2016 set to be Year of the Dad!


The Year of the Dad has arrived and plans are in place to make sure that it has a lasting impact in Scotland. Fathers Network Scotland are keen to engage organisations, businesses and individuals across Scotland to make this a real success and leave a positive legacy.

Year of the Dad is an ambitious project which will succeed through participation and collaboration. Like Fatherhood itself it will mean different things to different people but the fundamental aim ‘to promote the importance of fathers in child development and support men to be the dads they want to be’ resonates strongly with the SCCR’s vision ‘that culture change is possible and peace making can become the norm’.

Culture change is not just possible, it is inevitable – and YOTD will provide a platform so that Dads are central to positive changes which are beneficial to all in Scotland.

Fathers Network Scotland has its roots in the meeting of various workers supporting dads in family support and social work. These men and womenoperating in high-conflict situations are typically involved in ‘making the peace’, helping Dads stay centrally involved in their kids’ lives. They support ways of communicating which allow them to play a full parental role and develop constructive relationships with health, education and social work professionals.

Fathers Network Scotland has evolved beyond those early peer support meetings to have a societal vision of equality and inclusion. The vision is manifest in the Year of the Dad and will leave a lasting legacy of mutual support and communication through its charter and associated initiatives and collaborations.

A modern country which recognises and supports the full spectrum of fatherhood will have benefits for all. Businesses which embrace paternal leave will thrive through flexibility and diversity. Workers will be more productive and loyal. Services which work with families in trouble will find that targeted policies and projects aimed at engaging and supporting Dads will lead to better outcomes for families.

A study on parental leave published this year highlighted longitudinal results of parental leave legislation in Norway. Notable statistics showed that children of families where there was previously low take up of parental leave had lower levels of drop-out from school and infant mortality was also significantly reduced. Elsewhere studies indicate 18% decrease in problematic alcohol consumption in fathers who take up paternity leave and fewer household conflicts. Perhaps, then, it is not surprising that fathers who take parental leave tend to have lower mortality rates.

This is truly a win-win proposition which contributes to gender equality across the board. There is no downside to recognising and promoting the importance of Dads. Apart from the fathers of Scotland it is children and their mothers who will be equal beneficiaries. Of course, the celebration of fathers cannot shy away from the real and difficult challenges that exist to a truly progressive society where people feel able to make choices which suit their families and themselves. A society where the traditional breadwinning dad and the stay-at-home or single Dad understand and respect each other’s choices.

Choice is lacking for too many families in Scotland and the Year of the Dad aims to develop a conversation which leads to better opportunities. We want to leave a legacy where honouring fatherhood in all its diversity alongside the changing nature of the mother’s role will truly benefit the children of Scotland.

This is an opportunity for the whole of Scotland – from large businesses and institutionsdown to the grass roots community projects – to embrace and support positive, enduring change.

By getting involved and joining with partners throughout the land you can take a lead role in this exciting chapter in Scotland’s evolution. Is your organisation or business Dad-friendly? What more would you like to do? What are the challenges to Dad-friendly working?

Please leave your comments and sign up at www.yearofthedad.org to find out how you can share what you are doing and learn ways to get even better.

Nick Smithers is on the board of trustees of Fathers Network Scotland and currently National Development Officer for Abused Men in Scotland.

Nick Smithers

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