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Fatherly scholars

Student group seeks to improve paternal skills of student fathers


Single moms' clubs, mom-to-mom meetings, support groups for new mothers. After perusing the listings, one might wonder where all of the groups for dads are.

That was the thought that a Grand Valley State University faculty member, who was a single dad of two children, had back in 2006. With the help of other faculty members and some marketing, “What Daddies Do Best” has been going strong ever since.

The group is comprised of roughly a dozen fathers from GVSU, currently all staff members, that meet to talk about fatherhood and share pieces of advice that they’ve acquired over the years.

“(The dads) have children of all ages,” said Susan Sloop, a work life consultant for human resources and co-facilitator of the group. “Some have kids who have just left home or are grandparents now, and some are having their first child. They learn from each others' experiences.”

Sloop also noted that, from her experience with the group, dads have a lot of the same concerns as mothers do, and a lot of people may not realize that because it’s not a typical “dad thing.”

As generations come and go, fathers are becoming more involved and concerned with their children’s lives - a change that is apparent during the group meetings.

“Sometimes we don’t give dads enough credit for caregiving,” Sloop said. “(They) want to be involved and take part in their children's activities. They’re much more conscious about how important it is to spend time with their families.”

As a co-facilitator, Sloop usually throws out a topic or two during the meeting to spark conversation and the dads usually take it from there.

“Our philosophy is that this is their group, so we pretty much go in whatever direction that they want to,” Sloop said.

In addition to talking, sometimes the group will do activities together, like making valentines for the dads to give to their kids. Occasionally there are prizes and giveaways for answering questions, such as “Whose kid is the oldest?” 

“What Daddies Do Best” is part of the Healthy Choices Incentives Program, which is a program at GVSU for faculty and staff members that provides a holistic approach to wellness.

There are programs for physical health and support for mental health, helping faculty and staff members to be totally healthy and happy, and in turn make good decisions regarding their overall wellness.

The group plays into the program by providing a space for faculty and staff members who are fathers of all kinds -- expecting fathers, new fathers, grandfathers -- and welcome all to come talk, share concerns or share exciting news through a safe outlet of other understanding people.

“We know that life doesn’t stop when they come through the doors,” Sloop said. “(The group) is something that I think is a great stress reliever for the dads. It gives them a break from their day. There’s a lot of laughing, so it’s rejuvenating.”

The group meets twice a semester during the regular school year and once during the summer. To find out when the next meeting is go to www.gvsu.edu/events. For more information about the Healthy Choices Incentives Program visit www.gvsu.edu/healthwellness

mforshee@lanthorn.com



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