Drew Gray, fatherhood educator of the David Cardno Father & Child Resource Center in Stuart,  enjoys playing with his daughter Rylie at Flagler Park. Photo by Beverly B. Jones

Five Ways to be the Best Father You Can Be

by Drew Gray, fatherhood educator, The David Cardno Father & Child Resource Center at Martin County Healthy Start Coalition

Father's Day is a day for Dad to enjoy his favorite foods, activities and receive gifts. But it’s also a day for dads to reflect on how to be the best father they can be, 365 days a year.

David Cardno founded the Father & Child Resource Center (FCRC) in July 2000 as a part of the Martin County Healthy Start Coalition. The Father & Child Resource Center’s mission is to promote responsible fatherhood in the community.

The FCRC is funded by the Children’s Services Council of Martin County.

David espoused the virtues of a two-parent household and worked tirelessly to encourage fathers to be active and present in all phases of their children's lives. Too often mothers raise children alone. The absence of a father usually has a negative effect on children.

The FCRC’s mission is to educate fathers how to have a supportive role in their children's lives, regardless of the family circumstances. In honor of David Cardno, who passed away in October 2015, and Father’s Day, we have created some tips: “Five ways to be the best father you can be.”

Please reach out to the Father & Child Resource Center if you are seeking counsel regarding your children. Learn more at www.mchealthystart.org.

1. Taking care of yourself is the most important thing you can do as a father. If fathers cannot take care of themselves, how can they take care of their children? As fathers, we need to take care of ourselves mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. We need to eat right and exercise.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Mental health is essential and vital to our physical health. We will have better relationships with our children when we are active and healthy.
Create time for yourself. We don’t have to around our kids 24/7 to be good fathers. Take time to cultivate your hobbies and interests. Allow time to unwind and recharge. This same advice applies to your partner.

2. Spend quality time with your children every day. Arrange an activity that is fun or meaningful with your child. It can be something as simple as reading to them at night or visiting the park.
Enjoy seeing the world through their eyes. Life is busy, and it seems like there are always a million things to do. Those things can wait. “ Life is but a vapor.” Children grow up so fast, and you can’t regain missed opportunities.

3. Be a role model. Remember, children see so much more than you realize. They are always watching and absorbing everything we do. No parent is perfect, but we should strive to be a constructive parent in our children's lives. Live your own life responsibly and honestly as an example for them to follow.
Show your daughter how a true gentleman acts. Let her understand that she deserves to be treated with respect and how a future partner should treat her.

4. Eat together as a family. This simple practice has a profound effect on children as they grow up. It provides structure and time for fathers to listen to their children and offer advice. Children have the chance to talk openly and let their fathers know what’s going on in their lives. Fathers have an opportunity to engage with their children and understand them better.

5. Discipline with love. Too often, discipline is correlated and confused with punishment. We have all heard the phrase, “just wait ‘til your father gets home.” Children may regard their fathers as the enforcer of punishment, and that should not be the case. Children need discipline, not punishment.

We want to set limits for our children and make sure they understand there are consequences for their actions. Express yourself calmly and reasonably. Instead of learning from fear of punishment, our children should learn from the love, respect, and guidance they are given.

About Martin County Healthy Start Coalition

Martin County Healthy Start Coalition is a non-profit 501(c)3 that offers support and education to pregnant women, infants, and their families. All of our services are confidential, free of charge, and not income based.
The Coalition opened its doors in February 1993 when Governor and First Lady Lawton Chiles challenged local communities to form coalitions to reduce Florida's alarmingly high infant mortality rate.
The Coalition continued to grow with the opening of the Prenatal Outreach Center in July 2007. The Prenatal Outreach Center is located in Stuart and expanded with a satellite site in Indiantown in 2017. Martin County Healthy Start Coalition has helped over 1,500 women in Martin County access prenatal care from these two locations.
The Coalition has been tasked with providing high-quality prenatal care for mothers, health care for children, and bridging any gaps in this care locally. As a true coalition functions, we know only together can we improve outcomes for women and babies. We invite you to be a force for change in improving the health and well-being of our families.

Drew Gray, fatherhood educator of the David Cardno Father & Child Resource Center in Stuart, enjoys playing with his daughter Rylie at Flagler Park.
Photo by Beverly Bevis Jones.