Navigating Fatherhood Without a Roadmap

Randy Scott is an award-winning educator, broadcaster, and licensed couples counselor.  He’s passionate about helping parents have conversations about the different stages of parenthood, how being a new parent can shape the many relationships we build – especially for fathers – and how to navigate the ups and downs.

Randy will be sharing with us his own experiences, what he’s learned, and answering your questions at the PEPS Dad’s Social Hour in Seattle on Saturday, June 22, 2019. Come chat with Randy in person and join us for the Q&A session!

This is an exciting time of the year to be working in education. Each year, I mentor students within my role in Student Development at Seattle University and as we approach year end, I get to share in the joy of their graduation. The group of students that consistently inspire me the most is what I refer to as ‘First Gen’ students. These are students who identify as the first generation in their family to attend and graduate from college with a degree. Each of their journeys contrast greatly, and they share the same accomplishment – these graduates are setting a new standard in their families when it comes to education. Their achievements at college remind me of some fathers I’ve met that I occasionally refer to as First Gen dads.

Biologically, of course, these dads are not the first ones to father a child. They may have, however, experienced cycles of abuse, neglect, addiction, emotional detachment, coldness, lack of support, or distance from their own fathers (who likely got the same from their fathers, and on and on…). And like my First Gen students, these First Gen dads have decided to change their own family’s patterns and legacy. Similar to my students who have had to navigate the process and stages of college responsibilities and obligations without a roadmap, First Gen dads can often be found doing the same when it comes to parenting.

Yes, there are books, videos, and classes these dads can consume as they learn how to be the sort of father they want their child to model, but as is often the case in college, some people absorb lessons best when mentored and through lived experience. As a First Gen dad myself, I know firsthand how scary and hard this process can be. My own father (and mother) struggled with demons of abuse and addiction; it’s what I grew up around. It was all I knew. Luckily for me, I was surrounded by teachers, friends, and mentors, who helped me realize that I could stop this paternal legacy and create a new story for my kids and hopefully many more generations to come.

You don’t have to surround yourself with experts to learn how to navigate the different stages of being a dad, First Gen or otherwise. What does help is pulling together a group of dads who are passionate about the same thing you are – including showing up and giving love.

Showing up can come in many different forms and physically being there is just one of the ways. A parent can be supportive, communicating on a regular basis that your kids are seen and valued by you.  And, modeling respect and integrity in whatever way you have the time and bandwidth to do so are other ways. Showing up in your child’s life helps them to learn what support can feel like when things get tough and help them learn to be empathic citizens of this world that we share.

Showing love can be a little trickier. You feel it, but how do you demonstrate something intangible? It’s important to find out what makes your child feel loved. Words of encouragement? Hugs? Time? Find out what fills your child’s love tank and make sure you’re giving them what they need, not necessarily what you yourself would want or even what you think they need.

The best way to learn is by asking questions and sometimes even by trial and error. It’s important to remember there is not just one way to be the right dad. Find what works for you, your child, and your family. The main reasons to have a team of similarly passionate dads to turn to is so that you too can feel supported, learn new ideas, and be held accountable. These are the same things I remind all my students of, as well as the couples I work with in my role as a couples counselor. Just like in being a student, in a relationship, or as a professional, your growth as a dad will come in phases and will likely not be a straight and even path. So, what about your own fathering experience? What questions would you like to address in your path as a dad, First Gen or otherwise?

About the Author

Randy Scott is a couples counselor who focuses on helping partners grow stronger relationships as they navigate tough topics like sex, money, and kids. Before becoming a therapist and educator, Randy spent many years behind a microphone as a morning show radio host waking up the Pacific Northwest. Currently through his work at Seattle University in Student Development, he frequently plays the role of “Dad” to hundreds of students each year. His most important job is being dad to Tess, 12, and Isabelle, 8. His youngest daughter has Down syndrome and Randy believes that having a child with a disability can drastically change the fatherhood experience in challenging and rewarding ways.

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