Parenting a child or young person with additional needs or disability can be isolating sometimes, and not everyone understands what it can be like.
Let me give you a little glimpse into how my mind works sometimes….
My family and I were watching Ben Fogle, his ‘New Lives In The Wild’ show on Channel 5, have you seen it? It’s about people who have given up the rat-race and gone to live a life in the wild places; it’s really good!
Anyway, during the episode we were watching, there was a point in the programme where the guy from the family that Ben was visiting (in New Zealand) invited him to join him and some other guys who, with their families, were also living the wild life in the area, to something called ‘The Fire Circle’.
Essentially, these guys sat around a fire pit and shared how they were doing, how they were feeling, anything they wanted to get off their chests; they shared their stories, their experiences, their hopes and fears.
They had a stick, which you had to hold if you were speaking. The only other rules were that there was no judgement or comments made, and what was said in ‘The Fire Circle’ stayed in ‘The Fire Circle’.
It was a really good accountability group and even Ben Fogle said that he ended up talking about stuff that he hadn’t shared before.
It really reminded me of when I did some Dads sessions for Care For The Family a few years back during the ‘Just For You’ tour for families of children with additional needs.
Dads coming together and sharing their experiences, their worries, their pain, their journey. It was one of the most impactful things I’ve ever had the privilege to be involved in.
It got me wondering whether any of this would translate online, where additional needs Dads from anywhere could gather and share stuff, maybe one-off, maybe journeying together for a bit, maybe even meeting up for real sometimes. A bit of a ‘Dads’ Fire Circle’…
Parenting a child or young person with additional needs or disability can be isolating sometimes, and not everyone understands what it can be like. This community can provide a safe place for Dads to gather and encourage each other, journey with each other and help each other.
We’ve built a website, where Dads will find blog posts just for them, as well as links to helpful and supportive resources such as Care For The Family’s ‘Who Let The Dads Out’ programme.
We have started gathering Dads ‘around the fire circle’, online at first during these challenging times, but with the aim of being able to meet face-to-face, maybe even for a weekend retreat, when possible.
Giving Dads a chance to meet other guys who share similar experiences to them, to know that they are not alone.
We had a great time at our first ‘gathering’ on Wednesday 29th July 2020, with a group of Dads coming together to share a little about ourselves, seeing how much we had in common, thinking about what we would say to our younger selves about the journey that we are on, as well as chatting about how the current coronavirus crisis is affecting us and our families.
Some examples of the feedback afterwards included these comments…
“Thanks so much, Mark, for bringing us together. It was really great and so helpful. Good to meet everyone — look forward to the next time.”
“Thanks Mark really enjoyed it, nice to find other Dads on similar journeys who are prepared to talk about it, looking forward to next time.”
The next ‘gathering’ is scheduled for 27th August at 8pm. It’s free to join in, either use the Eventbrite register, or contact Mark to let him know that you are coming so that we know how many will be there. We’ll send you all the joining information in advance so that you can ‘come and join us around the fire’.
We’ve also created a Facebook group, a place for Dads of children and young people with additional needs to gather, share, encourage either other, ask questions, whatever they need.
As Ben Fogle himself said, “Life is short so live it. Fear is awful so face it. Love is rare so seize it. Anger is ugly so avoid it. Memories are precious so cherish them”.
Mark Arnold, Director of Additional Needs Ministry at Urban Saints. Arnold blogs at The Additional Needs Blogfather. This article was re-published with permission.