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Every father wants to be a good parent and role model for his children.

On May 11, 2016, just prior to the start of the summer break, 53 families attended an evening event dedicated to enriching relationships between children and their fathers or father figures. Family Servcies Child Development offered the Father/Father Figure Game Night to male caregivers of children who are enrolled in the agency’s Head Start program.

“Research shows that children with involved fathers have greater academic success, more positive social behavior, and better self-esteem. Our goal is to encourage fathers to strengthen their parenting role by engaging in more play and activities with their children,” said event coordinator Shonna Trinidad, who serves as Parent and Family Engagement Manager at the Sarah Y. Austin Head Start.

Offering educational opportunities on parenting skills and involvement is an expectation of the national Head Start program, which Family Services has operated in Forsyth County for more than 50 years.

Participants at the first “father-focused” event included fathers, step-fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and men who are “like dads.” They took part in activities that helped them learn how to take a leadership role in interacting and relating to their children.

Tables were set up with various board games, puzzles, and activities and an explanation about the significance of the game or the benefit of parent involvement. One poster, for example, displayed, “When kids play with older role models they can learn how to win—and lose—with grace and good manners.”

A donation of 30 children’s building kits from The Home Depot generated the most popular table.

Fathers also participated in outdoor activities, such as writing with sidewalk chalk, netting rubber fish out of the swimming pool, and blowing bubbles. Group games included a raucous game of musical chairs that had everyone laughing.

A guest speaker reminded all of the men present that they may be role models to someone in the community and not even realize it. And, that it was important to remember that little ones are always watching and that they crave parental attention.

Trinidad said the event was successful because it was a collaborative effort among staff and teachers to strengthen families.

“We hope to make Father/Father Figure Game Night an annual event and to also offer a similar event at the beginning of the school year to encourage all family members to get involved sooner. It’s important to celebrate families as early as possible in the program year in order to keep them engaged and support them as they figure out how they can best apply their skills in their child’s education,” she said.