A Letter from the Heart (Of A County Jail)

hamblen jail letter blurredTEAM DAD has been offering its Fathering Connection classes in local county jails for almost two years now. We call the effort: Never Leave A Dad Behind. Most participants have responded favorably. Every week finds real men taking responsibility for their actions, and expressing a desire to become the dads their kids deserve.

The latest jail to partner with TEAM DAD is in Hamblen County.  Four men completed the inaugural class.  Not only did they get something from the experience, they penned a letter of thanks to the Jail Administration suggesting the Fathering Connection could benefit other inmates:

We the inmates of the Hamblen County Workhouse who participated in the TEAM DAD program greatly appreciate the opportunity. 

We have learned a lot about budgeting our finances, communication with our children’s mother, and avoiding domestic violence situations. 

Because of this program, we now have greater hope and the tools we need to break the cycle of  being incarcerated and to be better fathers to our children.

We think this program will benefit the fathers in the rest of the jail population.

Again Thank You for the opportunity to participate in this program.

IMG_3676Those are strong words from four men who have made a decision that can positively impact their families for generations to come.  Men who have chosen not to make excuses but to make a difference. Men who want to build a legacy. It is an honor and a privilege to have such men on our team.

TEAM DAD’s Fathering Connection classes use material developed by the National Fatherhood Initiative in a discussion-based format that addresses issues common to all men.  The sessions are offered to inmates in jail in Monroe, Cocke, Grainger and Hamblen counties.  TEAM DAD is not just for men behind bars. The same classes are also available at no cost outside the jail to men in those same counties(as well as in Jefferson and Sevier). To find out how to join the TEAM and become the dad you have always wanted to be call 423-318-6914.

Good Gifts From Dad

christmas present dadIt’s that time of year again.  And if you’re like many dads you are trying to find the perfect gifts for your kids while still being able to pay your bills.  No easy task.

But some of the most important gifts given to kids can’t be purchased at the mall or online.  Ron Edmonson has put together a list of such gifts that will last much longer than the holiday season.   His list of “The Best Gifts A Dad Can Give” include:

  • The confidence to say, “No thank you. That’s not for me.” Dads can give a child the ability to stand for what’s right, rather than following the crowd. A “gifted” child has that gut emotion of not only knowing the right thing but actually have the courage to do it.
  • The gumption to follow through on commitments. Dads have the ability to gift their child a “follow-through-mentality”. They do this by following through on their own commitments – to their child, their mother, and everyone else in their life.
  • The courage to face fears. Dads give their children courage as they model facing risk and experiencing adventure – even when afraid.
  • The affirmation to pursue great dreams. Everyone needs someone in their corner who can affirm “You’ve got this! You can make it! Go for it!” Dads are uniquely positioned to be this gift in a child’s life.

So this year, as you search for that perfect gift, remember that the best gifts a father can give often don’t come wrapped in a box but have more to do with building their character.   No batteries required!

To read Edmonson’s complete list click here: Best Gifts A Dad Can Give

Help With “The Talk”

fathersonDad, do you know who has the biggest influence on your son or daughter when it comes to sex?

You and their mother do.

With that in mind, what message are you sending them about your values when it comes to a subject most of us find difficult to discuss?

October is National “Let’s Talk Month.” It is a month set aside to encourage parents to talk to their kids about sex and relationships.  The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy suggest Ten Tips for Parents To Help Their Children Avoid Teen Pregnancy:

  1. Be clear about your own sexual values and attitudes. Communicating with your children about sex, love, and relationships is often more successful when you are clear in your own mind about these issues
  2. Talk with your children early and often about sex, and be specific. Young people have lots of questions about sex, love, and relationships. And they often say that the source they’d most like to go for answers is their parents. Start the conversation, and make sure that it is honest, open, and respectful.
  3. Supervise and monitor your children and adolescents.  Establish rules, curfews, and standards of expected behavior, preferably through an open process of family discussion and respectful communication.
  4. Know your children’s friends and their families. Friends have a strong influence on each other, so help your children and teenagers become friends with kids whose families share your values.
  5. Discourage early, frequent, and steady dating. Group activities among young people are fine and often fun, but allowing teens to begin one-on-one dating much before age 16 can lead to trouble.
  6. Take a strong stand against your daughter dating a boy significantly older than she is. And don’t allow your son to develop an intense relationship with a girl much younger than he is. Older guys can seem glamorous to a young girl. But the risk of matters getting out of hand increases when the guy is much older than the girl.
  7. Help your teenagers to have options for the future that are more attractive than early pregnancy and parenthood. The chances that your son or daughter will delay having sex, pregnancy, and parenthood are significantly increased if their future appears bright. This means helping them set meaningful goals for the future, talking to them about what it takes to make future plans come true, and helping them reach their goals.
  8. Let your kids know that you value education highly. Encourage your child to take school seriously and set high expectations about their school performance. School failure is often an early sign of trouble. Be very attentive to your child’s progress in school and intervene early if things aren’t going well.
  9. Know what your kids are watching, reading, and listening to. Television, radio, movies, music videos, magazines, and the Internet are chock full of material sending the wrong messages – Sex rarely has meaning, unplanned pregnancy seldom happens, and no one who is having sex ever seems to be married or even especially committed to anyone. Is this consistent with your expectations and values? If not, it is important to talk with your children about what the media portray and what you think about it.
  10. Helping your children avoid teen pregnancy works best as part of a strong, close relationship with them, that is built from an early age. Strive for a relationship that is warm in tone, firm in discipline, and rich in communication and one that emphasizes mutual trust and respect.

For more information or to download a copy of this resource click here: 10 Tips

An Important Conversation

The images are disturbing to say the least.no violence

A man and a woman in an elevator appear to be arguing when he punches her and she bounces off the wall and collapses unconscious on the floor.  When the door opens he drags her unresponsive body out.  The two people involved were NFL running back Ray Rice and his then-fiancé Janay Palmer.  The release of the video has led to a national discussion about domestic violence and Rice’s indefinite suspension.

Dad, chances are your kids have also seen the video.  This gives you an opportunity to talk with your daughters and your sons about domestic violence.  It might be an uncomfortable discussion but it is terribly important.  It allows you to discuss your feelings about the issue and give advice on how they can avoid being involved in violence as they grow up.

Dr. Tina Payne Bryson gives pointers on what you might want to tell your daughter:

  1. Teach her that she’s a strong, competent individual. Build your daughter’s sense of self-worth and confidence. Teach your daughter that she has a powerful “NO!” and that she doesn’t have to put up with anything that isn’t respectful and loving from anyone.
  2. Teach her how to set standards and choose a great partner. Even before she begins to date, you should talk to her about setting standards for any relationship she’s involved in. Have her watch the way someone treats others, and help her understand that this is a good indication of how she’ll be treated down the road.
  3. Teach her to watch for red flags. Including: controlling behavior, emotional abuse, a violent temper and a cycle of violence. Help your daughter understand the danger in allowing herself to be treated badly the first time, so she won’t become trapped in the cycle of violence.
  4. Teach her that she can always come to you and tell you anything. As parents, we hope our children know this truth, but we have to tell them. Make sure that there’s no doubt in her mind that if she needs help, you will always be there for her.

You can read Dr. Bryson’s entire article here:  http://www.justmommies.com/articles/domestic-violence-girls.shtml

When talking with your son about this issue consider two main points:

  • It is NEVER ever acceptable for a man or boy to hit a woman or girl. EVER.
  •  Respect is the key. Model appropriate behavior and attitudes toward women and girls and discuss them with your son. Teach him that women are of equal value to men. They should never be considered property. They are more than “body parts” and shouldn’t be reduced to sexual objects.

And just like with a daughter, it is important for your son to know that you are available to talk about violence, anger, or any other issue that is important to him.

You might seek out additional resources through your local school guidance office, health department or domestic violence shelter. Good information can also be found online. One such resource is A Call To Men, an organization that is dedicated to ending violence toward women and helping men escape what they term “The Manbox.” Their website can be found here:   http://www.acalltomen.org/educate

So Dad, roll up your shirt sleeve and start a conversation that might be awkward but could have a huge impact on your children’s future.

Dad Said It: Chicken Petting Edition

Dads say the darndest things.

Especially when it comes to the way they feel about their children.

During a recent Fathering Connection discussion in Sevier County, one dad had this to say about how he comforts his daughter when she is upset:

chicken“I just hold her and pet her.  If she were a chicken, I reckon I’d rub the feathers plumb off her.”

Now that leaves you with an unshakable image of a dad who really loves his girl.

Dads: How would you describe the way you comfort your child?

Back To School Time Again

kids-school-busIt’s hard to believe that it time for school to start again.  But most public schools in our area will begin the new year over the next few weeks.  Like every other activity around the home, back-to-school works best when dad takes an active role.  There is much to do from buying school supplies and clothes to checking on required vaccinations to possibly preparing for a brand new school for some.

Paul Banas, Editor of GreatDad.com, offers some suggestions on getting the school year started right:

  • Discuss what’s up this school year with your child and agree on some big objectives you can all work toward. If this is the year to learn multiplication and division, discuss this goal with your child and make sure he or she knows you’re there to support him achieve his goal.
  • Make contact during the first week with your child’s teacher, and his home room parent, if there is one. By establishing a relationship early on, you can head off problems long before they develop. Don’t bug the teacher, but do volunteer to do some classroom projects early on so you get to the know the teacher, classroom, and other students.
  • Help your child prepare for each day of school by keeping to a schedule that involves an early bedtime and more than enough time in the morning. A good tip for less stressful morning is to set out clothes and make lunches the night before. It’s painful to do, but a big relief in the morning.

Those three suggestions: setting goals for the year, establishing a relationship with the school and creating a daily routine can go a long way toward making this the best school year ever for you and your child.  Good luck.

Check out the original post here: GreatDad Back-To-School Tips

Dad Said It

dad said itTEAM DAD offers free parenting classes for dads called the Fathering Connection.  The discussion-based classes touch on issues that are common to all guys.

Does the Fathering Connection make a difference in the lives of the men who participate?  Here is some feedback from recent graduates of the Fathering Connection who attended in Sevier County:


What change have I noticed in myself since joining TEAM DAD:

  • I’ve found myself becoming more patient
  • How I view parenting and my emotions
  • I realize the things I am missing in my child’s life by working as much as I do
  • I have a different outlook and perspective

New Fathering Skills:

Discipline, comfort, love, non-violence, patience, understanding, confidence,  open-mindedness, nurturing, communication, affectionate, listening, supportive, encouraging

Things I enjoyed about the Fathering Connection:

  • All the fun we had in the class while we learned how to be better parents
  • Positivity and the good company
  • Feedback
  • Fellowship
  • Discussions
  • The group supporting each other and gaining knowledge of things I didn’t know

Something I learned that will help me become a better dad:

  • To open up more
  • Love like I should
  • I can take an active role in my daughter’s life
  • Take a deep breath and think before reacting
  • To be more supportive in my children’s lives
  • I’m capable of (becoming a better dad)

The Fathering Connection uses curriculum from the National Fatherhood Initiative’s 24-7 Dad and is offered free of charge in Hamblen, Cocke, Grainger, Jefferson, Monroe and Sevier counties.  For more information call 423-318-6914.

A Father Is…

father most imp

Think about that dad.  You are the most important man in the whole world to your child.  That is true in two ways:

1)  Your child thinks more of you than any other man in their life.

2) You will have the most influence on how their life turns out, than any other man in the world.

Dad – You Matter.

Never take your high position of importance for granted.

Be the man your child deserves!


Fireworks Can Spark Conversation

fireworksDads, as you gather your family around you this Independence Day to watch fireworks consider explaining to your kids the meaning behind the celebration.  The 4th of July represents much more than colorful displays in the night sky.  On this day we remember the hard-fought freedoms we enjoy in the United States of America.

In 1776, the Continental Congress adopted a resolution to separate from Great Britain. The Declaration of Independence listed grievances against the King but also these words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,  that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

declaration of independenceTalk to your kids about what it means for all to be created equal and what the Rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness mean to you.

Independence Day was just the beginning.  The Americans had to win the Revolutionary War in order to become a separate nation.  When it was over, the Constitution was written and adopted and included ten amendments we know as the Bill of Rights,  which spelled out some of the freedoms and rights that we still enjoy today.  Here is a simplified list of those rights first published by Aaron Larson:

  • 1st Amendment – Protects the people’s right to practice religion, to speak freely, to meet, to address the government and of the press to publish.
  • 2nd Amendment – Protects the right to own guns.
  • 3rd Amendment – Guarantees that the army cannot force homeowners to give them room and board.
  • 4th Amendment -Protects the people from the government improperly taking property, papers, or people, without a valid warrant based on probable cause.
  • 5th Amendment -Protects people from being held for committing a crime unless they are properly indicted, that they may not be tried twice for the same crime, and that you need not be forced to testify against yourself.
  • 6th Amendment -Guarantees a speedy trial, an impartial jury, and that the accused can confront witnesses against them, and that the accused must be allowed to have a lawyer.
  • 7th Amendment -Guarantees a jury trial in federal civil court cases.
  • 8th Amendment- Guarantees punishments will be fair, and not cruel, and that extraordinarily large fines will not be set.
  • 9th Amendment – Other rights aside from those listed may exist, and just because they are not listed doesn’t mean they can be violated.
  • 10th Amendment -Any power not granted to the federal government belongs to the states.

Discuss those amendments with your family.  How does our Constitution and Bill of Rights make the USA special?

Those fireworks also remind us of the battles fought throughout our history.  It was during the War of 1812 that Francis Scott Key wrote the words to what became our National Anthem after watching the night sky lit up from the shelling of Ft. McHenry by the British:

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,

O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?


Discuss the words to the Anthem and the image it paints of the flag flying above the fort during the battle and how the poet felt when he found it still flying in the morning.  What does it mean to you to live in the “land of the free and the home of the brave”?

The 4th of July is indeed much more than family picnics and fireworks.  Take the time this year to talk about why this day is set aside as a celebration.  Those fireworks remind us of the lives of many who paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the hopes and dreams of an entire nation would be passed from generation to generation.  And that is something worth passing along to your children.

Summer Fun on a Budget

Summertime is here.  Every school age child longs for this time of year.  But those long, lazy days often eventually lead kids to mutter: “I am so bored.”

splash padTennessee State Extension Assistant Marci Hethmon realizes that it is sometimes tough for parents to provide engaging activities for kids on a tight budget.  In her article, “Summer Fun! Ten Easy Ways to Find Free Family Activities,” she gives tips on finding fun right where you live:

  • Splash pads, spray parks, and interactive fountains. Many communities offer water features in which kids are allowed and even encouraged to play! Check your city or county website or your community’s Parks and Recreation department to see what facilities are available.
  • Summer movies.* Some theaters offer free summer movies for parents and kids in the summer.
  • Concerts in the park. Parks often offer space to musicians and musical groups in the summer to provide free public concerts. Bring some bubbles, some sidewalk chalk, a blanket, and snack for a great evening.
  • Radio station events.  In addition to concerts, local radio stations often sponsor events at fairs and festival in the summer from contest and concerts to fireworks displays.  Check your local newspaper and call or listen to your favorite station to know when and where.
  • The library. Libraries do a great job of providing free summer programming for children. Summer reading contests, puppet shows, plays, story time, arts and crafts, and parent-child make and take projects are all possibilities. Contact the library system or the local library in your area and ask for a schedule of children’s summer activities.
  • Animal shelter events. Pet walks, fairs, and special events are particularly common in the summer.
  • Senior center. Some centers host events such as family movies or story time at the center meant to include both grandparents and their grandchildren.
  • Take a trip downtown. Downtown areas often offer many cites of interest including self-guided historical tours, small free museums, historical cemeteries or ornate buildings and churches.
  • Community garden. Children love to watch things grow! If you have a community garden, consider joining. Gardening is a fun and educational activity for kids and can provide yourfamily with fresh produce throughout the summer.
  • Picnics, hikes, and bikes. Free old fashioned outdoor fun! Dust off the bikes or go for awalk…add some snacks and make it a picnic! So load up Fido, the kids, and grandma and check out your community resources.

SONY DSCSo you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy some great summertime activities with the family.  Get creative and you should be able to find plenty of free events right in your own back door.

Information for this article was first published in the University of Tennessee Extension Service Family Ties Newsletter Spring/ Summer edition. Call 865‐453‐3695 for information on how to receive the newsletter.

*Note:  Some communities also offer free outdoor showing of movies as well.  TEAM DAD co-sponsors a free family-friendly movie each year at Fred Miller Park along with Morristown Parks and Rec.  This year’s movie is Despicable Me 2 and will be shown on July 27, 2014. Contact TEAM DAD at 423-318-6914 for more details.