Yesterday, I participated in a very unique parenting discussion group – it was only dads! Nine dads from our NYC Dads Group participated in a Parent-Child Group at the Pacella Parent Child Center on the Upper East Side on 82nd Street. The Pacella Parenting Center has been facilitating Parent-Child groups for moms for over 20 years. They have tried simulating their model with dads in the past, offering evening & weekend groups, but have not been successful. Now, they aim to offer their services for at-home-dads during the day.
Fortunately, they reached out to our dads’ group. Here are the details the parenting center provided for this discussion group:
• Designed to help fathers navigate the challenges of parenthood and the complexities of being stay-at-home dads
• Decide what is useful for your child while sifting through the vast amounts of advice from books, and friends and family
• Learn to read the cues and needs of your child
• Professionally led fathers group in parallel to supervised play for the children
• Organic exchange between parents, children and staff
Limited to six – eight families, each Parent-Child Group is dedicated to a special age: birth through three years. Meetings are normally one hour a week throughout most of the year.
I really enjoyed the parenting center’s model of having the parents ( 9 dads in this case) engaging in an intimate and meaningful discussion facilitated by a parenting expert (Jason Gold, PhD & parent) while our children were located nearby, participating in supervised play with educational and fun toys (with a 2 child to 1 supervisor ratio). The topics that we discussed were organic & very relevant to the challenges some of us were currently facing as parents. For example, two of our kids were playing with a toy nearby – one child, Lucas, was playing independently with a car and garage toy. My son walked over to play with him and the garage. Lucas, picked up the toy, and moved it away so my son wasn’t able to share it (this challenge of sharing happens often with my son). Obviously, my son got frustrated and angry. This happened right in front of us and led us into an open discussion about dealing with this common frustration. We discussed communicating better with our kids, being vigilant, sharing our values about sharing, and staying consistent. It was nice because the forum that the parenting center fosters enables these types of conversations that us dads do not always have a chance to share and learn from one another.
Overall, I enjoyed the experience and the dynamic of being able to openly share my feelings with other involved dads without many disruptions from our kids. It certainly is nice to see a place like the Pacella Parenting Child Center reaching out and offering a much-needed service to the sometimes forgotten, DADS. Additionally, it would be great to see this type of dads support group model emulated in other major cities. The Parenting Center is looking to establish a weekly discussion/support group for stay-at-home dads and that is absolutely a step in the right direction for us NYC dads.