Sunday, February 25, 2024

This program for dads is the only one of its kind across Hampton Roads

Father's Day 2019 is on Sunday, June 16. (Southside Daily File Photo/courtesy of Pixabay Images)
(WYDaily file/Courtesy of Pixabay)

Fathers across the region have access to a special course designed to help them manage their anger, learn better communication skills and gain valuable parenting skills through Virginia Beach’s Department of Human Services.

Fathers in Training is a 15-week free program run through that department, said Ben Watterton, Fathers in Training coordinator.

The program was created by in 1996 and over the past 23 years or so it has served 2,500 men from all over Hampton Roads and even as far as North Carolina, he said.

Fathers are either referred to the program through the criminal justice system, child custody hearings or they can self-refer to enroll, said Ninah Pearson, Child and Family Wellbeing program manager.

As far as Watterton knows, this is the only program of its kind across the region.

Program basics

The program is divided into three 5-week intervals focusing primarily on the following three topics:

  • Anger management.
  • Communication skills with partners and their children.
  • How to improve your relationship with your partner and children.

“We want them to learn how to reach in there and discuss their feelings,” Watterton said. “Think of it as back to basics.”

The No. 1 thing he and the other facilitators want participants to come out of the program with is the ability to embrace chance and get more comfortable with themselves, he said.

“They have to put the knowledge into action,” he said, adding adopting the principles and being willing to change is necessary to be successful.

The program runs year-round with new entry points every five weeks of the year.

The fathers who enroll do not have to be married — they can be single, divorced or in a relationship, Pearson said.

They also don’t have to be fathers of young children, they can be fathers of adult children and even grandfathers, Watterton noted.

Basically, the course is designed to teach men how to process their emotions, how to communicate effectively and then how to use those tools to resolve conflict within their relationships, Watterton said.

When a group of men sign up for the program they are put into groups of up to 15 individuals and they stay with that group for the whole 15 weeks, he said.

They learn from each other in those groups and they learn even after completing the course they may still experience challenges but they have the tools to work on them, Watterton added.

In the future Pearson hopes to create an alumni group for graduates of the program so they can stay in touch and work with each other.

Anyone across Hampton Roads can be a part of this program.

“We really want the fathers to leave empowered as a parent,” Watterton said.

To learn more about Fathers in Training, click here or call Ben Watterton at 757-385-3711.

John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo ( is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.

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