Archive for June, 2012

Kids Need Their Fathers: For Health, For Growth, For Life

Ryan Sanders is the Social Media Manager for the National Fatherhood Initiative.

I’ll never forget the beeps. It’s been five years since first hearing the beeps from inside the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where my first daughter stayed two weeks due to pre-term labor.

She weighed four pounds, and I was scared to hold her with the wires coming from all directions. But the NICU nurses assured my wife and I that we would do no harm by holding and talking to her. She needed to hear the same two voices she heard throughout pregnancy. She needed to feel our presence in that cold, steel medical room.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America — one out of three — live in homes without fathers. Kids need their fathers.

Kids Need Their fathers…For Health
The same “NICU baby” from above recently proclaimed from the back of the car, “I want coffee, like Daddy!” as I ordered my favorite coffee from the Starbucks drive-thru. As I ordered a short cup of water to mimic my coffee, I realized something big — that for good or ill, the choices I make affect my children. As dad goes, so go the children. With Father’s Day in our rearview mirrors, we must be vigilant about impacting our children positively with the choices we make as dads.

Studies show that men who take care of their health with a good diet, regular exercise, and preventive screenings serve as role models for their kids’ health habits and are more likely to be around for all those important moments like graduations, birthdays and weddings. But more than being around, fathers model behavior for their kids, for good or ill.

Kids Need Their Fathers…For Growth
New research reveals that the love of a father is one of the single greatest influences on the personality development of a child. Results from the journal of Personality and Social Psychology Review showed that kids rejected in childhood felt more anxious and insecure as well as hostile and aggressive as adults.

Professor Rohner who conducted the research says, “children who feel unloved tend to become anxious and insecure, and this can make them needy. Anger and resentment can lead to them closing themselves off emotionally in an attempt to protect themselves from further hurt.”

The same is true for all children regardless of race, culture, and gender – the feeling and effects of rejection are universal.

Professor Rohner adds that research shows the “same parts of the brain are activated when people feel rejected as when they suffer physical pain.” He continues, but ‘Unlike physical pain, however, people can psychologically relive the emotional pain of rejection over and over for years.’ His research shows a father’s input is particularly important for behavior and influences whether a child later abuses drugs or suffers mental health problems.

Kids Need Their Fathers…For Life
The National Center for Health Statistics reports that infant mortality rates are almost twice as much for infants of unmarried mothers than for married mothers.

Children whose fathers are stable and involved are better off on almost every cognitive, social and emotional measure developed by researchers.

How we start is usually a good indicator of how we finish. Giving kids a chance to start life in a healthy way matters. Involved fathers help infant mortality rates decrease and infant health increase. Being present and involved ensures children will grow and develop into mature, well-adjusted adults.

Dads matter–for good or ill. As dads go, so go the children. And as go children, so goes our society.

That is why National Fatherhood Initiative provides skill-building resources to help fathers increase their health literacy and get involved right from the start. Our Doctor Dad series of workshops help fathers learn about the well child, the sick child, the injured child, and the safe child. And our new Dad’s Pocket Guide contains practical tips on how dads can get involved with their newborns.

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June is Men’s Health Month!

Every June Men’s Health Network (MHN), along with hundreds of partners across the country and the world, celebrates Men’s Health Month as a time to raise awareness of male health issues and encourage men and their families to seek preventive care.  The centerpiece of the month-long celebration is Men’s Health Week, which takes place during the week leading up to and including Father’s Day (June 11-17 of this year).  Men’s Health Week was created by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 1994.

This awareness period is an excellent time to recognize the importance of men’s health – not only for each individual man, but also for the impact that men’s health has on families and our society as a whole.  Men in the United States die an average of five years earlier than women, die at higher rates for 9 of the top 10 causes of death, and tend to live sicker as well.  The impact is significant for women: the U.S. Administration on Aging has reported that “more than half of women now living in poverty were not poor before the death of their husbands.”

With the recognition of Father’s Day, we are particularly reminded of the impact that men have on the lives of their children.  Men who take care of their health with a good diet, regular exercise, and preventive screenings and doctor visits serve as role models for their kids’ health habits and are more likely to be around for all those important moments like graduations, birthdays and weddings.  Being a father can also have its own health benefits when men commit to better habits so that they can live life more fully with their children.

During June and throughout the year, faith communities, government agencies, employers and local organizations are holding events such as free health screenings and presentations about important men’s health topics.  Cookouts, races and guys’ nights out are also planned to encourage men to take better care of themselves.  For more information on Men’s Health Month, including ideas for what you can do, please check out the Men’s Health Month website at http://www.menshealthmonth.org/.

Men’s Health Network is a national non-profit organization whose mission is to reach men, boys and their families where they live, work, play and pray with health prevention messages and tools, screening programs, educational materials, advocacy opportunities, and patient navigation.  MHN participates in the annual Head Start conference and works in partnership with the NHSA to promote the involvement and health of fathers.