Building better fathers, stronger sons

New Franklin County program supports new approach to fathering

TURNERS FALLS — On Monday, once fathers have finished basking in the general glow of Father’s Day, they are invited to a discussion on the topic of raising boys to be healthier men.

The day after Father’s Day, a variety of social service groups invite parents, professionals and the community in general to a discussion about raising boys to be better fathers, better co-workers, husbands, boyfriends and better men in general.

Susan Mareneck, executive director of Montague Catholic Social Ministries, which is among the event sponsors, isn’t eager to set limits for the conversation.

While the discussion fits into the effort to end domestic violence, this isn’t the only focus.

“I wouldn’t reduce it to that,” Mareneck said. “I think it extends into safety for and success for families in our community, it’s really about strengthening families.”

The event is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Monday in the Northeast Foundation for Children’s Responsive Classroom training building at 66 Second St.

Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan is scheduled to speak, and following several presentations the plan is to break up into smaller discussion groups.

For Tom Schiff, a health educator with the University of Massachusetts and the discussion leader, a healthy definition of masculinity includes men’s health.

“I think the way that I define better men are men who are reflective enough to understand that the messages that some of us have got about how to be men are not healthy,” Schiff said.

Risk-taking, drinking too much, driving too fast and fighting are all unhealthy elements Schiff identifies in the widespread definition of masculinity.

Schiff points to the phrase “boys will be boys,” often used to gloss over fighting and similar behaviors. Schiff said he has daughters rather than sons, but sees plenty of positive character traits in the sons of friends and believes these should be the elements the phrase applies to.

“We’re hoping that out of this coming-together we will figure out better ways to engage men in raising healthy boys,” Mareneck said.

The discussion is both a preliminary step in this direction and an opportunity to learn about and get involved in the various social service groups involved, Mareneck said.

Among the groups involved is the local Fathers Support Group, a Montague Catholic Social Ministries program.

Mareneck said the group’s founder had participated in general parenting groups and decided more men might participate if they had a group of their own.

Beginning with occasional events, over the course of three years the group began meeting monthly and eventually weekly, Mareneck said, although the group is currently on a summer schedule and meeting every other Friday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at 78 Avenue A, Turners Falls.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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