By Justin CreechOctober 21, 2011
A fatherhood training course for new and expecting fathers called Dads 101, is Oct. 28, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Army Community Services building.
The course, hosted by the Family Advocacy Program, covers topics from child development, fatherhood roles and stereotypes, basic care-giving skills as well as baby calming techniques.
Anne Blair, New Parent Support Program home visitor will teach the course along with retired Air Force Tech. Sgt. Roland Kearney. The course discussions will take place in a roundtable fashion.
Kearney, who happens to be a single father of two sons, 9 and 5 years old, said he likes to share his experience as a single parent at the beginning of the class.
"I share with the class things I like that my dad did as a parent and things I didn't like," said Kearney. "I tell the class if they don't make a conscious effort to change those behaviors in themselves then they will fall back on how they were raised because that's what they are used to."
Caregiving skills such as bathing, feeding and changing diapers are taught as well as swaddling. Swaddling is an age-old practice of wrapping infants in swaddling cloths so that movement of the limbs is tightly restricted which causes the infant to feel like they are back in the womb. The technique helps keep the infant calm which leads to better sleep.
Blair said the class will also talk about 'tummy time' and how it helps the infant develop his or her gross motor movements.
"During tummy time, babies are developing their neck and stomach muscles," said Blair. "Plus, as they try to push themselves up they are developing their arm muscles. So, that's what we call gross motor movement because that's when they learn how to push themselves forward."
The importance of talking to infants will also be discussed during the class. Consistently talking to a baby helps language development because they understand what words mean quicker. It is also beneficial for a parent to sing to their infant child. Any genre of music is acceptable.
"A dad could actually rap an Eminem song to his baby and that would work just fine," Blair said with a smile.
Fatherhood stereotypes and partner support will be covered during the class. Not every family in today's society follows the traditional model of the father being the breadwinner while the mother stays home and raises the children. That also holds true with military Families, so the discussions will center on whether or not the new or expecting father is comfortable in that role and how they can support their wife if they do follow the traditional family model.
"If the father goes to a playgroup he would be there with a bunch of mothers. So, talking to dads about how we can support them in that role if that is the role they plan to take," said Blair. "We also talk a lot about what it means for parents to keep their relationships strong during this time because babies can create a lot of havoc in a relationship. So, we talk about ways they can help out with the house work and we also talk about ways to maintain intimacy without having sex since the mother may not be up for that right away."
An empathy belly is used with expecting fathers to simulate for them what it is like being pregnant. It is a multi-component, weighted "garment" that will -- through medically accurate simulation -- enable the expecting father to experience over 20 symptoms and effects of pregnancy.
"The empathy belly weighs 35 pounds because you fill the belly part with water," said Blair. "It gives the expecting father a chance to understand why the mother is uncomfortable."
The class is not limited to new and expecting fathers. Servicemembers who already have children, but want to refresh their care-giving knowledge are also welcome to attend.
"If the father wasn't around when their first child was born because they were deployed and weren't around for the care giving part of raising the child and they have another one on the way and want to be more actively involved they can definitely come to the class," said Blair.
For more information or to sign up, call (703) 805-2693/2781.