Parent Shoutout: An open letter to the dads

Much of our content focuses on the mothers of kids with autism or developmental concerns. The reason we tend to do that is that the vast majority of our clients are mothers. However, it is high time to acknowledge you, amazing dads.

I hark back to many of the dads I have met over the years and the tremendous pressure they were under as we first engaged with them. Some of the pressures that I heard were:

  • I get a call at work, from my wife, and I can hear how stressed out she is, and I just want to do something!
  • I love my kiddo just how he (or she) is. How do I help him without changing all the awesome things I love about him (or her)?
  • I just wonder if I am doing the right things. I am trying to be a good dad and I just feel so unsure about how to do this in the face of all these challenges as a family.

As you can easily hear in those statements, there is so much love there. My heart grows about 3 sizes (just like the Grinch) when I think about these awesome dads.

Some of the other pressures I hear from the dads of the kids we work with revolve around family dynamics. Many of our dads are concerned about overall family well-being. They see the chaos and crisis and want to do something about it and often feel powerless because these childhood disabilities are such uncharted ground. Sometimes dads are worried about their marriage and about the relationships between siblings. Sometimes they think, “my dad would never have put up with this from his kids.”

Yep! I wish I could answer all of that in some cohesive way. The main thing I can say is that you are not alone. I would also just like to remind you that, “You rock!”

Being in this business well over a decade now, I have seen the fruits of these dads’ labor over time. I see relationships heal. I see kids go off to do great things in their lives. I see boys tell me that dad is their hero. I hear daughters say that they love their dad, “more than anyone.”

What sometimes goes unnoticed is all the hard work that many dads are doing at work to keep the family afloat. Many households are dual income earners and there are certainly moms who are heads of households, so that is not to cast any gender bias on the families. I just want to acknowledge that most of the dads I have met in this practice, work hard all day and then work hard all night too with the family. I think that’s amazing.

I haven’t even addressed the single dads I have worked with or the dads who have taken over when mom is unable to do so due to her illness, or workload, or her absence. Some of these dads feel they are walking on shaky ground, particularly with their daughters, trying to play multiple roles and not sure if they are doing any of it right. Again, from my perspective, I find their work on all fronts to be amazing.

One thing that my dad clients have enjoyed most over the years is data. Our tools at CLEAR are quite appropriate for that because we use a profile analysis approach to analyze each child’s information. Working with CLEAR can be helpful that way. Contact us if you want to learn more about that.

Another approach that dads tend to like is strategies to try at home. There is a recent blog post about the Top 10 Survival Strategies on our blog. This may be of help to you as you navigate the challenges of daily life. 

We also wrote over 100 articles for parents on how to manage daily life with a child who has behavioral health symptoms. Those can be found here: www.cleape.com . We wrote them and own the copyright and I hereby give you permission to print these and distribute them all you want! We hope they help.

In conclusion, dads, please keep it up. Your work does not go unnoticed, even if it sometimes feels that way. Thank you for all you do. Your kid appreciates it too…even when they refuse to tell you that! They often tell me, and others too. And as they grow up, they grow to appreciate you more and more.

You rock! You’ve got this. We’re here for you!

Warm wishes,

Dr. Marcy Willard