I’m Kenneth Braswell and I’ve spent three decades advocating for responsible fatherhood and helping dads play an active role in the lives of their kids.

During this time, I’ve helped develop countless resources in support of strong fathers and families. As part of my work in this field, I’ve also partnered with organizations dedicated to helping dads take care of their physical and mental health and well-being, and helping them understand how doing this allows them to continue being engaged and present in the lives of their kids. I founded Fathers Incorporated in 2004 to collaborate with organizations around the country to drive social and legislative changes that lead to healthy fatherhood involvement. I’ve learned that while fathers play an essential role, they often face uphill battles in trying to be a consistent presence for their kids, which can include making sure they are taking care of themselves and their kids from a mental health standpoint. I’ve also learned that many fathers would appreciate tips and guidance on how to approach conversations around mental health with their own kids who might be struggling.

I’ve recently developed a 15 minute documentary called “Dadication,” which explores the many challenges fathers face in trying to be involved in their children’s lives, including mental health. You can view the full film at Fatherhood.gov/Dadication.I’m here to answer any questions you have about being an involved father and the role mental health plays in that. Looking for tips and resources to help take care of your own mental health? Have questions about how to approach conversations around emotional wellbeing with your kids? Ask me anything! PROOF: https://i.redd.it/2cepa2me5s891.jpg

UPDATE: Thank you to everyone who joined today’s discussion! There are many questions unanswered. It is my hope over time to get through the all. I enjoyed the conversation and hope you picked up a tip or two. To learn more and find additional resources for fathers, you can visit fatherhood.gov.

Comments: 94 • Responses: 21  • Date: 

mugfantoo47 karma

I don't know if this question fits here. I'm spending a lot of free time with my kids and I love it. During the ongoing pandemic I have to work from home a lot and noticed that my kids can't really differentiate between dad is at work and dad is dad. How could they at 1 and 3. Two weeks ago I saw my 3 y/o play daddy. He sat on the couch with a toy tablet and said "I have to concentrate. Please leave." it broke my heart. How can I be there (physically) and work without hurting my son like that?

fathersincorporated35 karma

As a dad who struggles with being present in the lives of my very active boys and making sure that I take care of the business of the family and house, I try very hard not to cross the two. Which means when I am with them, I'm in the moment. When they are in their moments, it gives me space to be in my moment. Don't worry about a 3yr old mimicking. That's what they do. When he is older, he will understand the difference between playing daddy and being daddy. Just don't make saying "i'm concentrating" a habit.

PickleGetsTickled14 karma

My personal opinion: you gotta just walk that fine line. Try to explain simply why you cant be 100% dad and hope they accept.

fathersincorporated28 karma

The response has to be age-appropriate. A 3-year-old don't need to hear about our need to pay the bills.

fathersincorporated25 karma

DID YOU KNOW…Father involvement is related to positive cognitive, developmental, and socio-behavioral child outcomes, such as improved weight gain in preterm infants, improved breastfeeding rates, higher receptive language skills, and higher academic achievement. 

LippyWeightLoss23 karma

As a solo mother, how do I help my son fill the void of not having a father figure? There is no extended family available to take on that role, and we aren’t religious so church isn’t an answer for us either. He’s absolutely expressed that he grieves a father he’s never had.

fathersincorporated58 karma

I cry inside each and every time a mom asks me this question. Partly because I know that my mom asked the same questions when I was young and she didn't really get any answers. Looking back I can tell you what I needed and knowing that you can find a way to fulfill it for your son. I needed to be in more social circles, sports, hobbies, volunteering. Which would have placed me around friends who were growing up like me and adult men, who served as role models even when they were not in an official position to do so. Find out what his interests are and then find ways to deeply engage him in those interests. Sooner or later, he will find his tribe and ultimately, his chief(s)

Humblejumbler11 karma

Whats your number one tip for expecting dads?

fathersincorporated18 karma

Picking one is very difficult, but I'll take a shot. OR I'll answer it this way...When I became a new dad, I wish someone would have told me not to be so hard on myself. Parenting is a very difficult thing to do, because the consequences are so critical. However, it is the MOST rewarding thing you will ever accomplish. Find parents in your own personal circle that you can rely on when you don't feel so great and friends that will celebrate you when you are doing things well. You will find that as your child is growing; so are you.

Schmag20007 karma

What is single handedly the best thing about parenthood?

fathersincorporated13 karma

Watching and playing a role in your children, "BECOMING." Now having said that, there are a lot of things they can become, however with healthy parents, the likelihood of them being great is what you ultimately want to achieve as a parent. I cried like a baby at each of my children's graduations. Their reward was the diploma; mines was watching them BECOME.

DrG23906 karma

How do I heal from trauma from my childhood at the hands of my dad? He wasn’t around a lot growing up because he was working, and when he was around he was always yelling and being mean. Fast forward to now, and I always break down when people yell or act erratic around me. What can I do to try and heal our relationship if it’s possible? I hate having flashbacks when my husband and I argue even though it’s nothing like what I grew up with. Hope this isn’t too personal.

fathersincorporated8 karma

You sound like you could be me. What I learned is that there were so many of my friends that experienced exactly what you are describing. Seek out wise council, especially if it is impacting the quality of you being a parent. Talking to someone you trust helps you take control of your triggers. Also take 15 minutes to watch our short documentary; DADication. Hearing the stories of other dads/men will often have a positive impact on how you find connections in the lives of others. https://www.fatherhood.gov/dadication

DrG23906 karma

Thanks so much. I feel like if more people talked about the impact that seeing that kind of stuff growing up we could make it so the next generation isn’t as traumatized. I know for me personally I make any sacrifice I can think of, to make sure my daughter never feels what I felt, you know?

fathersincorporated5 karma

Many of us, including myself just need a little affirmation. You are incredible!

scarsmum6 karma

Why does this discussion on fathering so often end up in mysogynistic ideas that hold women responsible for “breaking up the family” or in some other way blames women for men not being present; however abusive they may be? I’m referring not to this AMA but to so many discussions in the public realm that blatantly blame women for mens issues.

fathersincorporated1 karma

Because Hurt people; HURT PEOPLE.

The_clown_DBD5 karma

I understand if this is too personal and you don't want to answer but I'm kind of curious. How is/was your relationship with your father?

fathersincorporated10 karma

Oooh...Weeee. I tell the story about my lack of relationship with my dad every time I open my mouth. I wrote a book about it and produced a documentary. In short, met him when I was 23; he passed away shortly after and my stepfather spent most of my young life incarcerated. Like many of us who have had to deal with a degree of father absence; I had to make mistakes with my own children in order to find my way to doing it right.

FruitLoops25 karma

Hey brotha, is there a way to achieve a happy marriage, good relationships with your children, and all while have decent care for your own self? It seems like a never-ending struggle to get there, what do I do?

fathersincorporated10 karma

Absolutely...Can you and I build a rocket ship and go to the moon. Absolutely. It's just not easy. You have to put the work in. Nothing worth having is easy. The struggle is real in the field :-)

gmario5105 karma

I was raised in a alcoholic house.Every weekend I saw things that I promise myself that I would not show my kids. I never learned to deal with my emotions and I feel right now it’s harder to be emotionally open. I had to grow up and become strong so I could stop the abuse. Now that I’m adults how do I become more emotional open without bringing back the pain? How can I be a better dad without feeling like I’m not going to make it?

fathersincorporated7 karma

This is an awesome first step. One, recognizing the issue and second, talking about it. Don't stop here. A lot of guys don't believe counseling is something that shouldn't do. The real definition of counseling is "allowing someone to help you sort through the things you already know" YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE IT! You already have. The more you know and understand about yourself the better equipped you will be to achieve ALL of your life's goals. If you don't believe nobody else believe in you. I DO.

Trashyanon0895 karma

Is it true that a young man without a father figure in their life is more likely to turn to crime?

fathersincorporated8 karma

That's just one possible factor, there are so many other things, separately and combined that lead individuals to the lifestyle. It has less to do with not having a father figure, and more to do with not have a healthy and responsible father or male figure to help one understand the consequences of engaging in crime and the benefits of both understanding and seeing a better way of life.

fathersincorporated3 karma


fathersincorporated3 karma

If you are looking for resources to help in your fatherhood journey, feel free to visit the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse at www.fatherhood.gov

keanoo1 karma

I'm due to be the father of two twin girls soon, can you recommend any books?

TheDanishDude1 karma

Hello Kenneth, when my dad came home from work, he was usually tired and cranky and down, As a result he would often put unrealistic pressure on me with the sort of "if you dont do X right, then youll never get the chance to do it right again!" Commentary on my actions, and he would often get mad over little things. My dad and I worked it out, and as an adult, I understand why.

But when I get stressed or loose my temper now, my dads words and voice from back then still falls out of my mouth at my daugther, how do I break that cycle? I try to apoligize, but my approval means so much to her, and I see it affect her selfconfidence and it breaks my heart.

fathersincorporated1 karma

The best part of addressing this issue is recognizing that it exists. Kudos for that. However, not that you know, there is one simple way to have an immediate impact. STOP DOING IT. So here is how you do that. Recognize your triggers, Take a deep breathe, think about what you want to say and then say it in a way that doesn't attack her confidence. If you have time in that moment to hear your dad's voice, you have time to hear your own voice.

Teaching our children should come in conversation and lessons, not responses and commands. Sounds to me, like you are very aware of how it made you feel when your dad did it to you. You should be MORE aware of it when you are doing it to her.

You sound like a good guy and awesome dad. It's obviously how your daughter sees you. Here is a little piece of advice, I've learn in dealing with my wife and daughters. What you do; matters MUCH MORE, than what you said you're gonna do. Stop doing things you have to apologize for. It's on an admittance that you didn't care about the last time you did it and said you were not going to do it again.

You have the power to build or destroy her confidence and self esteem. You also have the power to HEAL THINE OWN HEART and at the same time, HEAL HER HEART.

BigCashRegister1 karma

I’m not sure if this has been asked already, but what can you do to prepare yourself for being a father? I’d love to have kids but I want nothing more than to bring someone into this world better me and my wife could ever be. This is coming from parents who had me at young and flew by the seat of their pants.

fathersincorporated2 karma

There is no perfect time, however the best time is when both you and your wife are ready to extend your LOVE. There is no manual and no first time parent knew (really) wth they were getting into. Learn as you grow; grow as you learn. Seems to me, just based on your question and tone; you are already aware of what it takes to be great parents.

Drvaon1 karma

As of 24days I am now a father of two very cute little boys. With the first, it was very easy to develop a bond because I was in a different phase of live which happened to give me more time. Now I am under a lot of pressure at work and find it hard to find energy and time to be with the first, who is very demanding now, so I feel the second nearly exclusively is with my wife. How can I be a loving father to him and how can I bond well with him?

fathersincorporated3 karma

At 24 days old, presence (meaning) hearing your voice and feeling your touch is enough for the baby. What's enough for your wife is a different conversation. Steal away moments that allow you to relax at the same time you are bonding with the baby. If you watching the game, do with the baby in your lap. If you talking to your wife; hold the baby while you are doing it. If you're talking on the phone (and the baby is awake) do it in the baby's presence so he can hear your voice. For for first year; your presence is the most valuable gift you can give of yourself. Don't clock the minutes, clock the moments.

ScratchLNR1 karma

I have two biological children (12 & 14), that I have seen sparingly over the last 8 months. This is after many years of consistent court ordered visitation. The mother of my children used to have an amicable relationship, but that has changed. I believe the issue is that she has given my children autonomy over our visitation schedule outside of the court order. This has created a great rift between my kids and I. I'd prefer to resolve this issue outside of court because I feel the trauma may outweigh any benefits. If offered counseling, but they have not accepted. At this point, I feel that time is the only healer. What are your suggestions for a heart-broken father?

fathersincorporated2 karma

I saw this question earlier and began answering it; and then pull away. The reason, is because it triggered my own experience. There are three experiences to which co-parenting can occur. When both parents don't get along, when one is trying and the other is too hurt to respond and when both parents are attempting to do the right thing for the sake of the kids. That last one is where you and I were. When my daughter turned about 13 we both began to loosen up on our schedule in order to leave it up to our daughter. I thought it was best because she was a girl and needed to be around her mom. In reality, her friends became more important to her than we both of us did. The difference is that she (mom) was still able to see her every day and I; only when she didn't have something she believed was more important or interesting to do.

She is now 23 and even though we co-parented together from age 2. I still feel the effects of that decision. If I had to do it all over again, I would and maintain our agreed upon schedule for this reason -- For the non-custodial/non-resident parents; the time should not be described as VISITATION..it should be PARENTING TIME. Dads don't Visit, they Parent!!!!

Don't miss out on your parenting time. Kids don't know what they need from their parents at 12, 13 and 14. They know what they want, not what they need. At those ages, yes I'd rather visit when I feel like it, than be parented when I don't think I need it. Remember, it's not your job to entertain them during your time together. That's part of your parenting, but not the sum total. When they get older (which won't be long) they will understand.

Sounds like you and mom have the ability to have a rational conversation. Don't withhold from them how not spending time with you, makes you feel. Also, they are old enough to also hear it themselves.

Your broken heart, today, can still be made whole.

IndieBenji-1 karma

Why does society value the mother of a child more than the father?

fathersincorporated1 karma

That's an age old question and one that we often lean on to help us understand why our society sees parenting the way it does.. Without going into an in depth history of how we got here, I will say that, TODAY we know more. We know more about the capabilities of both moms and dads. We also know that old habits and beliefs die slowly. We are definitely not where we were 15 years ago with respect of what we know about men being parents. We just need for everybody else to catch up, including narrative, laws, policy and culture. I would point you to our short documentary, DADication to listen to the stories of men talk about their struggles and triumphs of being fathers. https://www.fatherhood.gov/dadication (after you watch it, please leave a comment and let me know what you think and if it helped)