With the message that their presence in family life matters deeply, a free daylong workshop aimed at fathers is set for Saturday, April 12 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center.
The workshop is presented by the Northwest Marriage Institute, a faith-based non-profit organization in Vancouver, in conjunction with Sonrise Academy in The Dalles.
The workshop is funded by a federal grant that pays for materials for those attending, provides a free lunch to them — including their wives, spouses or other family members — free childcare, and also a $40 gift card to Fred Meyer for fathers who attend.
Because the workshop is funded by a federal grant, no religious content or discussion occurs in the workshop, Sibley said. But “we derive our material from what our beliefs are, obviously.”
“It’s for any dad or a couple that just wants to better themselves or they’re aiming to go from being good dads to better dads,” he said. “We do get dads or couples that are struggling and that’s fine too, but we get ones that are great. It’s really open to anybody, wherever they’re at.”
The impetus for the program, Sibley said, is to address the absence of strong, positive male leaders and role models, physically and emotionally.
“We want to change that,” he said. “We want to let men know their value and the important role they play in their families and their communities.”
The main message is “what it means to be a good man and how that translates into being a better father,” he said.
A good man is somebody who “is present and consistent with their kids and obviously somebody of integrity. And somebody who knows the influence that they have in the lives of their family and kids, somebody who knows that they matter. That’s one of the things, if we really try to get one message across to the dads, it’s that they matter, they’re irreplaceable in the lives of their kids and families.”
The workshop offers a positive message.
“We don’t say, ‘If you’re doing this, stop.’ We just say, you’re so meaningful to your family, your presence is so valuable.”
The program is not only aimed at fathers, but at couples “because we talk about how to strengthen your relationship between you and your partner,” Sibley said. Topics include “the power of a father,” “the top 10 mistakes all dads make,” and “healthy communication and conflict resolution.”
“We even have a small subsection on blended families, for step-parents and families that are on their second marriage and have step-children. We talk about how to deal with those dynamics as well. We cover a lot in one day,” he said.
Surveys of program participants are “overwhelmingly positive,” he said. “We don’t try to shame them or make them feel like they’re not doing enough.”