Shawn Askinosie knows about heartbreak. When he was 12, his father was diagnosed with lung cancer. At 13, he learned to give his father the injections of Demerol required for pain management. When he was 14, his father died.
During the period of his father’s declining health, the leader of a well-meaning prayer group suggested there should be “no talk about death.” To do so, the leader said, indicated a lack of faith in their prayers for healing. After his father died, Shawn said he spent the next 25 years overcoming every obstacle in his path and accomplishing every goal presented to him as a means of dealing with his untreated adolescent grief.
The conclusion of a successful murder trial where Shawn served as the defense attorney, eventually led to a personal recognition of an “out of balance life.” The book Tuesdays with Morrie was also a big influence during this period. What occurred next is what Shawn refers to as a “time of physical and emotional reawakening.” Five years after the trial’s conclusion, he found himself choosing an entirely new life associated with chocolate. He also reports coming to see heartbreak, including his own, as a necessary ingredient to a full life.
“If you love,” he explains, “you will know the grief and sorrow of loss.”
Today Shawn is the CEO of Askinosie Chocolate, a small batch, award winning chocolate factory in Springfield, Missouri. Askinosie Chocolate has been named “One of the 25 Best Small Companies in America” by Forbes and featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, on Bloomberg, MSNBC and various other national and international media outlets. Shawn also serves on the board of Lost & Found Grief Center of Southwest Missouri, an organization he helped start to assist children in dealing with grief and loss.
Today Shawn sees heartbreak as a necessity for a full life. If this is so, then how does a thoughtful parent handle this tender topic? Shawn offers these considerations:
1. Avoid trying to inoculate or prevent all heartbreak for your child. Loss and grief are inevitable. Offer support and empathy, but try not to prevent or rescue.
2. Model healthy grieving. Allow your child to see what brings you great joy and deep sadness. A child who sees healthy grieving modeled by a loving parent learns to handle loss.
3. Help kids learn that broken hearts are meant to be tended, not fixed. Embracing a loss, versus avoiding or denying, helps children grow in compassion.
There was a time when Shawn Askinosie was a fearsome trial attorney. These days he speaks in a different voice, emphasizing and encouraging language of hope and compassion for our children and others.
by Dr. Jennifer Baker
This article was written by Dr. Jennifer Baker, Founder and Executive Director of Good Dads, following a podcast with Shawn. To hear the full interview, download part 1 and part 2 of his Good Dads podcast.
“Say you’re sorry.”
Many parents instruct children to express regret for thoughtless actions to another using these words. Head down, face frowning, the child mumbles “Sorry.” In return, he may hear, “Sorry too” or “That’s alright.”
It’s really not alright. No one really feels much better, except perhaps the adult, who believes he has done his job in helping a child learn the importance of an apology or of accepting the apology of another.
This is pretty much the place many adults are stuck when it comes to their experience of asking for or offering forgiveness to another. They recall a shame-faced, command performance required by a parent or other significant adult when they were young. It only happened because someone bigger and more powerful than them was requiring it. In actuality, the thing for which they were likely sorriest was getting caught.
Ideally, by the time we reach adulthood, we should be able to reflect on the impact of our actions and at least try to take the perspective of someone other than ourselves. Empathy requires trying to understand how another might feel, even if we don’t share their experience. It’s an important tool to have in one’s toolbox when it comes to offering forgiveness.
There are benefits to letting go of our right to even the score with another. Most of us understand this. The harder part is to actually forgive. How does one do this, especially if the hurt is longstanding and particularly grievous. Here are some steps to consider:
1. Contrary to what you may have experienced as a child, forgiving someone does not mean saying, “That’s alright.” If it’s alright, it doesn’t require forgiveness. Only things that were not acceptable, that hurt or did damage to us or someone we love, require actual forgiveness.
2. Forgiving someone does mean giving up the right to get even. It means cleaning up the revenge scenarios in our head, chasing them out, and locking the door. If holding a grudge means allowing someone to live rent free in your head, then letting go of the grudge suggests sweeping them out of the house and chasing them down the road.
3. Forgiving someone may also mean telling yourself a different story. Perhaps you’ve identified yourself as a victim for a long time. Letting go of the anger and resentment means at least trying to understand what might have influenced another to act as he or she did without attaching a nasty label. It means eliminating ugly names and referring to them as a person with shortcomings and weaknesses.
4. Telling yourself a different story also means telling yourself what kind of person you want to be in the face of this wound or unkindness. How would you like to manage hurt and anger? What might you need to do to live above and beyond smoldering resentment? Many people find spiritual resources to be helpful at times like this. Is that something you could access?
5. Forgiveness may or may not mean reconciliation. It’s not safe or wise to reconcile with an unrepentant abuser. There are times when we must maintain strong boundaries with difficult people, limiting the amount of time we spend with them, particularly if they take no ownership for their troublesome or quarrelsome behavior. We can still forgive for our part, but true reconciliation requires both parties to admit their part in the problem and work toward rebuilding trust with each other.
Much more has been written about forgiveness. If it’s an area where you are struggling, speaking with a professional (clergy, therapist) or even a close friend can be helpful in letting go and moving on for your benefit and that of your child.
Dr. jennifer baker
Dr. Jennifer Baker is the Founder and Director of Good Dads. She is the wife of one, mother of two and grandmother of eight. She may be reached for question or comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am a father of three beautiful, talented and amazing children. This is the first year in which each of our three kids attend a different school. Our mornings are hectic and we are crunched for time, so that I may get each child to school without being tardy. They rarely eat a nutritious breakfast to get their day off to a great start. Sometimes my 13-year-old goes to school wearing his 7-year-old brother’s shirt or shorts. Many times, my 7-year-old goes to school with mismatched socks, orange shorts and a red shirt, as if he is auditioning for a part as a clown in a school play. Neither boy makes any attempt to do anything with their hair. My daughter, who is now in high school, has a closet full of clothes, yet she keeps a solid rotation of five outfits she prefers to wear week after week. I’ve resorted to hiding things, just to make her wear some of her other clothing.
This year, the kids are in 2nd, 8th and 9th grade. There have been many ups and downs along the way. I’ve learned that I have to be able to handle each challenge and each child differently. Compared to those years when I was going through the public school system, it seems like a whole new world today.
I always thought I’d be the good dad, who would sit down and help my kids with their homework when they needed it. When my oldest two began junior high, they both struggled in math. I figured this would be my time to shine . . . Dad to the rescue! I quickly realized, this thing called “Common Core” was beyond my comprehension. I felt helpless, and like some sort of a high school dropout with 6th grade level intelligence. I had to set up tutoring sessions for each of them during 7th grade. While my daughter caught on and ended up getting good grades for the year, my son did not. He struggled all year. His struggles in math, led him to give up in other classes as well. He wasn’t doing his homework, or attempting to retake tests for better grades. He started to lash out with the teachers. He teetered between an F and D in math, and D and C in science and history all year. It wasn’t until I took him to the doctor to get a checkup, I realized his prescription for ADD was no longer working. After getting an adjustment in his meds, he was able to finish with three C’s in those classes where he had struggled. He has started his 8th grade off with all A’s and I couldn’t be more proud of him.
I felt pretty good about getting a teenage daughter through junior high, without many issues. I have tried to be up front and honest with her about the things she will be introduced to throughout her school years. I had pre-warned her about the possibility of boys asking her for inappropriate photos, and sure enough, her school was in the news, as police confiscated phones from 7th and 8th graders who were sharing these types of photos. I was happy to learn she was not involved. Now she is a freshman in high school. She has a good heart and she is beautiful inside and out. Just last week, I found out she has a “boyfriend,” who according to her, was a sophomore. I had a discussion with her regarding high school boys, dating, and my expectations.
The very next day, a family friend whose son attends the same school, called me and informed me my daughter is holding hands in the hallways with a Senior. His son had sent him a text about it. I spent the rest of the afternoon digging up as much info on this boy that I could. My daughter and I had a long night of talking that evening, with what I believe to be good results. I did have to ground her from her phone for lying to me, which she understood.
There are so many things that can cross up our children as they make their way through school, grade by grade. As parents, we have to give them room to learn and grow from mistakes, yet we have to constantly be aware and stay on top of things so we can keep them safe from the huge mistakes.
Herb Cody is a husband and father of three. He is a part time Uber driver and full time caregiver of his spouse, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after an auto accident November, 2015. Herb loves football and is a St Louis Cardinals fanatic. He and his family live in Nixa MO. Herb can be reached for questions or comments at email@example.com . You can check out Herb's own blog at, www.thecodylife.weebly.com
If ever a story, a relationship, a social infrastructure, or a magical phenomenon been more under emphasized than the importance of a child’s need for their father’s love and attention, I cannot imagine what it would be! My own experience, my research, shocking statistics, and the stories I have seen and heard all tell me this is true.
Of course, children also need their mother, but their story and importance is relatively very well known. A father would never be a replacement for a mother, but neither can she replace him. Ideal parenting involves the work of two people. Yet, mom is too often without the dad to help raise their children. A mom and dad are not opposites, but complements of their parenting partnership. Of course, there are many circumstances that do not allow a man and woman to raise children together. Some are unavoidable, but the lack of emphasis on the crucial role of fatherhood contributes to the avoidable incidents of a father’s lack of involvement.
There are nuggets of encouragement! The government has Fatherhood.gov. There are groups like the National Fatherhood Initiativeand Gooddads.com. Business has Dove’s Men’s Health Care support of fatherhood. There are also many dad bloggers like myself, although we are outnumbered 17 to 1 compared to mom bloggers. But more emphasis on helping and encouraging families to stay together must happen!
I don’t think every father knows just how important he is to his children. Many do, but I don’t feel confident about saying most. I’m not thinking of financial importance, which is critical. I’m not even thinking about how a father protects his children, which is crucial! These are the areas that, unfortunately, many people think of when we talk of a father’s importance in a home. There is another matter in which fathers are fundamentally necessary to the health and growth of their children--emotional well-being!
A kid’s emotional well-being concerns their stress level, the emotion of happiness, self-satisfaction, and anxiety level. If any of these criteria are at risk, the child will suffer not only emotionally, but their physical health could deteriorate.
Children with good emotional health:
So how do we as fathers contribute to our children’s emotional well-being? Naturally, parents have the most influence and are the most responsible for all aspects of their children’s lives. We teach them whether we do so intentionally or not, whether we are good or bad examples. "Do as I say and not as I do," never works as a value system or mentoring technique, therefore, be sure to be a good example and a knowledgeable teacher.
Here are a few things to think about.
I think fathers are aware of their fiscal and protection responsibilities much more than their nurturing responsibilities. Society suffers one bad father at a time and is advanced by every good father who attends to the emotional well-being of his children, working of course with their mother. Today’s children are the leaders and parents of tomorrow. When we teach them well, they will do the same with their children, and if the trend continues with each generation, watch the social issues of our country dissolve into a mere distraction. Media, businesses, and our government could do more to help this often dire situation where fathers are absent. While discussion of fatherhood may be a whisper, the impact of fatherhood roars!
Michael Smith, the author of The Power of Dadhood: How to Become the Father Your Child Need, is the father of three adult children and grandfather of four. He is a retired US Air Force officer and resides with his wife in St. Louis, MO. Michael can be reached for question or comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.