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Thiessen, Daniel – from Marge Thiessen
When Vinny and his wife were thrust unexpectedly into parenthood, as foster parents to a family member’s four-year old son, he had no idea how being a Dad would change his family, his marriage, and his outlook on life.
In school, Vinny graduated and worked as a Health Care Aide, and through his work and teaching positions in the Health Care field, he had a good understanding of childhood development. However, none of his education could prepare him for the real life experiences and challenges of parenthood.
“We were the people who were like, “my kids won’t do THAT”
Vinny’s wife was familiar with the foster system, having grown up with foster siblings for much of her childhood, but Vinny didn’t have a lot of hands on experience with children. Taking on the role of a foster parent was intimidating at first. “I didn’t have the most ideal situation growing up; I didn’t want that to affect my parenting style.”
When *Parker came to them, he was four years old, and the challenges he was experiencing in his home had caused him to regress in his development. He was not toilet-trained, and he was no longer speaking in full words or sentences. Within a few months of living with Vinny, he found stability and quickly caught up in his language and hygiene milestones.
Along with his language and hygiene skills, Vinny and his wife learned to deescalate Parker’s anger outbursts, and help him to feel comfortable in social situations. As he continued to learn positive ways to parent, Vinny attended the Nobody’s Perfect Parenting group at Steinbach Family Resource Centre, where he was able to share his experiences, hear from other parents on their own parenting challenges, and learn strategies on how to manage difficult behaviour.
“One of the biggest things we have found has really worked is labelling his emotions for what they are. So if we understand you’re ‘frustrated’, and can name it, we notice that has significantly decreased the angry outbursts.”
Parker is now in Kindergarten, and looking forward to going to school full time in Grade 1. Vinny and Cheryl help him with remote learning, and is finding new ways to help him enjoy the focused writing and reading work that is the most challenging for Parker. As Vinny sees his efforts in parenting through these challenges pay off, he becomes more motivated to be a great Dad.
“Now I’m even more invested in wanting to learn, it’s not just for the child that I’m helping, but it’s also for me - I’m emotionally developing at some level at that point too. It’s kind of like we’re in this together, we’re both learning this at the same time and I think it’s really cool.”
Vinny’s outlook has evolved in his relationships with his wife and with others through his new role as a foster Dad. As he grows in his patience and understanding, he has spent time reflecting on his own childhood alongside other families at Steinbach Family Resource Centre. In this open-minded environment, Vinny has realized he had been holding on to resentments from his past and the world around him. ‘I realized I had to stop worrying about who I didn’t want to be and focus on who I actually was, and who I wanted to be. There is always room to move past things. What happened yesterday doesn’t mean that is who you are today.”
Vinny’s personal and family struggles with addiction inspire his commitment to parenting. He has been recently sober for three years and is committed to learning as much as he can about parenting positively in today’s world, by listening to his intuition, taking advantage of limitless experts and information on the internet, and attending educational groups with his peers like the ones at Steinbach Family Resource Centre. Through these methods he is breaking the cycle of trauma in his life and approaching being a Dad in a different way, by giving back as much as he can to his son, the next generation, and to other families.
*Name changed for privacy reasons.
Read Beth's Story of how SFRC helps moms all year long.