Posted by Chiara 10 days ago in Ask Dad

The Ask Dad Project, a year on.

It’s already been a year since the Ask Dad Project started. Project Officer Mark reflects on the work developed so far.

 

The Ask Dad Project: helping me learn as a practitioner and as a father

Not for the first time since taking on the development of the Ask Dad Project for Fast Forward have I felt that my life is imitating my work of late, or is it vice versa? It’s halfway through the two year lifespan of the pilot Ask Dad project that uses a youth work approach to working with dads/male carers and even though the project hasn’t developed exactly as I might have anticipated at the beginning, it has been an extremely fulfilling experience and a great learning curve for me as a practitioner and as a father.

In the beginning, I imagined, perhaps naively that the successful, tried and tested model used by Fast Forward of delivering non-judgemental and impartial informal educational sessions on health and wellbeing issues to young people in schools, colleges and youth clubs, would translate simply and effectively across to the emerging field of dads work. However, it quickly became apparent that it was not going to be quite that simple.

Where are the dads?

For a start, dads are not found in “dad clubs” in the same way that young people can be found in youth clubs. Dads groups exist, of course they do and there are many fine examples such as the Pilton Dads Community Group in North Edinburgh or the Promoting Roles of Father Figures group in South Lanarkshire but these spaces are few and far between (but do exist, see http://www.fathersnetwork.org.uk/directory for groups in your area). There are plenty of parenting groups and courses out there but the simple renaming of a Mother and Toddler group to a Parent and Toddler group is not quite enough to make the majority of men feel accepted or welcome in such an environment. As such, are men missing out on opportunities to meet with other dads (or mums) and form friendships based on their caring role for a child?

It could easily be argued that men don’t need another place to congregate, because they already have the pub, the sports club, the mosque, the men’s shed, and so on, but how many of these gathering places offer men the chance to examine their role as a father and explore ways to be a better dad? Well, it depends on the men involved I suppose.

Dads and schools

One place where you would certainly have been able to find me, on any given day and hordes of other men, for no other reason than we have a caring role for a child, is the school playground.

Many Teachers and Head Teachers have noticed this too and I think this is why consistently over the first year of Ask Dad, it has been primary and secondary schools that have been most enthusiastic about engaging my support to help them establish a culture that actively encourages a dad’s participation in everything that goes on with their children’s education.

They want to see the numbers of dads in the playground translate to the numbers of dads that will come to parent nights, join the PTA, sign up for Raising Children With Confidence, be a parent helper on trips or in the class because the more involved men are in their children’s education, the more confident those children will be, not to mention; more emotionally secure, verbally skilled and achieve better results academically.

This unexpected niche that the Ask Dad Project has been asked to help fill, in supporting schools to build their capacity to engage dads in the school community, is where my own experience as a father has overlapped with my role as a Dads Worker the most.

P7 Transition to High School

My eldest daughter has just had her three day visit to her new High school and I have just this morning been to an emotional P7 leaver’s assembly at what will soon be her old primary school. I know that I am not the only parent to be a little freaked out by this seemingly sudden yet inevitable progression.

I know this because since Easter, I have been working with various primary and secondary schools to host P7 Transition events specifically for dads. In my Ask Dad role, I have been acutely aware of how important a male carer’s role in emotionally supporting their children through challenging times is, but how little assistance dads have been offered, especially around P7 Transition. The schools I have worked with have really embraced this opportunity to welcome dads, give them guided tours, chances to meet teachers and see examples of S1 work, allow me to facilitate peer led sessions and conduct question and answer sessions. I hope that this extra attention on a dad’s role in emotionally supporting their child combined with providing practical help and advice has left those men feeling more confident and their children happier and better equipped to cope with the changes ahead.

My daughter’s new High School had a parent information evening, I went along, like lots of the other mums and dads. It was helpful but if I am to be honest it was not as helpful as the time I had working at other schools, talking to other dads, talking to teachers and doing the research and preparation for the sessions I delivered in those other schools in my Ask Dad role. Once again I have found that Ask Dad is promoting the role of dads, informing people in order to grow confidence and empowering men to have a more active role in their children’s emotional wellbeing, and that my children and I are benefitting from this as much as anyone else.

To contact Mark, email mark@fastforward.org.uk or phone 0131 554 4300.