Maintaining family traditions; stability in a world that often isn’t.

holding-hands-1My son and daughter are five years apart. My favorite picture of the two of them was taken the day my daughter was born. My son had taken a big brother class at the hospital and understood that she would look up to him and follow him as the older sibling. The first time they met, she gazed up into his eyes and I’m so grateful my sister-in-law captured it on film. He loved being my helper, getting her diaper or toys when I asked and I tried to give him all of the quality time I could when she was napping or down for the night.

Even after the separation, as a solo parent I would still be conscious of the attention that she naturally received as the baby of the family. I made sure they were treated equally regarding chores and rules and would let him stay up to watch television or play a game with me after I tucked her in at night. What I refer to as our night-time snuggle hour (it was cute then, not so much now that he’s a teenager) is a tradition now and even though he won’t admit it, I know he looks forward to it at least once or twice a week. Now that my son is a teenager and my daughter a tween, both are going through emotional and physical changes which naturally distances them. As an introvert, he spends a lot of time in his room and she commands my time and all of the rest of the space in the house with her creative endeavors. I understand that they need the space to develop in their own way but I have to admit it’s been difficult as a parent watching powerless, as age difference, school and puberty send them to their separate corners of the world.

I must admit I had given up on our family rituals. Running a household, business and caring for two school aged children is more than a full-time job. I’m usually ready to go to bed before they do, and I felt that they had grown out of our summer vacations, back to school gifts, end of school dinner celebration, church service (twice a month if we can), midnight or early morning movies in our pajamas, Friday pizza and movie nights and other traditions until recently. For the first time in close to a year we watched a movie together last night sharing pizza and the same couch! I almost always order pizza and this past year I would be the only one sitting on the couch watching the movie or most likely it would be just my daughter and I. Last night was different. I ordered the pizza and made plans to go out to a local fundraiser when I expected the kids would be retired to their rooms; but as usual when I make plans, God laughs! After the pizza was demolished I turned on The Dark Knight and invited my son to sit and watch it with me. Years ago he was fascinated by all of the Marvel and DC Comics but gave it up when he got the message from peers that enjoying action figures was childish. I walked out of the room and was floored when I saw him actually reclining on the couch waiting for me. My daughter, not to be outdone fought for her spot on the couch too. I had to play referee once or twice but we watched the entire movie together as a family. I was waiting for them both the bail mid-movie but they didn’t. I silently apologized to my conscience for missing the fundraiser so I could be present, enjoying the snuggle and bonding time with my children instead. I went to bed hopeful and determined to slowly reinstate the not so typical family traditions that we have created over the years. At a time when so much in their lives is changing, the ability to rely on mom’s sometimes quirky traditions offers the nurturing and stability they so desperately need. I am aware that every night may not have a fairy tale ending and that traditions may continue to be tested, yet I remain encouraged. Pizza and move night was a reminder that consistency is important and not to give up until the miracle happens.

What are some of the non-traditional traditions that bring your family together? Feel free to share in the comments below or email us at africanamericanparenting@gmail.com.

~African American Parenting

#FREE Criminal Record Expungement Clinic, September 23rd, Philadelphia!

Sept 23 expungement 2017

Fatherhood advice via new website for Daddy University

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Re-post of the January 8, 2017 article about Daddy University, a Fatherhood support resource, in the Philadelphia Tribune:

The leadership team at Daddy University has started off the new year with a brand new website to help guide fathers of all ages through parenthood.

Located at daddyuniv.com, the website offers a baby supplies checklist for new fathers, legal information and a place for fathers to share their story of challenge or triumph.

While the website is new, the male parenting education company Daddy University has helped fathers in the Philadelphia area since 2004.

For eight months out of the year, fathers come to the West Philadelphia YMCA to meet with President and CEO Joel Austin and discuss topics ranging from how to communicate with a rebellious teen to how to braid their daughter’s hair.

Austin, a father of four, was inspired to create Daddy University after taking his eldest son to a Big Brother/Big Sister class at a nearby hospital. While hospital staff taught his son how to change a diaper and help out mom and dad, Austin realized he needed to take notes too.

“I am now the head of my household, and the only one who has had no training in taking care of children,” Austin said. “Even my five-year old has had a better class than me.”

He decided enough was enough. First, Austin started researching lessons on childcare online. Most of his results were from maternity websites. Next, he and co-founder Edward McGee started meeting with focus groups. After those took off in popularity, Austin and McGee then launched the Fathers Club with a full class curriculum.

“It’s not about fatherhood over motherhood, it’s about having two educated parents to raise a child,” Austin said.

In the past, people have joined the Fathers Club through word-of-mouth or recommendations from social services. Attendance ranges from 50 to 100 people, from teen fathers to grandparents caring for their grandchildren.

One of the first lessons Austin teaches is personal responsibility. Instead of referring to the child’s mother by name, he tells the men in his class to use the phrase, “the woman I chose.” Austin also teaches parents how to communicate with their children. His solution-based lessons help parents create more time between reacting and responding to an issue.

“The biggest problem I have in my class is that many of my men are not taught conflict resolution,” Austin said. “The thing is, everybody can actually win.”

The Fathers Club classes cover the time between a child is born to adulthood. With his oldest children in their early 20’s, Austin says he doesn’t believe in 18 being the magic number.

“So you were dumb at 17-and-a-half, but for some reason at 18 you’re supposed to be given this miraculous gift from the heavens of knowledge?” he said. “Instead, he works with parents to develop an exit strategy so children can be successful after they leave the home.

“None of them are raising children,” Austin added. “They are raising somebody’s future husband, wife, mother or father.”

Other than weekly classes, Daddy University also offers a fatherhood conference, young male Conference, mother and son dance and a daddy and daughter dance. The daddy and daughter dance takes the form of a debutante ball, and ticket sales help fund Daddy University. About 50 people showed up to the first dance. Seven years later, more than 650 fathers took their daughters to dance.

“We didn’t realize that a lot of adult women would be bringing their dads as well,” Austin said. “Now, the ages of the event are three years old all the way up to 60 or 70.”

With the website now active, the leaders at Daddy University are now looking towards advocacy for parenting rights and expanding the Fathers Club to the South Philadelphia YMCA. Austin plans to continue guiding dads in parenthood.

“I want people to have fun with parenting,” he said. “Crawl on the floor as much as you can.”

Information and ways to donate to Daddy University are available online at daddyuniv.com.

mearls@phillytrib.com

(215) 893-5732

Teachable Moments; 6 things I wish I knew before my daughter’s brain injury

wp-1483807802159.jpgLife can change in a blink of an eye. It’s a phrase you hear often and never really “get” until it happens. One day my nine-year old was walking, reading Harry Potter novels repeatedly, running after her friends and swimming like a fish and it all ceased within the seconds that passed when she slipped on wet leaves, fell forward onto a wooden beam on the ground and injured her head. We have both gone through the difficult phases of grief and as a parent it’s just natural to wonder if there was something I could have done differently or sooner to help her heal. What I’ve learned with the help of my dear friends (and some strangers) who allowed me to release my fears and frustrations into their ears was that I had no control over this accident nor could I change the way I navigated my way  through the health care matrix to find the appropriate care for her. What I can do however, is share my experience so that another parent is better informed about brain injury in children than I was when this accident occurred so here goes…

6 Things I wish I knew before my child’s head injury:

  1. Keep them home from school the following day.

    Luckily her accident happened the day before a holiday and she was able to rest for three days before she returned to school. Some of her concussion symptoms did not present themselves until close to a week later but if I was aware of the protocol for children who fell and hit their head I would have taken her to the doctor the next day.

  2. Get an incident report

    In my daughter’s case no one saw her fall and I was at work and unable to see her until an hour or so after the incident. We all had to take her word for what happened. It’s best for insurance documentation to get an incident report from the school (or organization if your child is at day care, summer camp or sports). Most child care organizations are required to fill out a report and should give you a copy. If they don’t, ask for it.

  3. Even if your child has only one symptom, take him/her to the pediatrician for evaluation

    Refer to #1 above for the list of concussion signs and symptoms from the Center for Disease Control. I’ve learned that not every child exhibits symptoms in the same time frame and severity and it’s best to proceed on the side of caution and take them to the pediatrician for evaluation even if they complain of only a headache. Your doctor may tell you that protocol is to wait a week but I would insist on having your child seen anyway.

  4. Seek out a pediatric concussion specialist in your area.

    Not every neurologist or hospital ER has a wealth of experience with every age range and not every pediatrician specializes in brain medicine. It took almost a month of going to doctors and emergency rooms before I found a doctor that best suited my daughter’s needs. I am not sure why but her first doctor did not seem to have compassion for her and her immediate needs. I asked neighbors and friends in the medical field until I received a few referrals for her specialty. My next step was to check to see which were covered under our insurance which narrowed the list down further. We are located in Pennsylvania, but the Brain Injury Association in your area can provide a list of service providers. I have also learned that sometimes to connect with the right doctor, you have to be willing travel. Don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion. Our second doctor was the best fit for her.

  5. Contact your school district and county for resources

    It wasn’t until I sought out a second opinion, six weeks post injury that I was informed there was a school re-entry program specifically for children with brain injury. This consulting division of our county’s Intermediary Unit serves as a liaison between the school and families and provides you with the resources and support you need to transition your child back to school. Brainsteps, the consulting program in Pennsylvania is fully funded by the state. My daughter’s case manager has visited our home and provided such encouragement for my daughter and myself!

  6. Make self-care a priority; ask for help and don’t be too proud to accept it!

I had no idea how exhausting and stressful it would be mentally and physically to manage a household, business (I’m self-employed) and my daughter’s care after her brain injury. Luckily I have a “village” of friends who knew it would drain me and immediately offered to help. I didn’t want to bother anyone because I knew they all had families to support but my friend reminded me that there’s enough compassion in this world for everyone. She asked if she could set up a meal train which allows neighbors to sign up and bring home cooked meals to your family. I didn’t realize how much time I spent on preparing and cooking our meals until I didn’t have to! Other friends have come to visit, helped with laundry and housecleaning or sat with my children so I could go out to the movies or just sit still with a cup of coffee or have a glass of wine with a good friend. You have to find time for yourself away from the stress and strain where you can relax and release. The help is available but you have to ask for and allow yourself to receive the help. Genuine help is there ; you are better able to care for your child when you take the time to care for yourself.

You may have experienced brain injury, be a medical professional or have a young child who may one day be diagnosed with a concussion; either way I hope this has been helpful to you.

Feel free to share and comment here if this was helpful and please take a moment to become a friend on our Facebook Page for African American Parenting.

Thank you for visiting. Make today great!

 

 

 

Habari Gani? Imani! (Faith)

Kwanzaa kinara--Virgin IslandsHappy New Year! Heri Za Kwanzaa (Happy Kwanzaa) ! Wishing you an abundance of joy, love and all things positive in the coming year. It has been a while since African-American Parenting has posted and I am committed to sharing on a more consistent basis in 2017. The past year has been tumultuous and we have been watching the community struggle, fight and bravely stand up for the preservation of our families, children and neighborhoods. There have been a lot of innocent lives lost yet it is promising to see the eruption of organizations and movements committed to fighting against brutality, inequality and institutionalized racism.

Our focus at African-American Parenting is to not only inform but to be a place of support and resource for those families, parents and community organizations to gather, share stories and find comfort and unity. Please feel free to email us at africanamericanparenting@gmail.com if you would like to submit a story, essay to the blog. Also if you have an idea, question, problem or anything you would like to see addressed or published on the blog, feel free to leave it in the comment section below.

Please  visit and become a “friend” of our Facebook page for African American Parenting which is often updated with local (tri-state area of NJ, PA, DE) and sometimes national events that support and educate the African-American community.

By no coincidence, on the seventh and final day of Kwanzaa, Imani (Faith) our family prepares for a Karamu (feast) where we break bread and share libations, review the Nguzo Saba (seven principles) and symbols of Kwanzaa, honor our ancestors and enjoy the love and accomplishments of both elders and youth.

Following in this tradition, it is for us then a time to ask and answer soberly and humbly the three Kawaida questions: Who am I; am I really who I say I am; and am I all I ought to be? And it is, of necessity, a time to recommit ourselves to our highest ideals, in a word, to the best of what it means to be both African and human in the fullest sense. ~ From The Official Kwanzaa Website

It is the best way for us to bring in the new year. In the spirit of Imani, we call upon our ancestors for their wisdom and strength and use the energy of the day and the collective village to sustain and increase our faith. With the uncertainties of the coming year it is the most important weapon in my humble opinion.

Wishing you an abundant new year!

 

FREE Be Healthy Expo, August 13th, Camden NJ , Sponsored by CAMCare and Radio One. Fun for the entire family!

Free Health Screenings, Special guests, vendors, celebrity basketball game, line dancing and fun for the entire family! 10AM -4PM. 1865 Harrison Avenue, Camden NJ 08105

Be Healthy 2016 w CamcareBe Healthy General Tentative Outline

Work Shops

  • Chubbie’s (Kids Workshops for ages 5 – 12)
  • Ray and Joan Kroc Salvation Army Community Center Presentation
  • Local Physicians

Vendors Available From 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Indoor Fitness Activities

  • Line Dancing with Yolanda Sample – with Lady B
  • “Big Girl Work Out” with Praise 103.9 host Dezzie (Family Fitness)
  • Fit Camp Lite by WIT (Whatever It Takes) Fitness Group (Adult Fitness)

Outdoor Fitness Activities – Brought to you by The Army

  • Family Challenges

Celebrity Basketball Game

  • Hosted by Radio-One Talent, Musicians, Comedians, and Former Sports Players! We Also Have A Halftime Slam Dunk Contest!

June 25TH National Fatherhood Conference, Rescheduled – Philadelphia, PA

 

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Update: The Fatherhood Conference had to be rescheduled due to issues with the venue, but it is on and upgraded this Saturday! There will be prizes such as laptops given away for fathers and young men. Please come out 9am-3pm!

This is the eleventh year that Joel Austin, the founder of Daddy University has traveled throughout the city of Philadelphia from radio station to television interview, blog interview and social networking gatherings to convey his passion for combating fatherlessness and supporting men who desire to be the best Fathers their children need. There is an epidemic of fatherlessness in our communities which can be traced back to slavery, and is exacerbated by today’s judicial system that unfairly targets and prosecutes African-American men at an alarming rate. According to the NAACP Criminal Fact Sheet, one in six African-American men are in prison compared to 1 in 100 African American women.

We need our men. We need our men to be great leaders, providers and fathers. When previously incarcerated fathers are released into society, who is there to help them reconnect with their offspring? When young men become fathers and have no male figure in their lives, who will guide them and support them? When our husbands, sons and grandchildren need resources to help them learn good parenting and or/co-parenting skills, where will they go to seek help? The National Fatherhood Conference  is the answer.

This FREE conference held in the Philadelphia School District Education Center, 440 North Broad Street, Philadelphia PA in addition to free breakfast and lunch, provides numerous workshops on everything from custody to co-parenting, financial literacy, and even how to do your daughter’s hair. There is also LIMITED free childcare for those who register early, and a Young Men’s Conference for those who bring their sons between the age of 11 and 18. The Young Men’s Conference runs the same time as the Fatherhood Conference and they will also be provided breakfast and lunch if they register. The time to reach our young men is now, before they fall victim to the school to prison pipeline. Even if you are not a father or for some reason are not attending the conference, you can still register a young man and bring him to attend. The Young Men’s workshops include but are not limited to entrepreneurship, resolving conflict and dealing with “haters” as well as hygiene and financial literacy.

You can find out more information on the flyers above and below this post and by visiting the 11th National Fatherhood Conference registration page. African American Parenting will be in attendance and will post a picture of you and your child on our Facebook post to show all of the wonderful fathers and father figures in attendance. Register today and let us  applaud you for your desire to be the best father your child deserves!

Register Here —-> National Fatherhood Conference

We’ll see you at the Conference!

Young Men Conference