San Mateo County fathers continue to learn and grow with their kids

Yesterday was Father’s Day, and First 5 San Mateo County is excited to wish all fathers a special and reflective day with their families. Thank you to the fathers and father figures who play an imperative role in raising children. Our communities are stronger thanks to the commitment of fathers, and we were lucky to celebrate you all yesterday. 

Embracing the importance of fathers and male role models in the healthy development of children is one of the core values of First 5 San Mateo. Research consistently shows that present and active fathers teach their kids social and positive moral behaviors. Kids with present fathers are less likely to lie, more likely to take risks, better behaved, and less prone to depression. They consistently perform better on standardized cognitive testing in preschool. They develop empathy earlier and have stronger relationships later in life. Even with all of the most concrete evidence, it is simple enough to say that children love their fathers. So, we do everything we can to make sure that fathers are able to be present and supportive parents. 

First 5 San Mateo County is proud to fund organizations that proactively support dads. Dads from throughout the county have shared some of their experiences growing into their roles as fathers with the resources and guidance of some of the experts from these teams. 

StarVista supports parents and families, offering counseling, skill development, and crisis prevention that helps families navigate life’s challenges. Through their programs, including Healthy Homes, and Dad’s Hangout Group, parents can access key resources and tactics to use with their kids. Two strong single fathers, Marcial Zúñiga and RJ Salinda, are living right here in San Mateo County with their wonderful children. There have been times when they did not know where to turn. “As a father, I’d like to give them a certain life,” Salinda says, reflecting on his challenges. 

Salinda turned to StarVista when he learned about the programming through his children’s Early Childhood Education program. “I’ve been working with a lot of people in StarVista and they helped me to have a more stable approach with my kids,” he says. “Dad’s hangout group from Healthy Homes helped me to have a place where I can vent and to talk to people, where I can let most of my stress out. I look forward every week to participating in my Dad’s hangout group.” 

To Zúñiga, the strong community of dads, who want to understand their impacts, find healthy outlets for their stress, and share their insights, makes fatherhood feel empowering. “I learned to understand my children’s behavior, how to listen, how to talk to them on a day-by-day basis. I learned a lot from the conversation with other fathers in the groups and the Healthy Homes staff who did home visits. I learned how to deal with conflicts as well and to understand my children’s development,” he says.

As another one of our partner organizations has said, parenthood does not come with a manual. Family Connections is creating play-based education programming that parents can participate in with their children. “I have learned how to anticipate and approach upcoming issues in the lives of my boys and family, so I’m not blindsided by the unexpected life transitions,” says one father. Family Connections helps dads better understand how to best foster their child’s educational development. Through activities such as puzzles, building blocks, learning colors, letters, and numbers, parents are able to play with their children, and watch them grow before their eyes! “Enjoy playing with your children,” says another dad. “These moments will never return.”

For all of the challenges, the joys of fatherhood inspire these men to learn from a village and to give their children their best. “Each child has their own character and personality,” Zúñiga says. “They have taught me a lot and made me a better person. Each day they grow up, they behave differently. They change in different ways. I enjoy seeing them change and grow up.” 

“I love to see my kids running towards me; it fills me with joy when I come back from work.” Salida says. “I love each interaction I have with them each day, and how close we are. I feel I am close to my kids and they are close to me. We never spend a day apart from each other.”  No matter what your family looks like, these are the moments that solidify fatherhood. These are the moments that make families strong.

This Father’s Day, we are celebrating the dads of San Mateo. Thank you to dads for making dinner, healing scraped knees, teaching softness, growing in new ways, believing in your kids, and bringing up the next generation. Your kids will be kind, healthy, and capable thanks to your dedication. RJ Salinda said it best. “Be strong. Always think about the family, the kids, and what is best for them.” With everything that we have been through as a community this year, we hope your celebrations were meaningful. Happy day, Dads!

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