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Ask Nicole: Tips for Dads and Father Figures

I have many happy childhood memories of my dad playing the guitar and singing, instigating highly competitive family croquet tournaments (which my dad usually won), and teaching my siblings and me how to use tools then creating a “workshop” in the garage so we could experiment with wood scraps — just to name a few.

Other childhood memories involve events that were stressful then but hold a special place in my heart now – like the time my dad convinced me to go on an amusement park ride with him and I ended up crying in terror every time the ride dipped and my stomach dropped. I buried my face in my dad’s chest while he held me tight and reassured me it would be over soon (laughing and enjoying the ride the whole time).

Whether those memories are filled with joy or fear, I recall how my dad’s words and presence made me feel safe, secure, loved, and cared for. During this month of celebrating and supporting dads, I hope that every child has a dad, stepdad, uncle, papá, foster dad, or other father figure who makes them feel this way, too.

This monthly column provides tips for anyone who is raising children, based on the world-renowned Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, available to families in Santa Cruz County. If you have questions for a future column, email me at

Dear Nicole,

My partner and I just adopted two siblings – a 5-year old boy and an 8-month old girl. We’ve always wanted to be dads but we’re total newbies. Neither of us had good role models when we were growing up. We want things to be different with our kids, but we don’t know what we’re doing. Got any tips for us?

- Sergio

Dear Sergio,

Congratulations on becoming dads! Fathers and father figures play a critical role in children’s well-being, but it still takes time, practice, and patience to be the kind of dad you want to be. That’s because parenting is hard work and children don’t come with an instruction manual! Here are some tips to try:

Spend quality time with your children every day. Find moments throughout the day to give them your undivided attention and affection. Turn everyday tasks such as changing diapers, eating meals, and getting dressed into quality time by giving a hug, smiling, or talking with them. This kind of brief and frequent quality time lets your children know you love and care for them, and that you’re available when they need you. This is the foundation for positive relationships throughout life.

Do engaging activities together. This is another way to spend quality time together while encouraging learning, curiosity, creativity, and skill-building. Read books, play games, go on walks, make meals together – these are all things you can do with your children at any age that will become the basis of their happy childhood memories. Do activities that your children are interested in and follow their lead. And yes, this could mean playing endless games of peek-a-boo or reading the same book a million times. Also introduce them to activities you and your partner enjoy to expand their horizons and bond as a family.

Work as a team with your partner. Talk with your partner about the family rules and expectations that matter to both of you, including how you will handle discipline. This will help make sure you’re on the same page as a parenting team before challenges occur. Make time for you and your partner to talk and connect. It’s easy to get consumed by daily responsibilities and forget to take care of the relationship, but remember that parenting is easier and more enjoyable when you’re a strong team.

Be the role model you wish you’d had. Your children are constantly learning by watching and listening to the way you communicate with others, handle emotions, and solve problems – even when it seems like they’re not paying attention to you. Teach and model the behaviors you want your children to learn – including how to express emotions, give affection, listen, cooperate, and take care of your mental health – and they’re more likely to learn those skills, too.

Final Thoughts: Being a loving, nurturing, supportive father or father figure supports children’s self-esteem, emotional resilience, social skills, and school readiness, and increases their chances of success in school and other activities throughout life. And dads who are actively involved in their children's lives often report increased happiness and fulfillment. That’s a win-win that deserves to be celebrated!

Nicole Young is the mother of two children, ages 19 and 23, who also manages Santa Cruz County's Triple P - Positive Parenting Program, the world's leading positive parenting program. Scientifically proven, Triple P is made available locally by First 5 Santa Cruz County, the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency (Mental Health Services Act) and the Santa Cruz County Human Services Department. To find a Triple P parenting class or practitioner, visit, or contact First 5 Santa Cruz County at 465-2217 or

12 Tips for Dads-Father Figures - June 2023 - TriplePNews (Eng)
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