2014-02-28 / Community Events

Class empowers dads, prevents neglect

By Laura M. Levering
Special to The Signal

It is not uncommon for fathers of young children to feel overwhelmed or confused over their role in a child’s life. With the majority of parenting resources aimed at women, men often get overlooked in the parent department.

Diondra Johnson wants fathers to know they are not alone, and there is help.

Johnson, licensed social worker, New Parent Support Program, invites fathers to attend, “Dads 101.” The class will take place March 19 at the Family Outreach Center from 1 to 4 p.m. The class is open to men with a pregnant spouse or child under 3 years old.

“Our hope is to educate, increase awareness and highlight certain issues that most especially target males,” said Johnson.

One of those issues is shaken baby syndrome. Shaken baby syndrome is when a person violently shakes a baby, mostly out of stress or anxiety. The outcome can have devastating effects, resulting in severe brain damage or even death. Johnson demonstrates the effects shaken baby syndrome has on a baby’s brain using a specialized baby doll during the class.

“You don’t realize how much space there is between the brain (and the skull),” Johnson said. You’re disturbing the development of their brain when you shake them, and with this doll, you actually get to see it.”

Although it can happen to anyone, studies show it occurs more often among men. By educating fathers on how to cope with an inconsolable baby and their own stress, Johnson believes fathers will be less likely to harm their baby.

“When you are at a high level of stress and anxiety, you do a lot of things that you don’t think you would ever do,” she said. “Parents don’t expect to shake their baby … But when you’re in that state of mind, you may do it.”

The class will also provide dads with skills and strategies for being the most effective dads they can be. Many new fathers don’t know how to interact with a young child or help the mother, said Johnson. There is an assumption that they know how to conduct dayto day child care duties, but that is not always the case – especially in cultures like the military where a father may be absent from home for extended periods of time. As a result, the father’s ability to connect with the child may suffer, and the mother may feel added stress.

“When the father is more involved in the child’s life, the mother’s stress level is down,” Johnson said. “There is more help with the child care needs, which helps prevent different types of child abuse or child neglect.”

Other topics the class will cover include: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, infant safety, diaper bag contents and breast milk vs. formula. There will also be time to ask questions and share concerns with other dads.

“You may have a hormonal, pregnant wife that you go home to everyday, and you don’t understand her pains,” said Johnson. “It’s an opportunity to talk to other dads, and we make suggestions on how to cope instead of just walking away.”

The deadline to register for the class is March 14. To register, call 791-6899/3579.

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