“Fathering As a Team Sport”
What Are Fathering Forum Teams?
Fathering Forum Teams are grassroots groups of dads in any walk of life, with children of any age, who meet regularly in living rooms and community spaces for support, encouragement, feedback, advice and learning. Each dad is unique, but each father is committed to being a wise, loving, and responsible dad dedicated to promoting a safe, wholesome, happy and healthful environment for their own children, and all children. Our basic premise is that dads are better dads when they work with each other as a team for the benefit of their children.
Why Are There Fathering Forum Teams?
Fathering Forum Team meetings are a special time – and for some dads the only scheduled time – when fathers can open up and just “be themselves.” Dads benefit from the diverse perspectives and experiences of other dads, as well as from their careful and attentive listening. Dads also get immense gratification from contributing to each others, and knowing that their special gifts are welcomed and valued by the community. Note: Although the challenges fathers face in their lives (at work, with their spouses etc) often come up in Fathering Forum Team meetings, the meetings are not group therapy, counseling, or self-improvement groups per se. The underlying context and the ultimate focus of what we say and do together is always on our children and how to be effective, compassionate, and responsible fathers to them. All contributions and feedback are evaluated in that light.
Typically, Fathering Forum Team meetings meet once every three weeks for three hours. They can be any size, but usually consist of between six to twelve dads. They can also have any focus or direction based on team members’ preferences. However, certain guidelines apply in all Fathering Forum Team meetings. All meetings are strictly confidential so as to promote candor. Integrity and respectful listening within the team are considered fundamental components of its workability, and the “acid test” for the quality and relevance of what gets shared, discussed and otherwise explored is its impact on our own, and each other’s, children.
What Happens at a Fathering Forum Team Meeting?
Fathering Forum Team meetings usually include a structured “check-in” opportunity for each father to share his joys and challenges, an evening’s discussion theme,” and hands-on tools and techniques for better fathering.
Fathering Forum Team meetings usually include several components:
- A structured opportunity for each father to share the joys and challenges he is facing as a father, and to get feedback, advice or simply the caring, non-judgmental ear of the other men.
- An evening’s “theme” is introduced and explored through discussion and sharing. Issues covered can be anything from sex education to limit-setting, from “active listening” skills to anger management, effective co-parenting, and “special needs” children, to the striking the right balance between guiding our kids and letting them “make their own mistakes. Step-fathering, single parenting, adoptive parenting and traditional parenting can be topics for discussion. Team members often examine the values and lessons they learned from our own fathers, and their impact on how they choose to raise their own children.
- Sometimes there is a guided meditation, a “thought experiment,” or a writing exercise. A dad may offer a poem or song that serves as a springboard to reflection. Fun is good!
How Are Fathering Forum Team Meetings Organized?
We see the Fathering Forum as a community of brothers, colleagues and peers, not as experts or leaders. We know that every dad has gifts to receive and to contribute to other fathers in their quest to be the best parents they can be. Therefore, the leadership of Fathering Forum Team meetings rotates democratically among the members. That person generally schedules the next meeting, provides that meeting with its overall structure and theme, and causes it to stay “on track” by monitoring the time, and making sure that the intention and goals of the meeting are fulfilled. In short, the meeting belongs to all the dads, and any dad who wishes to is strongly encouraged to step forward to take “ownership” of a meeting and lead it, or to facilitate portions of it.
Potential Impact: Fathers everywhere have so much to offer and to gain from other dads. Dads participating in these meetings almost always say they get great value from them, that they have been touched and inspired by what they have learned, and have gained new fathering tools to bring into their parenting roles. Ultimately, better fathering makes for a better world.
Fathering Forum Teams now exist in New York, San Diego, Boston, Atlanta, and Washington DC. We intend to promote Fathering Forum Teams in every community throughout the United States and the world. If you’re interested in starting a Fathering Forum Team where you live, or know someone who is, please click here.
(There is a growing list of exercises and resources that have been created by Fathering Forum Teams nationwide. Some of these are available with instructions and comments in the Resources Section of this website.)