their work, and have more satisfyingadult romantic relationships. Theirpartners experience lower stressand depression levels, are moreresponsive to their children, and areless likely to leave the workforce.
SFI in Alberta
Recognizing the long-term potentialand benefits of the SFI Program’sresearch, the AFWI is supportingfour similar pilot programs in theprovince. Taught to program leadersby the Pruetts, the programs areoffered to both couples and fathers.
(See sidebar Supporting FatherInvolvement on page 30.)
Cheryl Skaien works at the Family
Centre of Southern Alberta and
oversees the 11-week-long regional
SFI program in Lethbridge, which
highlights the importance of fathers’
involvement in their children’s lives.
“Because our society has always
valued the mother, if mothers
‘gate keep’ (control most parenting
decisions) because of the perception
that everything dads do is ‘wrong,’
children can perceive dads as
devalued,” Skaien explains. “(With
involved fathers) children get the
best of both worlds. The way dads
interact with children is different and
different parts of their brain develop
as a result of how they interact with
She explains that when moms
hold their babies, traditionally they
hold them protectively in their
arms, whereas dads will often
hold babies on their knees, facing
them out to the world. Such simple
differences, even when they don’t
follow traditional gender stereotypes,
are central to how a child processes
and experiences the world. As SFI
work is demonstrating, it is an
advantage for a child to be given a
caring, nurturing environment by
one caregiver and encouraged to take
chances and experience by another.
There’s a dad for that
Still, some fathers hold back fromspending quality time with theirchildren. The reasons behind theirreluctance range from cultural(my dad never played with me), tosocietal (mothers who gate keep) toinstitutional (governments that areonly concerned with the financialinvolvement of fathers). Anothermuch simpler reason is that, a lot ofthe time, we guys just don’t knowwhat to do.
“We’ve had a couple of peoplecomment that ‘wow, that’s all ittakes,’” says Patrick Dillion with theAlberta Father Involvement Initiative(AFII), an organization dedicated topromoting the bond between dadsand their children.
To bring home this message,the AFII has released a number ofshort videos and other interactiveresources under the banner of theirnew slogan: There’s a dad for that.The suggestions are deceptivelysimple — bike riding, helping withhomework or a hug — but showfathers that their involvementdoes not have to be complicated orrequire large amounts of time to beworthwhile.
“It’s the simplicity of beinginvolved with kids,” Dillion explains.“You come home at the end of theday, you’re tired. Rather than sittingdown and feeling sorry for yourself,what’s wrong with sitting down withyour kid and helping them with theirhomework? Or fixing their bike?”
Since 2009, the AFII has offered
information for fathers, individuals,