For Spc. Colin Vega, learning to be an effective father is doubly important. Besides the deployments he will face while assigned to Fort Drum, his children don’t live in the area.
Vega said he signed up for the Family Advocacy Program’s For Fathers Only class to learn to be a more effective father to his three children, who range in age from 7 to 16. The class also teaches dads tips for parenting from a distance, specifically, for those who are deployed.
“(I want to learn) what I can do now and what can I put in place when I do deploy,” he said. “(My children are at) different age levels and they have different needs.”
The four-part class was created with military fathers in mind. The class teaches fathers to communicate effectively with their spouse and children, according to Michelle Wojcikowski, FAP education specialist. It also suggests activities fathers can do with their children.
“(The class teaches) secrets to being an effective father, how to engage your child, developmentally appropriate responses to behavior, discipline versus punishment, common childhood diagnosis, parenting from a distance and challenges faced by military fathers,” she said. “(FAP wants) to enforce the importance of not only being present but also engaged with your children.”
One of the fundamental parts of the class is learning how to meet children’s four basic psychological needs – love and belonging, power, fun and freedom.
Vega said that learning the four needs was the most helpful to him.
“(I enjoyed) learning about the basic psychological needs and how to incorporate that (into your parenting),” he said. “You need that balance with your kids. Sometimes we only focus on one area and we lose focus on the others.”
Vega said Fort Drum is one of the only installations that offers a father-specific parenting class, and it is a proactive class for current and future dads.
“We need a degree for certain jobs, what about to be a parent?” he said. “You need credentials to do a job, and what better job to have than to be a parent?”
Wojcikowski also discussed how to discipline children of all ages. She focused on seven principles: focus on “do” instead of don’t; children are lovable and capable; offer choices when you are able to follow through; change the environment instead of the child’s behavior; work with children instead of against them; give children safe limits they can understand; and most importantly, set a good example.
“A father’s influence is for a lifetime,” Wojcikowski said. “Children need us less and less, the older they get. They will grow up and be making their own decisions before you know it. There is no time to wait for that magical memory of that perfect teaching moment.”
Wojcikowski said she received a lot of positive feedback from the class. Some of the Soldiers told her the information would be beneficial for mothers as well, so Wojcikowski will allow mothers to accompany the fathers for the next iteration of classes. FAP will offer another For Fathers Only class from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 13, 15, 22 and 29. Lunch will be provided. For more information, call Wojcikowski at 772-2279.