Getting participants to feel comfortable to engage during program workshops requires strong facilitation skills. Fatherhood program facilitators must navigate a variety of group dynamics and behaviors in order to create a safe environment for participants to feel comfortable. This takes time, focus, and experience in understanding the different stages, challenges, and needs that participants need for a successful program experience. Once that comfort stage is met, facilitators will need to work to maintain the safe environment for themselves and group members.
Even a strong and well-trained facilitator can face challenges from group members. Group members may test the leader’s authority during early sessions. It is important for facilitators to be confident, credible, and provide a safe environment for all participants during group discussions.
If your fatherhood program is looking for more information on successfully facilitating group programs and workshops, this page is for you.
Tips & Best Practices
- It is important to include programming that considers the different needs of older and younger fathers with different experiences. Facilitators must ensure that program outreach helps men understand that classes, discussions, and other programming are for them. Fatherhood program facilitators should learn how to engage, lead, and create programming that meets the different needs of younger and older fathers.
- Sparking and maintaining meaningful discussions can be a challenge. If conversation is a struggle in your fatherhood groups, consider using movies. Some facilitators have found movies are a great strategy for creating conversation that tackles important issues for dads in a relatable way.
- Getting and retaining group attendance is a key struggle for facilitators. A recent review of 21 studies of fatherhood programs was conducted to identify program policies associated with high rates of attendance, and how program outcomes differed for fathers with varying rates of attendance. Finding what method works best to engage group members will help ensure that the group is successful.
Launched in 2009, Young Fathers of Santa Fe operates in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico, with a mix of local funding and donations. With a staff of three, including a case manager bilingual in English and Spanish, the program supports young fathers and their partners during and after pregnancy. The program uses mentoring, education, and group activities to establish trust, runs weekly support groups at various community locations, and helps with education and job placement. They utilize Facebook to directly engage participants which helps identify areas of stress and provides additional support opportunities. Young Fathers of Santa Fe connects with about 150 dads each year and works with other family members whenever possible. The organization supports the mother-father-child relationship; connects with fathers early in the pregnancy; encourages childbirth preparation, parenting, and relationship training; and facilitates employment, housing, education, and legal support.
What are the stages of group development?
Many programs use Bruce Tuckman’s five stages of group development: 1) forming, 2) storming, 3) norming, 4) performing, and 5) adjourning. Groups take time to form and become cohesive and facilitators should be aware of where group dynamics could be headed.
What are typical problem behaviors facilitators see?
Facilitators often confront three common types of problem behaviors: monopolizing the conversation, quiet and unresponsive participants, and side conversations that disrupt the flow of discussion.
How can facilities spark more group member engagement?
Established programs and facilitators employ many tactics to encourage engagement. Facilitators use icebreakers, a talking and sharing format where fathers can share about themselves, role play to tackle difficult problems fathers commonly face, building trust with the fathers, and incorporating peer-to-peer learning. All of these tactics push the group further into a safe environment to comfortably share with each other.