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Stories of affirmation for separated Dads

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Daddy’s OK: Fathers’ stories of separation, divorce and rebuilding. By Dean Mason, New Holland Publishing, ISBN 9781742572239, $RRP 29.95. Available in bookshops from August 2012.

The media have strongly embraced the positive messages in this book and the new conversation it represents, and is badly needed, for creating a healthier post-separation environment for all involved.

28/8/12 Life Matters interview by Natasha Mitchell on ABC Radio National can be found here.

28/8/12 ABC Newcastle interview with Jill Emberson can be listened to here.

29/8/12 2ST interview by Barry (Mac) McCaffery can be listened to here.

What Michael Green QC, Author of Fathers After Divorce and Shared Parenting says: Dean Mason has picked it in one brilliant sentence: “The cause is actually irrelevant, what matters most of all is how people cope with such a deep part of themselves being thoroughly challenged and exposed for the world to see.’’ (p182) The recovery for a separated man is to learn from the past, to move on and to become a whole and useful person in his new world. Through the stories and journeys of men after separation and divorce, he provides the scaffolding for men to climb to new and better lives. No blank negatives here: while he acknowledges the deeply disturbing traumas of men experiencing the loss of family, he assists them to positive attitudes with processes to accept what has happened and to emerge as competent fathers, persons and partners.”

‘Daddy’s OK’ ventures into the intimate experiences of 14 men who have been through a family break-up. At each step, from the moment the man realises his relationship is in serious trouble through to finding, or nearly finding, fulfillment in life as a separated, or, in some cases, as a re-united parent, Dean captures what it is that keeps the man going, what hope enlightens him, what tools he finds to help him take a more positive approach than the many negative alternatives that tempt him along the way.

These are ‘affirmation stories’ because in their respective family break-ups, these ‘average’ Australian men have suffered some of the worst trauma they will ever experience, but they have also found, or, are still finding, healthy and rewarding ways to rebuild after that experience. A family break-up is not pleasant for anyone. There is no doubt that children are the worst affected and that mothers and fathers both suffer significantly. The effects on grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins, and the wider social group, can also not be easily measured. With over 50,000 couples separating every year in Australia, this amounts to a high level of social fragmentation with many unfortunate long-term consequences.

Daddy’s OK was written to provide the man’s perspective of what this experience is like and to encourage all men and their families to be more confident about listening to what is going on in their inner world. For each man interviewed this was the first step in identifying the areas of their health and well-being they would like to improve and in becoming more confident to pick up the many tools and forms of help that are available. What each story shows is that men can, and often do, become better parents, partners and community members through these experiences.

There is a range of family law, child support, child protection, and general social welfare systems and processes that a family break-up usually involves. For everyone working in these or related fields, Daddy’s OK provides some useful insights that may alleviate some of the difficulties they experience in their work, and may help the individuals and families they are working with get to ‘rebuilding’ faster.

Note: Due to a production glitch, the Acknowledgements page disappeared from the first print edition, please read it here.