Local fathers share experiences on generational health


Fairfax County Health Department’s Facebook Live Series, entitled Hope, Health, and Fatherhood, highlights how local fathers model health behaviors that transcend generations. 

As part of the continuing series, Anthony Mingo, community outreach and engagement manager with the Fairfax County Health Department, has interviewed six fathers, so far, about fostering healthy habits. These fall under the four pillars of health – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual – and the conversations provide potential tools or strategies that other fathers can consider applying with their children and families.

Here are three key take-aways shared in recent conversations:

1. Lead by Example

The best way to instill lasting healthy habits is to lead by example. When fathers model healthy eating, being physically active, and caring for their mental, emotional, and spiritual health, their children may be more likely to adopt those same health behaviors. The series interviews with key community partners (who are also fathers), including physicians, faith leaders, and others who serve youth from across the area.

“Children learn not what they hear, but what they see,” said Reverend Dr. D. Robert Kennedy, who leads the Emmanuel Worship Center in the Alexandria area. “The time we spend in the garden, the time we spend in church, the time we spend in spiritual relationship, the time we spend taking care of ourselves, those are the things that they see.”

Dr. Sergio Rimola, a Herndon-based physician, acts as an example to his children by incorporating health into family activities. They spend time outside together, go on walks, and cook and eat healthy meals as a family. Dr. Fabian Sandoval, who founded the Emerson Community Clinic (and the Emerson Diversity Health Foundation), to help support uninsured patients, also incorporates healthy behaviors into the time he spends with his son. “I really encourage [my son] to go outside and do activities with me...we’re building a playground for him now, and we are doing it together,” he said.

2. Be Present

“Whether you are residing with your children or not, you do have an active role to play,” said Champana Bernard, father engagement supervisor with the Department of Family Services. 

Of course, not all fathers are in the same situation. Some fathers live with their children and see them every day and some don’t. Some fathers are stay-at-home dads and others have jobs that keep them away from home or limit the time they are able to spend with family. Regardless of the situation, finding ways to be present is important.

“When you are creating these experiences with your [children], hands on, doing it together, you’re also creating wonderful memories, and those memories will help drive these behaviors when [they] have [their] children one day...that’s a really important thing that’s missed by some fathers, particularly those of us that are very busy, so we have to optimize the time that we spend with our children,” said Mingo.

3. Supported Fathers Make Supportive Fathers

Fathers don’t have to do it alone. When facing challenges or feeling overwhelmed, there is no shame in reaching out for help. “When we feel that stress is overwhelming, there is always a good opportunity to talk about it. You can talk to a friend...your pastor...your partner, but don’t keep it inside,” said Rimola.

Seeking support not only benefits fathers, but also their children. Reaching out and getting help prevents those stresses from being put on the children. “It’s not their fault that we’re having a bad day...do not take it out on them,” said Sandoval. “Don’t bring the stresses of life into those special bonding moments.” 

The Health Department Fatherhood Facebook Live series will continue. Follow the Health Department on Facebook so you don’t miss the next conversation on fostering generational health from fathers across Fairfax County.

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