The Coronavirus Pandemic has demonstrated the importance of good health. As we celebrate National Men’s Health Month and Father’s Day, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Caroline is encouraging men to take an active role in their children’s lives by focusing on their own physical and mental well-being. Isaiah Greene, Case Manager with Caroline County Department of Social Services and their R.I.S.E. (Re-Engaging Individuals Through Successful Employment) and D.A.D.S. Programs, says the biggest challenge he sees for dads in our community is dealing with stress.

“Stress has a major impact on the mental and physical health of everyone but the pandemic has increased that stress ten-fold for men in particular”, said Greene. He suggested three ways dads can relieve stress for themselves and their children at a time when it is critical for everyone to achieve optimal health.

His first tip for healthy dad’s? Exercise. Break the sedentary lifestyle routine and develop healthy routines. At least 30-60 minutes of daily exercise is essential to reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease and a host of other diseases. “I’ve started going on bike rides with my daughter and she looks forward to our “adventures”! Sometimes we start our trip with a scavenger hunt list to make it more interesting.” He suggests dads exercise with their kids to develop healthier family habits but also stresses the importance of dads exercising on their own. Go for a walk or jog and use it as a time to clear your head. Taking that 30 minutes for your own physical and mental health can mean all the difference between a good dad and a great one.

Tip #2 is to read! Good dads read bedtime stories to their children but great dads make time to read about their own interests too. Reading promotes empathy, builds your vocabulary, improves cognitive thinking, and may help in the prevention of dementia. When dads read, they encourage their children to do the same. For current fiction, Greene recommends “The Embers of the Heart” or anything else by Dwight BoNey. His top pick overall is “Be the Dad She Needs You to Be” by Dr. Kevin Leman.

Greene’s third tip — eat Healthy! Greene says believes you are what you eat and is influencing his daughter to make healthier food choices. “I love to eat out! But with the pandemic, we can’t do that so my daughter and I have been discovering new recipes.” He says they not only feel healthier, they’re also developing a shared love of cooking. “Our new favorite meal is Mississippi Pot Roast! The amount of money I’ve saved by cooking at home is a real eye opener too. Not only do we prepare a fresh, healthy meal together, but I can also effectively plan lunch for the next day when there are leftovers!”

It takes a lot of work to be a great dad, notes Greene. The work is endless and, oftentimes, thankless. But in the end, he knows it shows in the sound, well-adjusted children he raises. A good father can have tremendous impact on a child’s life – and a great one can make all the difference. A great dad leads by example, adopts healthy lifestyle choices and teaches his children integrity, respect and responsibility. Studies show children of involved fathers are less likely to drop out of school, engage in risky behaviors, and break the law. They are more likely to have high IQ scores, pursue healthy relationships, and hold jobs. Available and engaged fathers raise successful children. Healthy dads raise healthy families. And isn’t that what all parents want?

We asked some local dads to share their # 1 tip for healthy dads and here’s what they had to say:

Brian Byrnes, Executive Director, Caroline Family YMCA – “My #1 health tip is to start any and all regiments in the kitchen. I really enjoy working out but I see so much more progress when I am mindful of the food and drinks I take in.”

Bob Friday, Bay Area Association of Realtors – “As an aging dad, I think it’s important to keep moving, even if it’s only for 30 minutes a day. Walk, yard work, push mower – just to move! I also think it’s a good health practice to tell your kids and your grandkids you love them as often as you can. That makes everyone feel better!”

Patrick Allison, Caroline’s Agape Project – “Discipline is the key to being the best dad you can be. I have learned over the years, children will respect and love you more if they know you have what’s best for them in your heart. Surprisingly enough, they end up being your best friend because of your actions!”

Sheriff Randy Bounds, Caroline County Sheriff’s Department – “My #1 health tip for Dads is to stop chasing lists and follow your heart! I’ve learned over time that some of the greatest moments in life don’t come via lists. They are spontaneous and fleeting. More often than not, they occur at the most inopportune times. I was working in the yard last week when my 4-year-old granddaughter asked if I wanted to play frisbee. Thinking of what remained on my day’s “to-do” list, I almost turned her down. Instead, I spent the next hour retrieving her misses and perfecting her throw. I will never forget her excitement and laughter when she finally floated one across our yard directly onto my fingertips. The years of my life have delivered the wisdom of knowing when to push my lists aside and seize those truly precious moments before they’re gone!”

Steve Blanchfield, Denton Postal Carrier – “I was raised by my grandparents and one of the biggest lessons I learned from my grandfather was simply to be present. Show up and stay involved in your kids lives!”

Larry Porter, Caroline County Commissioner – “Don’t only love each other but truly LIKE each other! Establish a mutual respect from an early age so you can talk and share common interests. And don’t give advice until you’re asked for it!”

The Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention funded this project under sub-award number CJAC-2019-0004 and VOCA-2018-0063. All points of view in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position of any State or Federal Agency. This project is supported by a grant from the Maryland Judiciary’s Administrative Office of the Courts number AOC-G20CA0225I.

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