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Second Family Parenting Self Help Advice - A different kind of dad

Written by Jennifer Strailey

Men like Carnoy and my father have a chance to become a different kind of dad, not only toolder dads and their two families their second families, but also to their first children. Far from damaging their relationship with their older children, the arrival of the second generation is rarely a hindrance and, in some cases, helps to grow the bond between fathers and their first kids, says Carnoy. "If they had a good relationship with the father before, then they do after."

Some fathers said that being in a new family incited important discussion about the past with their older children. Unexpressed guilt, anger and emotions rose to the surface and were resolved. In Carnoy's family, the birth of his new daughter sparked discussions with his two older sons and forced them all to address "stuff that wouldn't have been brought up otherwise."

Such frank talk often strengthens the relationship between fathers and their older children. The fathers begin to think of their older children more as adults and less as kids, and the older children see their fathers more as people and less as dads. "I feel that you and Jonathan are more than my children," says my dad. "You're these really great grownups, people that I want to talk to, people that I'm really glad I know."

Is it all as happy and uncomplicated as that? Nothing in life ever is. As young as the fifty- or sixty-something dad may feel, he still has Father Time to contend with. The moment comes for every one of us dads, says Carnoy, when you go to the school to pick up your kid and the other kids think you're the grandfather.

Most men get past the initial blow to their self-esteem quickly, as their attention must turn to the concerns of their young child. "Will you see me get married?" Carnoy's little girl asks him. He tells her he will. He plans on being around for a while.

In the end, fathers of two-generation families grapple with the same issues faced by dads of any age. For my father, it's the cool factor. He wants to be someone his kids can relate to, he always has, he always will. "My only concern is that I don't want to be an old parent, whatever that means, to not have energy to do things with my kids, to be out of touch and just be this old fogy, which, by the way, I'm not going to be."

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