Interrelate: Redefining Men
The model of being a man is being radically redefined these days. It is a new movement that seeks to grow and shift with the changing times and meet the needs of family, workplace, friendships and self. Forest James writes about an organisation helping men to pave the way.
Interrelate, a non-profit counselling, mediation and training organisation, is offering men in the [NSW] North Coast and Northern Rivers areas the opportunity be involved in programs aimed at improving men’s health and relationships. As part of Interrelate Men’s Program, a number of men’s courses and community support groups are being offered that will look at the changing roles of men in modern society.
The courses and groups provide a place for men to examine issues that affect their lives, such as stress and health, being a dad, emotions and intimacy, relationship problems, family and work issues. They offer an opportunity for men to re-assess their roles in a rapidly changing world, talk about their responses, and look at options for growth and change.
Many modern men are caught in a contradiction, feeling suspended between the world in which they grew up and the world in which they live now. Older models of masculinity – that were workable until around the 1970s – don’t work as well in today’s society. As a result of changing expectations regarding what it is to ‘be a man’, and the increasing demands of modern living, men’s health has suffered and is now becoming a major social issue.
“The prescription is not a pill, it’s an entire personal and cultural change that’s needed. We are making a modest contribution to this goal with our courses and groups. The biggest difficulty we have is getting men to come along and participate… the traditional male role encourages men to isolate or deny their emotional wellbeing until a physical problem occurs. Sadly, this sometimes ends in a heart attack or suicide,” said Interrelate’s Men’s Services Officer, Forrest James.
Dads at School
Dads at School is one of the programs being offered to men on the North Coast by the Interrelate Men’s Program. The word ‘dad’ in this context covers being a birth father, adoptive father, step-father, a separated dad, social father, an uncle, or a mentor of children at school.
Fathers have a huge impact on how their children think, feel and act. A man’s active, responsible and playful fathering significantly influences their children’s self-esteem and social development. Children with happy, involved dads are more likely to be well adjusted and happy themselves.
Extensive research in the UK has found that higher levels of ‘father involvement’ increases children’s educational attainment and the likelihood they will form healthy relationships in adolescence and adulthood. Father involvement also decreases the likelihood of trouble with police and the incidence of mental illness in later life.
Clearly then, dads have a vital role to play in their children’s lives. Dads are not simply breadwinners, they are teachers, nurturers, and role models. Luckily for dads, the benefits work both ways. Being an involved dad can be one of life’s most challenging, satisfying and rewarding experiences. It’s pretty easy to ‘have kids’ but becoming a dad can take a bit longer. Being amongst a community of men prepared to share their experiences as dads can help shorten that path.
The Dads at School program is run with the collaboration of interested local schools and consists of six fortnightly meetings. Each meeting explores a particular topic area and also allows time to discuss current issues. Groups are usually limited to a maximum of ten men and are conducted by a trained facilitator. Each group is designed to fit the particular needs of the dads involved and may include topics such as:
- Being a Dad. Work and family – finding the balance
- Fathering styles and patterns
- Discipline and communication
- The School and Me
Interrelate would like to hear from men who may be interested in helping organise or participating in a local Dads at School program. Enquiries are also welcome regarding communiity men’s groups and workplace programs. For information please contact Forrest James on 6621 9491.
Published in byronchild/Kindred, issue 3, Sept 02