with preschool kids. So there are a number of ways you could slice and dice what this all might mean.
Actually, I’m not entirely sure what it adds up to, apart from the fact that I get to chortle at yet another example of poor reporting of parenting statistics by the news media. As for which country has the closest thing to gender equity in parenting, I’m not sure. The fact that Finn parents spend less time with school-aged kids than Canadian parents might simply be a sign that good after-school childcare is more readily available in Finland. I know for a fact that the childcare picture is definitely better for parents in Scandinavian countries than it is here. So some of that extra time Canuck dads spend with kids might simply indicate the kind of juggling Canadian parents have to do because of fewer after-school child care options.
But in the end I’m glad that the news media keep writing about gender equity in parenting (and in general). Because it’s important. Mind you, at times it seems like gender equity is a bit like world peace: worth working towards, but hard to achieve. I have seen some progress in my time as a father, but things are moving slowly. Old patterns take a long time to change.
Still, trying to change those patterns of gender roles and behaviour—including patterns in some mens’ sexual power plays over women—is an important and worthy struggle. Societies are clearly better off—both men and women—when there is greater gender equity. If, along the way towards that goal, we see the odd misleading stat about gender equity in parenting, I can live with it. As long as we keep talking about it and working to bring about change.
I am not a smartphone addict myself. But I really don’t want to join the chorus of people proclaiming their dire dangers for kids. For one thing, I can’t stand it when older people wag their fingers and declare that the younger generation should be able to do without things that hadn’t yet been invented when they (the finger wagers) were young. That stuff always rings hollow with me. It’s like, “Things were perfect when I was a kid. Let’s go back to the way things were before.”
Well, number one, things were never perfect before. And number two, we never go back to the way things used to be. So the smartphone “genie”, not to mention a number of other previous genies, is out of the bottle and they are not going back in.
I’ve actually written about cellphones before. But I’m reluctantly wading in again because of the recent onslaught of media articles about how bad smartphones are. You may have read the Time Magazine article “ We Need to Talk About Kids and Cellphones,” that came out in October, or Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?, which came out in The Atlantic a month earlier. The Atlantic article was written by Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, and the Time article quotes her heavily. Go read the articles if you want, but basically they link a recent rise in young people’s mental health problems to the invention of the smartphone ten years ago. More recently, I’ve been reading news stories about tech company CEO’s who don’t allow their children to have smartphones because of their dangers.
I can’t, and I won’t, try to tell you how to handle smartphones with your kids. And I’m not in a position to say that the experts are wrong about their affect on children’s mental health, although I’m more optimistic about humanity’s ability to adapt to new fangled inventions.
But I do have a few thoughts that I hope might add a dose of calm to the discussion. I’ll start with a few things that I’m pretty sure are true.
Banning smartphones is not a realistic solution for most families. Years ago I would regularly see article with titles like, “How we lived without TV for a whole year.” Or “We threw away our computers and it’s just great!” However, the mass blow-up your TV or computer revolution never caught on and neither will the smartphone-free teen movement.
Experts and the media love to imply the world is ending because of a new trend; and it’s never true—at least not yet.
For all their potential drawbacks (which I don’t deny), smartphones have their positive side, as I’m sure you well know. Even though I believe strongly in the importance of face-to-face interaction (as opposed to electronic interaction) for kids and families, I have seen many instances of nice connection that happens electronically. In fact, kids I know these days are way more in touch (often electronically) with their parents than I was when I was a kid.
The downsides of smartphones most likely affect some vulnerable kids a lot more than others.
New technologies will keep coming at us. And the ones that catch on will become part of life. So we have to learn how live to with them, except for the small minority of people who choose to live without this or that new tech device.
I don’t have a blueprint for determining if your child spends too much time on devices, nor if it’s a problem. But if you’re concerned about this issue I do have a couple of suggestions for how to think about it:
Rather than start from the idea that smartphones are the problem, start by thinking about your kid. How things are going? Does she have friends? Is he getting enough sleep and exercise? How is school going? Does he have serious behaviour problems? Does she seem stressed a lot of the time? Do you and your kid talk and do things together on a reasonably regular basis?
If answers to those questions suggest there may be a problem, then you can start to think about what role smartphones may or may not be playing. And, yeah, maybe reducing your child’s smartphone time might be something to consider. But, the point is, look at your child first, as opposed to seeing the devil in the kid’s smartphone.
And, at risk of stating the obvious, if you want your kid to cut down on smartphone use, you need to do it too. It’s clear to me (oops, here I go being that all-knowing older person) that many, many people, including some of my generation, are glued to their smartphones way, way more than they need to be.
But smartphones are here to stay—well, at least until they get replaced by the next big tech innovation that experts will surely line up to condemn. In the meantime, just try to be “smart,” but not alarmist about smartphones.
Fatherhood Matters is what Dad Central uses to stay in touch with you. This is where we post interesting news, ideas, resources, and some fun stuff about fatherhood. It is a mix of info for dads and info for those working to support fatherhood. Enjoy!
How are we doing with fatherhood as a society?This article challenges some of the perceptions of father absence, asks what we mean be the term, and reminds us of the good things that are occurring by and for fathers. Though it is US in it’s examples, we know of great Canadian fatherhood programs like Dads Matter in Windsor, ON, Dads Club London (Ontario), and a multitude of indigenous across the country (just to name a few), not to mention the dad bloggers, Facebook pages, and other things. More can be found on our directory.
Dads have a great influence on their daughters. Not every girl will grow up to be on the Top 40 Under 40 list, but there is some encouragement for dads here as these women reflect on the role their fathers had on them.
And . . .
Dads can put greater expectations on their sons. It is reported that fathers typically use “analytical language” when interacting with their toddler-aged daughters, utilizing achievement words. In contrast, fathers tend to use a much more competitive word choice with their toddler-aged sons such as “win” and “top.
Teen social anxiety. There is an increase in mental health struggles, especially within adolescence. This study reflects on how fathers’ acceptance/rejection of their child affects anxiety, social relationships, and loneliness.
Resource: 24 Hr Cribside Assistance for New Dads. Check out the iBooks version of the manual for new dads. The pdf is also available here.
Where Dad Central will be:
Nobody’s Perfect Facilitators Training in Super Dads Super Kids (Winnipeg, MB) – Jan 31, 2018 – Sold out!
Do you know of a conference or community gathering that Dad Central could be a part of? Contact us to let us know.
Dad Central Ontario exists to support the invaluable role of fatherhood in the healthy development of children. If you want more info about who we are and what we do, contact us at email@example.com or visit our website – dadcentral.ca.
Trevor* vividly recalls one of the first signs that the stomach pains he’d been experiencing were more serious than he first thought.
“One day I was changing Skyler. He was in a bit of an uncooperative mood—rolling around and trying to get away. At one point he kicked out his foot and caught me in the stomach.” It wasn’t a really heavy kick. Skyler was only two at the time. But the pain was so sharp that Trevor was incapacitated. “I dropped to the floor like a sack of potatoes.”
Not long afterward, Trevor was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an affliction suffered by an estimated 129,000 Canadians. He also has an undiagnosed pain disorder. He takes painkillers that help some of the time. But his condition is often disabling. “On really bad days I can only get up off the couch for an hour or two in total,” Trevor says.
Needless to say, Crohn’s has had a profound impact, not just on Trevor, but also on his whole family. The diagnosis came just before the birth of twin boys. Trevor did his best to be hands-on with the babies (and three-year-old Skyler) during this ultra busy time. But some days he just wasn’t up to it.
Luckily for the family, Trevor’s wife Sarah has been able to shoulder the extra work she has had to take on, including being the family’s breadwinner. Sarah makes a good living as a financial controller, which has allowed Trevor to take on the role of at-home parent. But due to the up and down nature of his illness, some days are a lot harder than others.
For example, one day Trevor and the three-year-old twins were almost home from walking Skyler to school when he was suddenly stricken with severe cramps. “I had to get to the bathroom fast,” But cramps were so bad Trevor could hardly walk. He couldn’t even hold the hands of his three- year-olds. “Daddy’s belly is really, really sore,” he gasped. “Hold onto my belt.” For most of the 10 minutes it took to stagger the final hundred yards home, Trevor was so incapacitated by pain that he was more or less depending on the twins for his sense of direction. Luckily Sarah was home that day and was able to take over once they’d reached the house.
Trevor has more stories he could tell you. Planned family outings that had to be cancelled at the last minute because of sudden attacks. Christmas days spent mostly in bed. The times Sarah, has had to leave work to deal with something when Trevor was really ill. “Luckily, she has a really understanding and flexible employer who considers her indispensible. He’s willing to give her unplanned time off when she needs it because he knows she’ll get her work done at night or on the weekend,” Trevor explains.
Another issue the Trevor had to navigate was how to explain Daddy’s illness to the children in a kid-friendly way that didn’t scare them. ‘We’ve tried to be very open,” he says. “We say things like, ‘Daddy has a sickness, so he has a sore tummy a lot of the time.’ Sometimes when kids are coming over to give me an enthusiastic hug, I have to remind them ‘Be careful of Daddy’s belly.’” But he doesn’t really like his condition to be a daily topic of conversation.
I sure wish I had some hopeful, encouraging words to close with, but sometimes life, and fathering, are tough.
Mostly I just wanted to honour the experience of fathers living with chronic illness by sharing story (and a big thank you to Trevor!). At least it acknowledges a parenting reality that we don’t talk about very often.
Sometimes parenting turns out to be a difficult journey—not the one you imagined. And often there’s not much people can do but just be as strong and dogged as they can to get through the tough days and then be ready to grab and enjoy the good moments and days as they come along. That applies to any father, but it’s even more important when you are parenting through unusual difficulties.
I hope Trevor and the many other dads and moms out there with chronic illnesses or unexpected parenting challenges are getting the support they need from friends and family. If you know someone in a situation like this, offer your support, and, perhaps even more important, friendship. Parents living with chronic illnesses need all the support and friends they can get.
Are you less affectionate with your kids than your partner is with them? If so, do you ever wonder what that means? Or do you worry that people might think you don’t love your kid that much (or that your kids might even think that)?
It’s no secret that, in general, women are more touchy-feely than men, especially with kids. When you were a kid, weren’t women (and not just your mother) more likely to touch and hug you than men? It’s also true that a lot of people’s ideas about what good “responsive” parenting means is based on mothering. (That’s likely because women were the main caregivers to kids for a long time.)
Anyway, the point is that a father who is not all that affectionate may appear to some people to be a little distant, or cold—maybe even less loving, some might think. I don’t think that’s fair because, as many fatherhood pundits will tell you, fathers tend to parent differently than moms.
I remember a conversation I had 10 or so years ago with some female researchers who had developed these research scales for measuring sensitive responsive parenting. They were very concerned because when they started including fathers in their research, many dads’ behaviour didn’t even register on low end their scales. They took that to mean that many fathers weren’t sensitive enough, so people like me needed to teach dads to be more sensitive.
I was almost positive that their scales were based on observations of mothers. So they were thinking that dads had to interact with kids the way moms did. I didn’t agree.
And neither does Kory Floyd, a professor of communication at the University of Arizona. He’s done a lot of research on how affection is communicated in close relationships. His observation is that men do it differently from women, particularly with their sons. “Dads who shower their daughters with affection may go years without telling their sons they love them,” he says. “Men are often chided by their wives or mothers for not being willing to show more affection to their dads or their sons.”
But just because fathers don’t express themselves the way mothers do, it doesn’t necessarily mean they love their kids any less. Men’s ways of communicating love are often more subtle, he says. “Showing affection is more about what they do than what they say.”
That totally resonates with my own experience and observations. Now I think I’ve been a relative affectionate dad – physically. I loved physical contact with my kids and I have always been telling other fathers that physical contact helps build relationships and that kids (and dads) need it. (I said that right here last month.). But still, I never did show affection quite the way my wife did. And I’ve watched lots of fathers who were not that affectionate physically, or not very apt to say “I love you” (in public anyway), show their love through what they did. Sometimes it was things like building a backyard play structure for their kids, or spending hours playing catch, or pitching a ball to a kid who wanted to learn baseball.
I remember this guy I watched at a father-son dinner a number of years ago. His seven-year-old was out of sorts, upset about something or other. Some fathers might have disciplined the boy or hissed at him to smarten up. Some mothers might have tried to calm the child with hugs and soothing words. This guy did neither. He wasn’t outwardly affectionate. He leaned in toward the boy, talked to him quietly for a minute. Then he told the boy he needed some help with something and they went off for a couple of minutes. When they came back the kid was calm and ready to enjoy the dinner. I don’t know what happened in that time away from the table. But what this dad did not do was make the boy feel worse. He didn’t give the kid a hard time for feeling bad. He didn’t embarrass him or try to get “tough.” He kept his voice low, treated the boy with dignity, and helped him feel better. He did it gently, but in a way that was not outwardly affectionate or tender. But it was very effective. And very loving. And, I would say, fairly male.
So, if you ever get the feeling that you aren’t affectionate enough, or expressive enough, try to remember that there are lots of different ways dads can show their love. When it comes to loving kids, showing is more important than telling, in my opinion. And dads often show differently from moms. And that’s OK.
The quote from Kory Floyd were taken from his article The Understated Affection of Fathers on theconversation.com.
Fatherhood Matters is what Dad Central uses to stay in touch with you. This is where we post interesting news, ideas, resources, and some fun stuff about fatherhood. It is a mix of info for dads and info for those working to support fatherhood. This time we take some time to focus on some unique situations of fatherhood with an international flair. Enjoy!
The Father Factor – what social science research says about supporting fatherhood – (Canada)
The Dad Directory is filling up, but there is always room for more. Do you have a program or service you would like to add to the directory? You can check it out here.
Dad Central Ontario exists to support the invaluable role of fatherhood in the healthy development of children. If you want more info about who we are and what we do, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website – dadcentral.ca.
Earlier this year Dad Central held an online survey to find out from men how they fulfill their role as fathers and what they think about how fatherhood is perceived across Canada. Here are the Fatherhood Survey Highlights.
What Men Say:
when it comes to parenting, most men just try their best and hope it works
out of the men surveyed, most are asking for more time and opportunity to spend with their children
men are passionate about their role and how it is perceived.
men are very diverse and creative in the ways they interact with and show love to their children.
when it comes to supporting the fatherhood role, Canada is doing OK, but there is room for improvement.
Sure, graphing math facts may not be as fun as karaoke or skating. But, as homework goes, it’s a whole lot more interesting than organizing facts in a chart or numbers on a list. Even though “plotting,” or marking a data point on the x-axis and y-axis of a graph can be both challenging and tedious, watching numbers take shape as meaningful data can be as rewarding and interesting as it is important for the statistical analysis of middle school and high school math.
By developing graphing skills and interpreting data, your kids are exercising key analytical skills. Here’s a fun at-home activity that will help your child strengthen these skills using high and low temperature data, and become a master temperature tracker!
Using the on-line weather websites or a daily newspaper have your child record the daily temperature highs and lows for one week. Have him make a chart to display his data. Use Days of the Week, Highs, and Lows for headings. Let him do the work, but remind him to check and record his findings each day.
Discuss with your child how to set up a line graph showing her data. Suggest placing the days of the week under the horizontal line or “x-axis”. To determine how to set up the numbers on the vertical line or “y-axis”, ask your child questions such as “What is the highest temperature you recorded?” and “What is the lowest recorded temperature?”. This will help her determine which numbers she wants to show. If the variations in temperature are small, she may want to count by ones or twos. If the variations are large, she may choose to count by fives, or tens.
Choose one colour to show the low temperatures and another colour to show the high temperatures. Work together with your child to display the data on the graph. Place dots, or “data points,” above each day of the week showing the highs and the lows. Use a ruler to connect the dots for each. When you are finished, you will have two different coloured lines showing the recorded temperatures.
Discuss the data. Ask your child if the line graph shows an increase or decrease of temperature over time. Discuss whether the daily temperature variations remain the same or whether they vary widely. Ask him if it’s easier to interpret data shown on his line graph or on his chart.
Hopefully, with practice, using a line graph will become a simple tool to bring data alive, and help your child make the connection between mathematics and the real world!