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Challenging myths and stereotypes
From a very early age, children try to make sense of gender and the differences between mothers and fathers. Every facet of our daily lives involves stereotypes, myths, generalisations, and judgements - from what soap to buy, who to sit next to on the bus and what party to vote for. So also with gender.
One Parent Families Scotland is very familiar with the stereotyping lone parent households, and has worked for 69 years to challenge some of the myths. From our work with lone fathers over the past 12 years, we are particularly aware of the labels and images attached to them, and we think that fathers should be seen in a more accurate light. Gone are the days when men were 'breadwinners' and 'heads of the household' or 'absent' or even 'dead beat'. Most of the fathers we encounter are (or want to be) active in their children's lives. This does not make them 'supermen'; it just makes them parents who love their children and want to fulfil their responsibilities. Research shows that children are more successful learners and more confident socially when fathers maintain these relationships after separation.
This is not always easy, and fathers can encounter considerable prejudice from services in trying to be involved with their children. The hurdles are often not institutional inequalities (e.g. laws about parental responsibilities), but the result of the poor execution of existing rights and laws. In the four fathers' support projects which we run (in Dundee, Falkirk, and two in Edinburgh) we support fathers to care for their children and give fathers a voice.
We encounter all sorts of fathers, including those who are sole carers of their children and those who have contact for a couple of hours a week. Fathers commonly tell us that they do not feel heard. OPFS fathers' workers advocate for men in schools, social work departments and other statutory agencies. We also provide direct support through individual and group work. This includes confidence building through gardening projects and cooking classes, and regular outings for fathers and children offering 'quality time' and the opportunity to learn about affordable child-focused activities in their area.
OPFS is helping a growing population of children benefit from the active involvement of their fathers in their lives, as well as helping fathers change some of the stereotypes.
For more information contact OPFS fathers workers: Brock Lueck or Tom Carroll on 0131 556 3899
Other articles published in our March 2013 newsletter: