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Education; Teacher as Facilitator, Students as Collaborators

February 3, 2011 1 comment

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.”

Shunryu Suzuki

Creativity in children begins at birth. Children come to us innocent, trusting, and ready for life. At the beginning of their life it is the responsibility of their parents, both of them, to develop and encourage the creative directions of each child’s curiosity. It is the Parents who prepare their children in their early years for education that takes place in the K through 12 grades. A teacher is merely a facilitator for children once they arrive in the classroom.

Each child is a masterpiece when they arrive, whether they are rich, poor, black, tan, white, yellow, or red. They all have their own precious experiences to share. The classroom is their place of curiosity exploration and creativity and knowledge expansion, whatever condition they are in when they arrive. The teacher and the classroom should be the place where the best qualities in children are honed.

Teachers know that we can’t just teach facts anymore. Facts/Information are fluid and changing daily. Eric Schmidt, who shares responsibility for Google’s day-to-day operations sates, “Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003; that’s something like five Exabytes of data. Let me repeat that: we create as much information in two days now as we did from the dawn of man through 2003.”

Another life experience for this generation we must put into perspective is that today’s students will have 10 to 14 jobs by their 38th birthday, as the U.S. Department of Labor estimates. As a parent and former teacher I find this information astonishing!

It is no longer an option as to whether we educate for Industrial Problem Solving or Creativity in the Global Knowledge Economy. Industrial problem solving is no longer relevant to this generation of students. Problem Solving is a repair activity and inherent in this concept is the removal of an obstacle or difficulty. This was fine in the Industrial Age when people were told what to do and then did it. On the other hand, Creativity is not about fixing things that are broken but about bringing new things into being. Problem-solving asks the question, “What is broken?” Problem Solvers believe there is a right answer, and it’s in the teacher’s edition of the textbook. Creativity asks the question, “What is possible?” Creative Thinkers presume there are not one but an infinite number of possible solutions. It focuses on creative and critical thinking skills, collaboration, social skills, and embraces the search for multiple solutions to complex problems.

Industrial Age work aims to transform raw materials into products which improve our lives. Its focus is on making things, and its primary method is production efficiency. To be successful, industrial work requires specialization where the boss divides work into tasks, which can be learned more easily and done more efficiently by a lower-skilled worker. It involves mechanization of tasks, where machines automate the specialized function making it easier. It involves centralized control, which coordinates work flow. As a result work becomes centered on the machine. Without highly-skilled work, pride in craft is lost. Eventually, more and more tasks become automated, and the workforce becomes not only disillusioned but obsolete. It happened in the United States and it will eventually happen in the third world countries where our corporations moved all their factories. I guess the global corporations will go to Mars next for their unskilled workers.

Information work transforms raw data into information which improves our lives. Its focus is not on things but on what they mean. In peace and in war, in work and in life, better information leads to more opportunities, better decisions, and better results. The primary method of information work is not efficiency of production, but rather, proficiency of induction; the ability to find patterns and imagine possibilities. A valuable information worker is one who can find or create meaning that was previously unseen. Successful information work requires generalization, which finds opportunities from examining information from across a wide range of sources and disciplines. It requires humanization, which involves seeing the world in new ways and making connections that we didn’t think of before. This requires human imagination, creativity, and intuition. It requires decentralization. Cross-disciplinary, creative work gains strength from greater diversity and more points of view. To manage this kind of activity requires collaboration rather than control. Someone who is trained by our system to be a good industrial worker will only be confused and disoriented by an information-oriented workplace.

Transforming education to meet this revolution in information and technology is not an easy task when one admits how hard it is for people/teachers/parents to transform how they have lived and worked their many years. Habits are difficult to change when people are in their comfort zones. The answers to the many challenges we face, not only in the education of our children, but also in the world in which they will live, are far from clear. Some pioneers are already out there leading the charge, and if the U.S. is to remain globally competitive, change in how we educate our population is not an option, it is an imperative!

“I never came upon any of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking.”

Albert Einstein

 


Education; Vertical Thinking – Lateral Thinking

January 23, 2011 1 comment

“You cannot dig a hole in a different place by digging the same hole deeper.”

Edward DeBono

In the last post “Race to NOwhere – NOWhere” our students are falling asleep in their one dimensional learning rooms. What the chalkboards and rows of desks lack is creativity and excitement in thinking and problem solving. We are a nation whose public school system is churning out vertical thinkers in an age of 21 year old internet multi-millionaires, who are thinking laterally, way ‘outside the box’. These lateral thinkers are changing the millennium. Some have dropped out of prestigious Ivy League schools and their rows of desks and chalkboards  to create and implement their extraordinary ideas and solutions to problems, i.e., Facebook, SCVNGR, Microsoft, and others.

Vertical thinking, which is the primary thinking method practiced in the American public school system, is a method of the Industrial Age, not the High Tech Age. It destroys creativity in children by forcing them to seek the one “correct” solution to a problem while working within defined boundaries. Lateral thinkers use techniques for changing concepts and perceptions, and generating new ones. They explore multiple possibilities and approaches instead of pursuing a single approach. Lateral thinking was developed by a major force in British creative thinking, Edward DeBono, who has doctorates from both Oxford and Cambridge and is most famous for this term in his 1967 book, ‘The Use of Lateral Thinking’.

A way of understanding lateral thinking is through its opposite, vertical thinking. A vertical thinker is analytical, careful and precise, taking the data around a problem and analyzing it with defined methodologies to find logical solutions. A lateral thinker understands vertical thinking, but chooses to deliberately look outside of this bounded thought process. It requires digging in many other places because creativity is like a joke; you don’t get it until the punch-line at the end. It is not an easy concept to teach in a vertical thinking society and a good way to learn is through examples. A good example of lateral thinking is:

You are driving down the road in your car on a wild, stormy night, when you pass by a bus stop and you see three people waiting for the bus; An old lady who looks as if she is about to die; An old friend who once saved your life; The perfect partner you have been dreaming about.

Knowing that there can only be one passenger in your car, whom would you choose?
Click here for The Solution.

Lateral thinking is thus very much about standing back, looking at the big picture and understanding concepts. It also requires that you focus in on the parts that have perhaps been overlooked, challenging assumptions, and seeking alternatives. To be more simplistic:

•    vertical thinkers – CHOOSE
•    lateral thinkers – CHANGE
•    vertical – LOOKS FOR WHAT IS RIGHT
•    lateral – LOOKS FOR WHAT IS DIFFERENT
•    vertical – ONE THING MUST FOLLOW DIRECTLY FROM ANOTHER
•    lateral – MAKES DELIBERATE JUMPS
•    vertical – CONCENTRATES ON RELEVANCE
•    lateral – WELCOMES CHANCE INTRUSIONS
•    vertical – MOVES IN MOST LIKELY DIRECTIONS
•    lateral – EXPLORES LEAST LIKELY DIRECTIONS

Vertical thinking is mostly an individual process, solitary. Lateral thinking involves not only individual thinking, but also group thinking. Many large corporations use group lateral thinking to solve difficult problems by creating new solutions through brainstorming and close collaboration.

We desperately need to reorganize our classroom structure so that children may explore, share, and brainstorm for new ideas and new solutions outside the vertical path. There was a time in American education of the one room school. The teacher taught all grade levels, oftentimes with the help of her older students who looked after and help teach the youngest. The group dynamics of that generation, who had the opportunity to explore the best and most compelling ideas and solutions, led us into the Industrial Revolution.

The Volkswagen Company sponsored an initiative called  Thefuntheory. They invited people to invent a new structure for a mundane, already existent idea. Their challenge was to make this mundane, every day experience FUN for people to experience. They believe that “Fun can change people for the better!” The initiative produced the most extraordinary results and was held in Odenplan, Stockholm. One of the most intriguing ideas dealt with changing people’s behavior in taking either an escalator or the stairs. This is an amazing video of lateral, individual and group thinking! You will smile…

What would happen to our American educational system and our students if we unleashed this kind of fun, exploration, creativity, excitement, and learning in our classrooms? I suspect that every building, every classroom would be a beehive of energy and engaged participation. I would love to try this out somewhere! It’s not about not enough money. It’s not about better buildings. It’s about teachers letting go of their preconceived notions of education they bring into our classrooms from the Industrial Age. It’s about teachers challenging their students to come up with more than one solution to a problem. It is their obligation as professionals to explode the creative energy within their students, not destroy or inhibit it.

Learning to read together, all ages in creative Group Learning.

America’s Educational Competitive Edge; Category 5

January 8, 2011 3 comments

Let’s talk about America’s mythological “Competitive Edge”.  Back in 2005 the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine wrote the influential 2005 report “Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future”. A new report was requested by the presidents of these distinguished academies in 2010, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Approaching Category 5”. The authors of the 2010 report concluded that the nation’s competitive outlook has worsened since the original Gathering Storm issued its call to strengthen K-12 education and double the federal basic-research budget.

The 2010 report notes indications where the United States’ competitive capacity is slipping, some of which includes the following:

•    In 2009, 51 percent of U.S. patents were awarded to non-U.S. companies.
•    China has replaced the U.S. as the world’s number one high-technology exporter and is now second in the world in publication of biomedical research articles.
•    Between 1996 and 1999, 157 new drugs were approved in the United States.  In a corresponding period 10 years later, the number dropped to 74.
•    Almost one-third of U.S. manufacturing companies responding to a recent survey say they are suffering from some level of skills shortage. (My emphasis)

In addition, the nation’s education system has shown little sign of improvement, particularly in math and science. According to the ACT College Readiness Report, 78 percent of U.S. high school graduates in 2008 did not meet readiness benchmark levels for one or more entry-level college courses in mathematics, science, reading, and English. The World Economic Forum ranks the U.S. 48th in the quality of its math and science education.  FORTY-EIGHTH! (Copies of Rising Above the Gathering Storm Revisited; Category 5 are available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu.)

The only way America will meet future challenges is to change the way we parent and educate our people. Charter Schools, which are publicly funded, are yet another popular way to change traditional education, which was originally designed to produce literate factory workers for the industrial age of Ford, Rockefeller, and the like. Up until this industrial push most immigrants in our country verged on being or were illiterate. The chalk board, 30 wooden desks, teacher lecturing, and students taking notes for tests hasn’t changed much since that mandate for public education for all children.

The Charter innovation is described in the documentary “Waiting for Superman” and focuses on the lottery that determines its students. The lottery is conducted in public, and the film illustrates the high drama of the proceedings: The families of the winners are euphoric, the losers despondent. It depicts how desperate parents are to find any alternative to the inner-city schools millions of minority children attend.

According to a 2006 article in U.S. News & World Report one-third of our schools are dysfunctional. They are located in drug-infested, crime-ridden urban neighborhoods to which whites rarely venture. Most of the brightest and most talented teachers are attracted elsewhere. Columnist George Will described the neighborhoods where millions of minority children live and attend schools as “concentrations of the poor, the poorly educated, the unemployed and unemployable.” They also have been portrayed as “prisons without walls.”

Far too many of these students and preschoolers are dealing with hunger, homelessness, abuse and/or neglect. More than 70 percent of black children are born out of wedlock. Typically, an impoverished, overwhelmed mother or grandmother is the only adult at home. Students leave dysfunctional homes to attend dysfunctional schools. They’re learning, but the lessons are concentrated on how to survive.

Considering the above, are charter schools the answer? Or does meaningful improvement in education lie elsewhere?

Early childhood is where it is at; this is the decisive moment!

Schools inherit reading problems, which are actually language problems. Learning begins at birth, ideally with two parents providing loving care, cultivating curiosity and offering constant exposure to spoken and written language. These well loved children have been attending “school” since birth.

Schools should extend their expertise to parents of preschoolers and to future parents. They should elaborate on the universal message: Parents are a child’s first and most important teachers, and learning happens outside the classroom as well as in it. Incoming students who are better-prepared should result in better-performing schools. We need to develop parenting programs for those who are not yet parents as well as for those who are and we need to take these programs into the communities and schools. We need to begin at the beginning.

We’ve been looking in all the wrong places for far too long. We can’t solve a problem by avoiding the cause; it’s rooted in the home. Parents are the key. We need to convince them of their importance and provide ways for them to be effective teachers.

Watch what happens to education in America when we get Parents involved with parenting their sons and daughters for a future that leaves behind their dysfunctional history!

Apple Pie Parenting; A Dose of This and a Dash of That

December 8, 2010 Leave a comment

I have been asked by so many, “What is good parenting?” Even though I consider the answer to be a matter of common sense and honest, selfless decisions I have come to realize that common sense is not in abundance and selfless decisions are held hostage to ego needs and immediate gratification. So I have concluded that the best answer is another question.

How is good parenting like baking an apple pie?

Let’s take my simple apple crumble pie recipe that I bake for one son. Its ingredients are: a 9” deep dish pie crust, 5 cups apples – peeled, cored and thinly sliced, ½ cup white sugar, ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/3 white sugar again, ¾ cup all purpose flour, 6 tablespoons butter. The oven must be preheated to 400 degrees where I bake the assembled pie for 35 to 40 minutes. Of course all the ingredients must be assembled in just the right way to get tasty results AND the pie must be baked just right to get that crispy top with soft apples under it.

Now what if I left out, because I was busy or distracted with my own needs, one third of the sugar, or the butter. Maybe I only used half the apples. Maybe I forgot the cinnamon; after all it is only ¾ teaspoon and that shouldn’t matter. Maybe I only baked it for 25 minutes. Who would know?

These appear to be such small compromises for my pie that I am serving to my family. Granted, it won’t be the best pie I could bake for them and maybe it won’t taste just right but it will get us through dessert and I could probably camouflage it with a heavy dose of vanilla ice cream.

On the other hand this could have been a superior pie that I would be enthusiastic to serve if I took the time and care in the preparation. There would be no excuses to suffer through and no camouflage tactics to cover up my personal failure to take pride in my creation. Excuses are so complex. It’s so much simpler to do it the right way.

Now let’s take a simple recipe for parenting. Its ingredients are: thoughtful nutrition and healthy balance during the uterine environment, careful physical and emotional maintenance during infancy with many tablespoons of hugs, big arms, and soft talk, a huge bucket full of reading out loud and play time, hundreds of hours of decision making and direction pointing, large and small doses of discipline, many cups of creative thinking, a dash or two of self esteem building, gallons of intellectual curiosity, and a dash of this and a dash of that. Baking time is at least 18 years.

What if we left out some of the dashes, doses, gallons, or buckets? Who would know? The most sorrowful parent is the one who left out some ingredients only to find that 18 years later it was too late to add them back. Like the pie both were baked. You cannot unring a bell. It’s so much simpler to add all the ingredients and do it the right way.

I was reading the “Future Buzz” blog by Adam Singer today. Even though this is a blog about digital marketing he says it all, “Complexity is standard and expected, simplicity is elegant and surprising because it is daring. It requires confidence – you’re taking a chance that what you’re putting out there is good enough to stand on its own.”

Food preparation is an art. Child rearing is an art. It is simple and surprising but when done with confidence it is good enough to stand on its own, no excuses.

Apple Pie & ParentingAPPLE PIE & PARENTING – SAME THING

The Family; Ben Bernanke & Freeman Hrabowski

December 6, 2010 Leave a comment

I was reading an article this morning that reinforced what I have been writing about these many months. Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve Chairman, was asked about the rising financial inequality in the United States and he responded, “It’s a very bad development. It’s creating two societies. And it’s based very much, I think, on educational differences. The unemployment rate we’ve been talking about, if you’re a college graduate, unemployment is 5 percent. If you’re a high school graduate, it’s 10 percent or more. It’s a very big difference.”

Mr. Bernanke added: “It leads to an unequal society, and a society which doesn’t have the cohesion that we’d like to see.”

I found it enlightening that the Fed Chairman is aware of the huge disparity between the financial groups based upon educational achievements. The people at the bottom of the educational scale are usually minorities whose parents are uneducated and whose parents were uneducated. And so it goes, one generation of underachievers perpetuating the next generation of underachievers. This perpetual motion, an action that continues into infinity, enslaves a class of people who shroud themselves in ignorance as if it were a cloak of pride. What is it that makes people continue down the road of satisfied ignorance from generation to generation? How do we change this?

I read another story about Mr. Freeman Hrabowski, who is president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Freeman (love his first name) lays awake at night worrying about the low number of college graduates in this country who have degrees in science and engineering.

Right now only about 6 percent of young college graduates in this country have degrees in science or engineering, as opposed to about 10 percent in many developed nations. He states the numbers are far worse for minorities: only 2.7% of young African-American college graduates and 2.2% of Latinos. The United States was once the world’s leader in science education but is now far behind the rest of the world. It ranks 21st out of 30 developed nations in terms of student performance on international science tests. It ranks 27th among developed nations in the percentage of students who graduate from college with degrees in the natural sciences and in engineering.

Freeman led the committee that produced “Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation,” an eye-opening study issued by the National Academies, the country’s leading science advisory group.  The report sets the goal of nearly doubling the percentage of science graduates. To reach this goal, the country should at least triple the percentage of science and engineering degrees granted to underrepresented minority groups, who will represent nearly half the national population by the year 2050. Mr. Hrabowski leads by example at U.M.B.C., which now produces more minority scientists than any predominantly white institution in the country.

I then went on to read about 21-year-old Zakiya Qualls, a senior-year science research student at Howard University and her dream of finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease. Ms. Qualls was one of more than 150 students who received awards last month at the 10th Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students, in Charlotte, N.C. It is sponsored by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and attracted about 2,000 mainly minority students, along with hundreds of research program recruiters and professors who led seminars and judged competitions.

Then there was James McCann, a quiet young man from St. Edward’s University in Texas, who wowed the conference with his work on a bacterium that preys on victims of cystic fibrosis. And how about Melissa Youssef, a 21-year-old senior and award winner from Furman University in Greenville, S.C. whose experience at the ceremony was life changing and who went home determined to pursue both an M.D. and a Ph.D., even though it will probably take eight years.

What do these wonderful young award winners have in common beside their race or ethnicity? I am willing to bet my lucky rabbit’s foot that it is their parents. They committed to raising their children from conception to a goal of elevation, above the normal. They, as my parents, improved the next generation. Even though Asians are considered a minority group their success is unrivaled in our educational institutions across our country. I’ll bet my lucky rabbit’s foot that this is largely due to their parents, who value family, education, discipline, and ambition.

We cannot continue to disregard the importance of parenting in hopes that we can change children, who are ignored from birth, into scholars and high achievers. We must begin at the beginning and help those who are having children to become loving, committed parents. It is the parents who first open and cultivate curious minds. It is only possible to educate and enlighten minds that are open.

If we can find a way to accomplish this then Mr. Ben Bernanke and Mr. Freeman Hrabowski may turn their attention to other matters of worldly concern.

Family & Parenting = Success

The Family; The Brain Boost!

November 16, 2010 2 comments

So far we have looked at The Family from several aspects; the Smallest School, the Beginning of the Beginning, a Serious Decision, the Uterine Environment and the Moment of Birth, and Postpartum Dads. In thinking about all of this I looked at my own story and how I came to understand the serious nature of birth and childhood. It is an important decision to bring another human life in the world. But the most important parental duty of all is to ensure that the new life in your family has a chance for reaching its full potential.

It doesn’t take a PhD to raise a child in a responsible, loving, family environment. It takes careful thought, selfless action, and parental bonding. Unfortunately for the newborn child, many parents have little understanding of the most crucial and yet often neglected aspect of a newborn life, Brain Development. It is not necessary to understand all of the intricate scientific brain stuff. It is only necessary to have an understanding of the family experiences parents can present which will boost brain growth. Then a common sense, practical approach to early childhood rearing provides the proficiencies that develop Brain Growth in a way that allows your infant to leap forward into their promise.

Let me explore with you some of the research and insights regarding newborn Brain Development, from the blog Early Childhood Brain Insights. These clearly illuminate the parental care and commitment each child must be given in order to reach their promise and full potential:

Did You Know This Mom & Dad?

• Most people do not yet know that 90% of children’s brains are developed in the first 5 years, and 85% in the first 3 years. The brain adapts and grows primarily based on the experiences a child has in     these years before they enter school!

• A developing brain will adapt to whatever happens repeatedly in the environment. For a brain to develop optimally, a child needs to have fun, interesting, loving experiences throughout the day.

• Environments that are chaotic, disorderly or have high levels of stress have a direct influence on how optimally a child’s emotional and thinking areas of the brain develops.

• The easiest time for the brain to learn a second language is during the pre-school years. Research indicates there may be additional benefits when learning multiple languages. Children can develop   better overall verbal skills, a better vocabulary, and sequencing abilities.

• The brain is ready to learn basic math skills in the pre-school years. It doesn’t occur from saying the numbers in order. It learns through doing comparisons of size and shape, and few and many. Connections will be made in the brain when this is done with real objects.

• Research demonstrates that nature helps the brain relax and restore itself after experiencing stress or negative emotions.

• The quality and quantity of exposure to nature directly affects the physical health of the brain.

• Even though the brain is making trillions of connections as an infant and toddler, it takes years throughout childhood and adolescence to organize it into a mature adult brain.

• The quality of the relationship an infant has with his or her parents has a direct impact on the physical development of the brain. This impacts the nature and extent of a child’s perceptions and capabilities.

• Loving interaction with people and exploration of objects is as necessary to a child’s brain development as food.

• By the time a baby is 6 months old the brain may have developed 1,000 trillion brain connections through experiences in their environment.

• A child has already developed a perception of self and their environment by 12 -18 months based on the relationship they have with their parents.

• Brain connections for language are developed through direct interaction with parents NOT through television and videos.

• Aggression, impulsiveness, and lack of empathy can result when a brain experiences repeated neglect, chaos, or violence.

• The brain does not like chaos. It feels more comfortable when it knows what to expect.

• The absence of consistent and quality experiences leads to a loss in brain potential.

• Physical play stimulates the emotion regulating areas in the brain.

• Once the brain is developed it takes much more repetition, time, and consistency to change what has already been hard wired.

• The brain is always changing and making new connections. However, it is more difficult to modify after it has been originally wired in the newborn.

None of the above is out of reach for any parent. Early Brain Development is NOT complicated and it makes an impact that affects every one of us, especially our children. It only takes time, love, and creative thought. Each child deserves a Brain Boost in their first years, without it they are destined for a life of mediocrity and boredom.

The Family; Postpartum Dads

November 14, 2010 2 comments

We spend a lot of time in our society focusing on Mothers and their postpartum depression, which appears to occur following birth. But how about the father’s; How do they feel? What goes on in their minds and how do they cope? When a father is told, “We are going to have a baby”, the first thing that goes through his mind after adjusting to the news is, “How am I going to pay for this?” He thinks about money, current bills, future expenses, job security, education and all those things that men feel are their responsibility. Fathers get depressed too; it is not only mothers who suffer from  Postpartum depression; it’s just that fathers conceal it better.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is now looking at the effects of postpartum depression on Fathers as well as mothers. The AAP states, “Every year, more than 400,000 infants are born to mothers who are depressed, which makes perinatal depression the most under diagnosed obstetric complication in America. Postpartum depression leads to increased costs of medical care, inappropriate medical care, child abuse and neglect, discontinuation of breastfeeding, and family dysfunction and it adversely affects early brain development.”

One of the reasons that postpartum depression has garnered so much attention is because it can have serious consequences for children. The new AAP report lists the many ways in which kids of depressed moms may be worse-off: “They are more likely to have developmental delays, social and emotional difficulties, cognitive and language problems, and more.”

US News Health reports the emerging work on fathers shows that depression in dads can have similar ripple effects. In his 2006 study, J.F. Paulson, Center for Pediatric Research, Eastern Virginia Medical School, found that melancholy fathers were less likely to play with or read, sing, or tell stories to their babies. A follow-up study, published in 2009, showed that these behavioral changes can have long-term effects on child development. Sad dads read to their kids less frequently, and the less reading aloud those fathers did, the worse their 2-year-olds scored on vocabulary tests.

The National Institutes of Health conducted studies on postpartum depression. These included a national sample of 5,089 two parent families. The NIH concluded that 14% of mothers and 10% of fathers exhibited high levels of depressive symptoms. They emphasized that postpartum depression is a significant issue for fathers. “In both mothers and fathers, depressive symptoms were negatively associated with positive enrichment activity with the child (reading, singing songs, and telling stories).”

University of Oxford psychiatrist Paul Ramchandani claims that children of depressed fathers are more likely to have some genetic risk for developing their own mood disorders. But there could easily be environmental mechanisms at work as well. “Depression affects how fathers interact with their children,” Ramchandani says. “They may be more irritable, they may be more withdrawn. That might affect children’s understanding of emotions and how they learn to regulate their own emotions.” Mood problems may also influence a fathers’ ability to work, affect the strength of his marital relationship, and more—any of which could put their kids at risk.

The accumulated evidence is clear: Depression in new dads—whatever the name, whatever the mechanism—is a real problem that has gone undiagnosed for many years. Men by their very nature are not allowed to talk about their inner selves or express their feelings. Society expects them to be the provider and not to admit any emotional stress. The stress on some men must be enormous, but they can’t express it and they have to bottle it all up because most of the attention when a newborn enters the family is focused on the mother and the baby.

Parents may miss their own doctor’s appointments but they never miss seeing the pediatrician. We need for pediatricians to look for depressed symptoms in fathers and offer advice and/or support systems where fathers as well as mothers may receive help from peer groups who have experienced these symptoms. Presently services are fragmented for fathers and are focused mainly upon mothers and their child.

Mary Alabaster, head of maternal mental health at South Essex Partnership Trust Runwell Hospital said: “Fathers psychological health is a neglected area. We do a lot for mothers, but not for dads. When I see women, I am often left wondering how their partners are coping.”


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