Diego* is a 24-year-old father of a 2-year-old boy. At the time Diego participated in StarVista’s virtual father group series, “Hangout with Dads,” his wife was expecting their second child. When he joined in July 2020, we did not know how the pandemic had impacted his profession, his income, his growing family, and him as an overwhelmed and stressed father.
For the past 2 years, Diego has struggled to raise and guide his toddler. When his partner was given a flyer about StarVista’s Healthy Homes Father Engagement Services at her local Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) office, Diego understood he needed help raising his child and decided to contact the program for support.
Diego began sharing openly in the initial “Hangout with Dads” sessions about how his upbringing as a young boy with a rigid and unaffectionate father had affected his self-esteem and decision-making confidence. He grew up as a timid, angry, and resentful child due to “bottling up his emotions,” which was the norm for him. Although his father had taught him to respect his elders, he also taught him to never talk back to his parents and he couldn’t express himself freely. Diego felt confused, unloved, and unsupported. He was not allowed to express his anger—or any feelings—and felt pressured to be a good student and example to his younger siblings. Unfortunately, he wasn’t shown how to do those things.
As Diego grew up, he began searching for other ways to get rid of his pain and emptiness. He started experimenting with alcohol, drugs, and music not approved by his parents, and dating as many girls as he could. He decided to leave his home when he was 18 and move in with his high school girlfriend (now his wife), and began his journey as an independent young man, boyfriend, and father at the age of 22.
By the end of the 10-week series, Diego had built a great connection with other Dads in the group. He shared that during the series, he was able to reflect on how his childhood experience had prepared him to know what he was going to do differently than his father. He proudly shared that he had reconciled his broken relationship with his own father and forgave him for the unrealistic expectations he put on him as a young child. Throughout this process, Diego has been able to understand the challenges and blessings of being a young father.
By learning new skills through the curriculum and through other fathers’ experiences, Diego has become more self-aware of his fathering skills and areas for growth. He hopes to refer other new dads like himself to future series since he found this space so supportive. Diego shares, “The importance of this program is vital for new fathers like me. The group has helped me to cope during the pandemic, throughout my wife’s pregnancy, and to support my 2-year-old during the important years of his life. I can’t forget the stories from the other Dads either since they give me courage to keep learning about topics on fatherhood.”
*Name changed to protect confidentiality