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Raising Fathers

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Gone are the days of fathers being expected to “provide, protect and punish”. Today’s dads want more hands-on involvement with their kids, and that’s a great thing, says author and co-founder of menALIVE, Robert Falzon.

Speaking at the first of three Raising Fathers evenings hosted by Eastwood, Liverpool and Berala parishes, he encouraged the 60 dads present to embrace their vitally important task and vocation as life coaches, mentors and role models to their kids.

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Good fathering is a strong social predicator for healthy, well-adjusted people in adulthood and yields a healthy, robust society and Church, he explained, yet fatherhood is in decline in many ways.

Be strong in love and service: Robert Falzon speaks to men at the first of three Raising Fathers evenings conducted in Sydney last week. The events were organised by the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Centre for Evangelisation. Photos: Alphonsus Fok

One in three families don’t have a father present in the household, and around 40 per cent of teenagers grow up in a house without a biological father present. Meanwhile more than one million Australian children go to sleep at night without one parent, usually the father.

Fatherlessness through physical or emotional absence, anger, alcoholism or other addiction, or being anonymous is linked to increased poverty, lower academic performance, increased crime and incarceration, drug abuse, child abuse and mental and physical health problems, he said.

Robert Falzon encouraged the 60 dads present to embrace their vitally important task and vocation as life coaches, mentors and role models to their kids. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

But many of us have been wounded deeply by our father’s actions or absence.

“There’s something about fatherhood that makes us or breaks us. And it’s our choice, because what we do not resolve is repeated. And what is not transformed is transmitted. It’s our choice to let grace turn our story into grace and glory and beauty.”

Kids do best with dads who are present, patient, affectionate, who will hold them to account for their behaviour and speak with them honestly about difficult subjects like pornography, drugs and bullying, Mr Falzon said.

“We need to teach our children how to live, which includes many things; how to ride a bike, mow a lawn and take the rubbish out, and much more important things like how to treat others, how to treat women and other men.

“Your life actions and ways, good or bad, will be their training.”

He encouraged the men to draw upon each other’s support and especially their spiritual heritage and Father in heaven.

Director of the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation Daniel Ang. PHOTO: ALPHONSUS FOK

Director of the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation Daniel Ang, who contributed a chapter to Mr Falzon’s latest book Raising Fathers: Father from the frontline, 12 men’s stories, said that it caused him to reflect on how his relationship with his father had changed over time from turbulence during his teenage years to a close bond today.

“I understand where my dad was coming from and I will love him to the end,” Mr Ang said.

“The ways in which my dad has shaped me has led me to develop a certain resilience, an ability for me to forge vision in my work, to be determined and to be able to work towards the good, even if unsupported.

“Once I thought about having children and the kind of father I wanted to be I just knew inside that I couldn’t do this, and I think that’s where many people are today.

“That romantic ideal of parenting I had lay somewhere between the best of my father and the influences of the Christian men that I’d met in the parish and who were the only role models I had for living the Christian faith as a man.”

Father of four Adam Curro told The Catholic Weekly he appreciated the reminder that it’s important to have fellow men to talk to about the things that matter.

Kids do best with dads who are present, patient, affectionate, who will hold them to account for their behaviour and speak with them honestly about difficult subjects like pornography, drugs and bullying, Mr Falzon said.

“The male suicide rate is a massive problem that’s not talked often about, and you’ve got to have God in your life otherwise being a father is very difficult,” he said.

Simon Carrington, who has three young children, said that while fatherhood doesn’t come with a manual, it helped to know that there is support available from other Catholic men.

“And I realise I still need to do a lot of inner work to be dad I want to be,” he said.

Ivica Kovac from the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, Life, Marriage and Family team. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

The Raising Fathers evenings were made possible through the collaboration of Sydney Catholic Schools, MenALIVE, and the Archdiocese of Sydney including its Maximus men’s ministry.

Ten tips for great dads

Tell your children “I love you, I am proud of you, or you are better than that, that’s not like you.”

You are their life coach and mentor, they’re watching everything you do.  Your actions and ways, good or bad will be their training.

Affirm them with your words, presence, facial expressions and gestures. Praise something you want them to grow into.

Set rules and boundaries, make agreements around TV use, phones, computer games, homework and behaviour and hold them to account.

Spending one-on-one time with our child builds self-esteem. Don’t just give them your spare time. Create special moments, rituals, traditions, holidays and special occasions.

Express your tenderness and loving affection with a hug, kiss, touch, having fun, showing kindness.

Discover and then love your child the way he or she needs to be loved.

Work on yourself and your own problematic behaviours. Resolve the wounds you experience through your relationship with your own dad, or his absence.

Love your children’s mother. The best parents are both parents.

Surround yourself with other good men and help build community. Draw upon your spiritual beliefs and believe in the goodness of our Heavenly Father.

 

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