Special to South Florida Times
FORT LAUDERDALE — Wayne Tyler of Hollywood is a single father of twins. The 42- year-old said that parenting alone can be “frustrating, tiring and without a lot of answers.”
With a son, a daughter and a full-time job, Tyler said, “There’s school, discipline, cooking, keeping them out of trouble; and with my daughter now a teen, sometimes I just don’t know the answers to her questions.”
And that, Tyler said, “is when the guilt of divorce sets in.”
For Jonathan Neal of Fort Lauderdale, the experience of fatherhood “sometimes makes you feel like you are on an island by yourself. No matter what walk of life, what culture, where we are from, (single fathers are) really doing the same thing: working hard to raise our kids.”
Tyler and Neal shared these remarks during the National Partnership for Community Leadership’s (NPCL) 14th annual International Fatherhood Conference (IFC). The June 12-15 event, themed Expanding Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Family Program Connections, took place at the Westin Hotel, 400 Corporate Dr., Fort Lauderdale.
The goal was to gather people with a common interest in strengthening families “and to get them to discuss programs and strategies on how we can positively engage fathers in the lives of children,” said Jeffrey Johnson, NPCL president and CEO.
The dynamics of the family are changing, Johnson said, adding that more than 24 million children are without active fathers, “which increases the risk of school failure, juvenile delinquency and early pregnancy.”
He added that “When the father is actively involved, the child’s verbal and reading skills improve and they are less likely to drop out or seek trouble.”
NEW DAY FOR DADS
In its 14th year, IFC is the longest running fatherhood conference in the United States, Johnson said. According to an NPCL study, boys who grow up without fathers are more likely to become unmarried fathers at a young age, perpetuating the cycle of absentee fatherhood. Girls growing up without fathers are more likely to fall victim to early sexual involvement and teenage pregnancy, perpetuating the cycle of single-parenthood.
NPCL is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting, strengthening, and empowering families and communities through education, organizational development, research, and policy reform.
During the workshop titled Powers of Perception, presenter Jay Johnson of Florida PTA asked the fathers: “How are you (demonstrating that you are) raising your children through your own actions … through what you say, through how you say it, through what you do, when you do it?”
Tyler said that the questions “opened his eyes. I really try to model what I teach, but do I? There are certain things that I do not allow in my home, especially with having a daughter. I watch both kids and sometimes see myself. And I don’t always like what I see. But I do make an effort to recognize and change,” he said.
Florida PTA, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit educational organization, is the largest statewide volunteer organization working exclusively on behalf of children and youth.
VARIETY OF HELP
Other conference workshop topics included: Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Marriage; Understanding the Relationship Between Hip Hop and Fatherhood; Parents, Children and Divorce; Asset Building for Noncustodial Fathers in the Child Support Program; and Deployed Dads: Strengthening Military and Veteran Fathers, Families and Communities.
After attending the Fathers in Transition workshop, Neal shared that listening to the speakers “was interesting because some of the things that they were saying were some of the things that I am going through now as a single father.”
Neal said that he appreciated the conference offering what he described as “an outlet. I guess to hear others share their issues
was a good thing.”
Erick Carter may be reached at email@example.com
Photo: Jeffery M. Johnson