Growing Up Together Fathers' Club is particularly focused on the role of the father in the early years of the child's development. Parenthood is often percieved through motherhood, whereas fatherhood has been to some extent overlooked. Recent scientific findings prove the great importance of the father-child relationship in the development of the child. Also, they point out how the unique contribution of fathers' inclusion, their sensitive support and encouragement in the child's first year impact the long-term psychosocial development of the child.
Growing Up Together Fathers' Club is an opportunity to hear how fathers live their fatherhood and how they can be encouraged to play the very important role that they have in the child's development, be it by exchanging experiences or in some other way. Growing Up Together is a programme of parental support for both mothers and fathers. We would, therefore, very much appreciate seeing as many fathers as possible because the programme is definitely more successful, and eventually more beneficial for the child, if attended by both parents. In the Club the fathers can get information about the Growing Up Together Programme (e.g. methods of work, certain topics, etc.), but it also help the workshop leaders to acquire information about the fathers' views on how this programme can best respond to their interests and needs.
One of the reasons for setting up the Growing Up Together Fathers' Club lies in the previous experiences gained during the implementation of the Growing Up Together Programme. Both mothers and father from various groups, as well as the programme leaders, mentioned that it would be a good idea to give fathers a chance to meet and exchange experiences on their own. The experiences from some other parental support programmes show that the fathers prefer groups consisting only of fathers because, as they reported, they felt more comfortable and could participate in a different way than in groups together with mothers.
The purpose of the Growing Up Together Fathers' Club is to create a stimulating and encouraging environment where the fathers, together with the leaders and other fathers:
- acquire new insights about the role of the father in childhood and the enhancement of the child's development,
- deliberate about their own father role, based on the scientific research and their own experience,
- exchange thoughts about the ways they experience fatherhood,
- get to know themselves better as fathers,
- identify effective ways of coping with the demands of parenting,
- exchange information and support in executing the role of the father,
- change their behaviour (if needed) in terms of more active involvement in and availability to the child.
Growing Up Together Fathers' Club Programme comprises four two-hour workshops:
- Father's role in the child's early development
- About fathers and feelings
- About fathers and mothers
- The Crackerjack Dad
The programme of the Growing Up Together Fathers' Club workshops was developed in 2016 as part of the one-year project ''Growing Up Together Fathers' Club'', which was implemented in partnership with the Velika Gorica kindergarten and the Town of Velika Gorica, and sponsored by the Ministry of Ministry of Demographics, Family, Youth and Social Policy (MSPM).
A total of 221 fathers in 25 groups attended the Fathers' Club programme. The clubs were organized in 17 towns all across Croatia (Umag, Rovinj, Pula, Opatija, Rijeka, Crikvenica, Rab, Split, Primošten, Zagreb, Velika Gorica, Ivanić Grad, Dugo Selo, Bjelovar, Čakovec, Vukovar, Vinkovci), in 22 kindergartens, and three family centres. The programme was implemented and gradually improved by 57 leaders of the Fathers' Club.
The fathers expressed great satisfaction with their participation in the programme. It motivated many of them to join the Growing Up Together Programme workshops.
The Growing Up Together Programme is not focused just on children, but rather on mothers and faathers. The good news, therefore, is that, according to the results of the research, fathers' early inclusion seems to be beneficial for the life contentment and personal well-being of both fathers and mothers.
- It feels good to be a father, when my child gives me a hug, smiles at me and says 'Daddy'.
- I am not always in the mood to play with my child, but after we play I am always happy and content.
- I used to be worried would I be a responsible father, would I be able to financially support my family, would I have to change...
- I felt like a father the moment I heard of pregnancy. My love for my child is growing with each day; it is not a moment, but rather a process.
- A good Dad should not feel ashamed of showing emotions.
- It is my partner who helps me the most to be a good father.
Authors: Ninoslava Pećnik, Renata Milanković Belas, Sonja Pribela-Hodap, Ljubica Duspara, Nina Vela Vrabec, Danko Butorac and Petra Brnić