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June 13, 2014

Don’t Call ‘Em Mr. Mom!

Father's Role in Child's Speech DevelopmentPost Contributed by Amy Svensson MA, CCC-SLP

While living in Sweden back in ’06/’07 I was in complete awe of all the dads walking the streets with their very young children, playing with their kids on the playgrounds late a.m./mid-day (not after work hours), and watching them talk with their children while out shopping (I speak and understand Swedish so I was able to really pick up on the variety of language they were using)! Not only as a stay-at-home mom at the time, but also as a speech-language pathologist it was so wonderful to witness such language engaging interactions between dad’s and their children. In Sweden, parents are allowed 16 months of combined paid maternity/paternity leave (dreamy, right?). No child is even allowed in a daycare prior to 16 months of age. Often, moms take the 1st 10-12 months off and then the dads take the remaining 4-6 months off, hence the reason I saw so many dads hanging out with their very young children. What I experienced first-hand was that the work/life family balance is so cherished in Sweden as was evident by the fact that the workday ends at 5:00. Nothing work-wise is too important to carry on any later than that. I loved that my husband was home by 5:00 every single day the entire time we lived abroad.  He had no late meetings scheduled with other parts of the world to accommodate time differences.  What did not get done before 5:00 p.m. would have to wait.  I always felt totally connected as a family and that the year in Sweden allowed for an even deeper bonding experience between my husband and our only child at the time.

As we near Father’s Day on Sunday, I have been reflecting on how dad’s across the globe are taking on so much more than used to be the case 30+ years ago. Father’s weren’t even allowed in the delivery rooms and now they are right there cutting the umbilical cord and changing diapers. Even better, more dads are taking on more of the car pooling, making dental/health appointments, grocery shopping, doing the laundry, arranging play dates, etc.; many of which are not stay-at-home dads, but are simply sharing the responsibilities in tandem with working full-time. We are getting more and more stay-at-home dads calling to make their child’s speech-language appointments (but don’t call ’em Mr. Mom). Funny enough, we recently had a stay-at-home dad bring his child to the first appointment and the dad commented, “You must not get many dads filling out the Case History form?” He pointed out that one of the questions asked did not apply to him 🙂 “Were there complications during your pregnancy, labor, or delivery?” That was a very eye opening moment. At that moment, I realized that roles are continuously changing and being shared and more dads are filling out these forms. I immediately took a look at the other questions to make sure they were all gender/parent neutral. I am glad I did because that same week, we had 3 more stay-at-home dads call to make appointments.

Happy Father’s Day !!!!  Dads! Dads! Dads! Dads are ever present these days in their children’s lives. OK, sometimes I feel like it is Father’s Day every day in my house, but when I start to get resentful of all that I am doing in a given moment (and have to deep breathe and count to 10), I step back and relish in all that my husband does to be connected with our family.  I am truly grateful!  This said, I am quick to celebrate this increased father involvement, but in the midst of all this great role-shifting/role-sharing progress, there is something I still see a lot of in my practice, and that is dads not agreeing with their spouse or even the SLP that their child has a speech-language deficit/need. They have a hard time with acceptance that their child has a delay in communication. They often have another agenda for their child and different expectations they do not want to let go of. It is quite detrimental to the process of speech-language improvement because the home component is just as important as the direct treatment. Thankfully, with proper consultation and guidance following a thorough evaluation, we see these dads be more accepting of the findings and recommendations and are often the dads who are the ones bringing their child to treatment sessions. They see the progress and positive difference intervention makes for their child and they are proud to be part of it.

Winnie-the-Poh-quote

While working on this blog post, I started to research various sites I found to be resourceful to improve relationship enrichment between dads and their child(ren); all of which improve communication between them. There are so many out there so this list is non-exhaustive. Have one to add? Please add it in the ‘comments.’ This list will eventually move to our Resources Page for quick reference. ~

At Home Dad

Dads Adventure

Stay At Home Dads Meetup Groups

National Fatherhood Initiative

Dads 4 Special Kids

Activities for Dads and Kids

Talk to Your Baby

Children’s Books about Dads

Daddy Bloggers

 

Happy Father’s Day to all the great dad’s out there!

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