The Importance of Fatherhood

Written by: Selena DiGiovanni

This week, Obama gave his annual State of the Union Address. He carefully presented a plan to help this country grow and change. But one of the most underrated statements which President Obama made was about strong families and the importance of fathers.

“…And we’ll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples and do more to encourage fatherhood, because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child, it’s having the courage to raise one,” said Obama.

We have always known that fathers are important in our children’s lives, but our presidents have never made it a priority to call fathers back to their children.  We have never been told by our president that fathers need to form stronger bonds with our children. That is because, until recently, we have not known the true extent of the importance of fathers.

Father and baby bond.

Spending time with your children can make a world of difference.

In the past, several studies have been published which acknowledge that living in a strong home as a child leads to stronger lives in general. However, recent studies have gone into more depth, saying that, in order to have a strong foundation, both parents should be present in a child’s day to day life.

While it may seen like a minor difference, having a father in the home makes a tremendous difference to a child’s life. Studies conducted in Sweden have shown that children, both male and female, who have an active relationship with their father are likely to reap the benefits of that relationship. Benefits include fewer behavioral problems, as well as better social relationships with both genders.

“Long-term benefits included women who had better relationships with partners and a greater sense of mental and physical well-being at the age of 33 if they had a good relationship with their father at 16,” said Dr. Anna Sarkadi of the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health at Uppsala University in Sweden.

In 2011, 27% of children (ages 0-17) in the US were living in one parent households. Of that 27%, approximately 75% of children were living in single mother households. That means that about 20.25% of children in the US are living without a father figure in their life. This number is higher than it has ever been, and in such stressful and tumultuous times, the benefits of having a loving father has never been more important.

A father reads to his son.

Connecting with your children is incredibly important.

While the mere presence of a father is not enough, building a strong relationship between children and their fathers is incredibly simple. Children simply require a loving bond with their father in order to form a lasting relationship. Fathers are strongly encouraged to engage their children emotionally and emotional moments as a time for learning on both sides. What you do in the short term can mean a world of difference for your children.

The men in our nation have been called upon to show courage. If you have the courage, love your children.

Local Highschool to Take a Stand on Social Health of Students.

Written by: Kaitlyn Burkhart

Any person who has served his or her four years in public highschool knows what a positive – or not – experience it can be. While the stories of teen depression, tech-savvy bullies, and even suicides increase, it seems as if authority figures in and out of the teen scene are at a loss for ways to answer the question, ‘How can we improve relationships between students?’ Two years ago, this question was passed to a handful of students in an Albany, Ore. high school, and as it turns out, they had a pretty good answer.

At the start of the 2009-2010 school year, West Albany High School health teacher Laura Blackwell asked this question of her service learning class, known as PEERS, a class designed to make its’ students socially aware of their peers, and to teach them how to be a part of and promote a healthy environment for the entire school. There had been long running curiosity on the benefits of a ‘Challenge Day’, a program centered around improving relationship amongst students with a six-and-a-half hour long workshop where students play get-to-know-you games, listen to several guest speakers, and then are divided into small groups for a guided discussion. When a body of students commits to the workshop, as is usually the case, it becomes and emotional, enlightening, and gratifying experience for every person involved. The idea was widely accepted between the two periods of PEERS classes, though they were not so keen on the idea of paying thousands of dollars for the Challenge Day organization to come for one day. They believed that they had the leadership capable of pulling off a Challenge Day of their own, and the PEERS classes entered the development stage of their own program.

A few months later ‘Impact Day’ was born.

On it’s test run in the spring of 2010, Impact Day pulled 100 students from the junior and senior classes for a day long workshop. Impact day loosely followed the outline of Challenge Day, though with games, speakers and presentation individualized to the West Albany High School students, as well as other games and activities that the school has been playing in pep assemblies for years. With the students familiarity with the leadership, location, and events, Impact Day was hailed as a success and slated for two more reappearances for the junior and senior classes again in the 2010-2011 school year.

Class of 2012 Seniors playing a get to know you game on their Impact Day in November.

After some small tweaks, the event concluded a three-run-strong test drive, and was brought before the Greater
Albany Public School board in the summer of 2011. After approval, Principal Susan Orsborn announced that for the 2012-2013 school year, Impact Day would be mandatory for all students, and made plans for four different event days throughout the year, each dedicated to a specific class with specific materials to cover the issues that each age group faces. So far this year, two Impact Days have passed, for the juniors and seniors it has made a big change. “You can see it,” says senior Lindsey Ridler, “You can see it in people’s body language in large groups, in the way they talk to each other one on one, in the atmosphere itself. You can tell that something changed, even if you can’t place your finger on the specifics.”

West Albany High School has since become a model for several other schools looking to improve the social health of their students, including South Albany, Lebanon and Crescent Valley High Schools, all centered in the Willamette Valley in Oregon.