Mark is the father of 4 children, Lily (10yrs), James (9yrs), and twins George & Oliver (7yrs). Following a recommendation from the Family Courts, Mark referred himself to the Welcare Caring Dads programme because he wanted to learn more about abuse, abusive relationships and how to address issues in relationships, as well as get support to improve his relationship with his children and enable him to become a better father.
There was a history of domestic abuse within the family and Mark’s relationship with his children’s mother had broken down. After the break down of the relationship the family initially had a private agreement in place for Mark to see the children, but unfortunately due to continued conflict between the parents they were unable to manage Mark’s contact with the children in this way. Therefore, Mark had to apply through the courts for contact and was granted supervised contact every other week with the children. Mark was also advised to attend a Caring Dads course so that he could gain a better understanding of the impact of the historical domestic abuse and create a more positive relationship with his children.
Mark was very enthusiastic throughout the 17-week course. After he completed it, Welcare had the opportunity to interview him about his experience. His response was very interesting and insightful; keep reading for the full interview.
What were your expectations before coming to Caring Dads?
Before I came to the Caring Dads programme, I was a little bit sceptical about how it would make a positive impact on me, my situation, and my relationship with my children. I had little expectations but was prepared to give Caring Dads a chance. I wanted to try to understand the inside views of professionals and try to establish whether I was in any way not a ‘caring dad’.
How have you found the course?
I found the course to be informative and practical. It was 17 weeks long, which was a commitment for everyone that attended. The facilitators were non-judgemental, gave really sound advice, challenged mindsets where needed and gave examples of alternative solutions to situations.
How has the course impacted your relationship with your children?
I feel that from attending the course I have a better understanding of what my children may have experienced from my previous relationship. It has shown me that they may have been affected more than I had first believed from arguments and domestic situations that occurred in my relationship with their mother. From attending Caring Dads, I have learnt techniques to help me to become a better father and a more caring dad even when challenging situations arise. In all, I would say that Caring Dads has helped me to understand what my children may need more.
Is there anything you’ve learned about yourself?
I have learned that however strongly I felt that I was already a good dad, there is always much more to learn and understand. I have learnt the importance of being a dad that can adjust and grow, and the skill of listening and being a good teacher to my children. I have learnt that I am the type of parent that has the drive and the ambition to go above and beyond, and I want to be a present, loving father to my children. I want to be the best teacher I possibly can be to ensure my children grow and develop in the best way possible, and I want to enrich their lives and to always be there for them as a caring dad. I knew I had this motivation before going to Caring Dads, but I have learnt new skills which will help me achieve my goals as their dad.
What would you say to a dad thinking about coming to a Caring Dads course?
I would recommend Caring Dads to all dads, not just the ones that are separated, going through family courts, or ordered to attend a course for fathers. Ideally, this course would be offered to all fathers when they are expecting to become fathers, as it would help them to prepare for all eventualities and difficulties that parenting may challenge them with. Caring Dads supports fathers with so many different situations, including domestic issues between partners, communication and listening skills, and what to watch out for with parenting if a relationship becomes strained. The Caring Dads course supports fathers to always put the needs of their children before their own and to remain child focused.
What have you enjoyed most about the course?
I enjoyed meeting people from different walks of life, different religions, and cultures, and listening to their opinions, and sometimes challenging those opinions. The challenges set by the facilitators each week were a way to look deep into my self-belief system and really understand who I am by questioning myself and my own morals. I was challenged to make decisions that were based upon what I was learning and to try to change aspects of my parenting that may have not been completely child focused.
What did you find most difficult?
Taking the steps to attend the Caring Dads course in the first place was probably the most difficult part. I struggled with being open and communicating about the most sensitive areas of my life, which was especially difficult at first amongst strangers. However, it became easier as time went on and the relationship between the participants of the group developed. It was also difficult for me to listen to anyone talk about my faults or for my views to be challenged, but all in all I am pleased that they were. It has enabled me to appreciate the opinion of others more and being able to listen to criticism, which is a very constructive tool to have.