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June 18, 2020

This Father's Day, take a call to action

Consider ways to bring healing to the many men hurting this year

Men's Health 50-Plus Men
Father's Day 2020 Source/Image licensed from Ingram Image

Father's Day 2020 presents an opportunity for men to consider ways to bring healing to the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic and racial injustice.

My wife tells me it's an infrared sauna, a cylinder-like contraption with two sides that wrap together around a person’s torso with your head and legs sticking out each end. To me, it looked like it had the makings of a space ship from which my 4-year-old grandson, Luca, and I could explore the universe.

I stood up the sauna in a vertical position, crouched down, and invited Luca into my make-believe capsule. Upon entry, I closed the other side of the cylinder to form our vessel. Then I counted: five, four, three, two one, blast off. I shook the sides to mimic our launch and assent into space.

What a moment. Just the right age, right size and right amount of imagination.

We traveled through space, stopped at a number of planets, encountered treacherous space aliens and then, when all was done, and I was getting a little cramped, we headed back to earth for a safe landing. The sauna proved to be a great space ship and, more importantly, a whole lot of fun. A trip thru space is now a mandatory part of Luca’s visits. It’s a memory that will stick with me forever.  

Pivot to my two sons, Anthony and Stephen. Both in their 30’s, married and doing well. Whether it was Stephen throwing up all over me in a crowded movie theatre, or traipsing the region to watch Anthony’s band perform, they provided a lifetime of cherished moments. Now grown men, I relish the opportunity to hang out with them, grab a meal or enjoy sports talk. Since the coronavirus, I’ve adopted the practice of socially-distanced Sunday afternoons on Anthony’s front lawn, giving Luca virtual hugs, and then catching up with Steve when his busy schedule permits.

Complete this picture with some reflections on my dad. Gone for almost three years, I still feel his presence, and see it vividly in the generations that followed him. It’s incredible to watch Dad’s personality come out in Luca. I can’t tell you the number of times my wife and I have looked at each other in amazement after something Luca said or did, knowing how much he just mirrored his great grandfather. Precious moments.

My grandson, sons and dad, memories of what’s passed, reflections on the future. What they mean to me, the motivation they provide, and their influence on my thinking is the essence of Father’s Day, and why this year requires a call to action.

What can I do?

Father’s Day 2020 has a special meaning. So many men are hurting; medically, socially and economically. The pandemic and the troubled state of our nation provide the impetus for self-reflection amidst this sea of disruption and discontent. It's a basis to re-examine our priorities and prompting many men to ask themselves: What can I do?

Men fix things. It’s in our DNA. Whether our cars, a furnace or a relationship, our instinct is to repair whatever is broken. We enjoy the challenge and the peace of mind that we bring to those who benefit from the repair. We may not want to talk about it, but we are determined once we set out on a course of action. 

In these times, and on this Father’s Day, I offer this three-part message to men and their loving constituency looking to respond to the issues of the day.

Heal thyself

True to my advocacy, priority No. 1 is physical health and well-being. Behavioral change on a personal level is a prerequisite if you want to guide your family through the COVID-19 pandemic or pursue societal change. 

One of the best strategies when pursuing a healthy lifestyle is to engage the support of the people around you. Our loving relationships give us purpose and meaning. They quell the storm, and provide the inspiration to stay the course, a point borne out by the experts on motivation.

Self-determination Theory is one of the leading approaches on motivation and behavior change. The theory grew out of the work of psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, whom I met several years ago when I first began researching motivation in men. Under SDT, people need to feel that they have the skills for success, a sense of belonging and a level of control in order to achieve psychological growth and their goals. 

According to Deci and Ryan, through our relationships and interactions with others, we can either foster or thwart well-being and personal growth. With support, individuals who adopt new behaviors can gradually advance to a point where they can sustain the desired behavior (i.e., a healthy lifestyle) through intrinsic motivation, a state where the behavior is naturally satisfying – and therefore more likely to be sustained.

Lead the COVID defense

American’s have a bad case of COVID-19 fatigue. Even the most committed followers of Dr. Anthony Fauci are finding it difficult to maintain some form of isolation, socially distance or diligently wear a mask. It’s tough, but the stakes remain high. 

While the U.S. and our region inch their way back to some form of normalcy, concerns exist over a resurgence of the virus. Men, this Father’s Day, take a moment when you are with your family and consider the risks. Your behavior can be very influential in the extent to which your loved ones maintain their discipline and adhere to the precautions. It’s a tough-love message, but one with literally life and death implications.

Start the discussion

Even on a holiday designed for relaxation with friends and family, it will be difficult to ignore America’s racial divide. It has a presence that pervades everything. Remember, healing starts with understanding. Understanding requires conversation and an open and honest dialogue. 

Now, I am not expecting anyone to conduct a policy forum around the barbeque. Rather, just some selected conversations at the appropriate time that can plant the seeds for larger discussions.

Your call for action

So, what can you do? How can you really make a difference? 

Here’s your call to action: Take care of yourself. Take care of your family. Help take care of your country. 

Happy Father’s Day.

Louis Bezich, senior vice president of strategic alliances at Cooper University Health Care, is author of "Crack The Code: 10 Proven Secrets that Motivate Healthy Behavior and Inspire Fulfillment in Men Over 50."

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