June 23, 2018
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Sending first time dads to boot camp

Eric Zelz | BDN
Eric Zelz | BDN
By Aubrie Howard, Special to the BDN

BANGOR, Maine — The fears, uncertainties and continuous worrying about becoming a first-time parent could send anyone into a stress overdrive, especially for new dads whose concerns sometimes can be outnumbered and pushed aside by new moms.

Not all is lost, however, for new dads who might feel intimidated voicing their concerns in birthing and parenting classes, which are mainly focused on moms. Penquis Maine Families, formerly Parents Are Teachers, Too of Bangor started a free workshop called Daddy Boot Camp in 2004 to raise these unheard concerns for soon-to-be dads who are in their last trimester of pregnancy.

“As the flyer states a three hour workshop focused on issues that are typical concerns for new dads,” said Denise Trafton, division manager with Penquis Maine Families and the Daddy Boot Camp coordinator. She said the typical concerns are, “supporting their partner, financial worries, how to care for an infant; especially when they are crying, how to support a breastfeeding mom and how to sort through the constant barrage of conflicting advice.”

Daddy Boot Camp is strictly an all-male workshop — no women allowed — which the organization did on purpose. It is focused on the first time dad, where no question is too silly and there are no women to say otherwise.

“This is a way to create a safe space for men to talk freely with other men and get their questions answered from a veteran dad,” said Trafton.

Soon-to-be fathers get the chance to hear from a veteran dad who brings along his new baby and voices the perspective of the “other side” of being a first-time parent, said Trafton. There is also an experienced facilitator who attends the workshop to keep the conversation and questions flowing.

Trafton said one of the goals for Daddy Boot Camp is to allow new dads to feel confident in becoming a parent. There is a lot of conflicting advice when it comes to parenting, which Trafton says can create confusion with new parents who hear different information from experts, family and friends.

“Knowing what will work for your child, your family and your situation is difficult to figure out,” said Trafton. [The workshop] really is about building confidence in dads — that they can take in all the information and sort through it and they will make the right decisions for their family.”

The workshops have an average participation of six to 12 attendees and is currently only offered at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, but will soon expand into Piscataquis County. The next workshop is offered is Wednesday, Jan. 22. Each attendee is given a gift certificate and a “goody” bag filled with information and resources within the area to help with parenting. Pizza and beverages also are provided.

The participants of Daddy Boot Camp complete an anonymous evaluation of the workshop, and Trafton said the soon-to-be dads’ favorite part is often the presence of a veteran dad so they can get some first-hand advice.

“[The] ability to have a candid discussion, [with an] actual new dad was beneficial,” one attendee wrote.

For information about the next Daddy Boot Camp, visit penquis.org or call Denise Trafton at 973-2488.

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