Healthy Living in the North

Fatherhood, community, and culture: Reflections on parenting in Prince Rupert with Duane Jackson

Duane Jackson and daughter

Between his professional and personal life, Duane Jackson has had the opportunity to glean a great deal of wisdom with a child-centred focus.

Duane Jackson has worn many hats in his years serving children and families on the Northwest Coast. His many positions held include former Aboriginal Coordinator for Success by Six and Regional Coordinator for Children First. He now works with the Hecate Strait Employment Development Society as a Trainer/Facilitator and Employment Counsellor. Jackson is also co-chair on the Aboriginal Steering Committee with the Human Early Learning Partnership.

Most importantly, Jackson is a family man – he and his wife are the proud parents of three children. Between his professional and personal life, Duane Jackson has had the opportunity to glean a great deal of wisdom with a child-centred focus.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I grew up on the Northwest Coast, but I’m Gitanmaax from Old Hazelton. I actually lived at one of the fishing canneries, North Pacific Cannery on Inverness Passage, when it was an operating cannery – now it’s a museum! I’ve been in Prince Rupert the majority of my life, grade 3 on, and went to high school here.

When I was 26, I met my wife, Christine, and we’ve been together for 23 years now. We have three children, a 17-year-old, a 14-year-old and an 8-year-old.

As a father of three, what have you found most unexpected in fatherhood?

I didn’t expect it to be the humbling experience that it was. I realized right from the birth of my first child that the importance of this job was so completely over and above anything that I understood in my life at that point. This small individual was going to encompass me so completely. With my first boy, with Caleb – I actually never put him down once! I carried him everywhere. I never put him in a buggy or a stroller; I carried him. He was in my arms all the time.

The biggest thing was the level of humility that was required, and the beauty of that was how much growth was involved in that process because of the fact that if you don’t embrace that humility, it will totally uproot you.

You graduated from college at age 40 and immediately began your work in serving children and families. How do your life experiences and education combine in your approach to your life and work?

Throughout my Early Childhood Education learning, the one thing that really got me was advocacy. But then of course, according to my culture, as a Gitanmaax person, I must advocate for children. Every child within my society is my responsibility. Not every Gitanmaax child, every child. My culture speaks to it, and as an Early Childhood Educator, my code of conduct speaks to it as well, that every child is my responsibility.

Prince Rupert harbour front

For Duane, Prince Rupert’s many activities and diverse population make it a healthy community for kids. Access to activities, however, can be a challenge.

What makes Prince Rupert a healthy community for children?

We have many activities for children, from minor league soccer and basketball, to the recreation centre for more activities. But we must remember that Prince Rupert is leading the province in unemployment. There is a huge societal barrier to accessing some of these activities. It’s not just Indigenous people who believe these programs just aren’t for them. It’s societal. In Canada we have the lowest percentage, globally, of children and families who access community programming.

We see a lot of families out at some great community events here: the Halloween Fest, the Winter Fest, the Children’s Festival … you see all generations of families out together, from the elders down to the smallest children.

One of the things I am always excited to see is children from diverse backgrounds who speak their language. Not just Indigenous languages, but all cultural groups. When they speak the language of their parents, I think that’s really exciting. You see that a lot here in Prince Rupert because there are many ethnicities represented here.

In your opinion, what small things do you do, that others can do, that may have big impacts in supporting healthy childhoods?

I think it’s in doing things together – doing activities together – and getting kids off of the computer. Getting kids off of screens! We’re steadily raising a generation of young people that will not have the ability to communicate effectively and positively. There’s just no amount of emoticons that you are going to attach to a text message that are actually going to tell me how you feel. This is starting younger and younger. You can go to a restaurant and see a family of four where all four people are on screens, no one is having a conversation. At our table here at home, where we have dinner together every night, there are no phones. My phone goes away. I have that deal with my family – and we talk. At the table – no one is watching TV!

These are the pieces – do things together, be involved, be supportive. And not just going out and watching your children do their activities. One of the most exciting things for me this year was having my daughter come and watch me coach basketball. She would come and watch my team play, and watch me coach. Bring your children with you into a social setting so that they can see how you are in that setting. All of us are different in our own homes than in a social setting. I think the secret is to get your children out with you in social events.

Knowing what you know now – if you were to go back to those early years with your children – what would you try to do more of with them?

Play, play, play. Hold onto them as much as possible, which is what I do now – even with the older boy and my 14-year-old. Squash ’em, squash ’em, squash ’em as much as I can! And never show them anger. I can show them disappointment, I tell my children I can be disappointed with your decisions, but at no time, ever, are you a disappointment.

If I were to go back, punishment would go out the door. I would go with restorative justice. I would walk, and talk, and teach and do nothing else but that.

If I was to talk to a parent, or talk to myself when I was a new parent, I’d tell them just to love and give and respect your children unconditionally. To give them these three things throughout our lives together and expect nothing in return. That’s what I would do … and advise.


This article first appeared in Healthier You magazine. Find the original story and lots of other information about child health in the Summer 2016 issue:

Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is a Communications Advisor with the Health Promotions Team at Northern Health. Born and raised in southern B.C., Andrea now embraces the North in large part for all the fun, healthy activities and opportunities uniquely accessible in our region including snowboarding, cross-country skiing, outdoor skating, wild berry picking, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, fishing and the bracing experience of jogging in the snow!

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Ringing the gong

Boy beside a shooting target

With his son wanting to give target shooting a try, Reg took him out to the local range in Terrace. For Reg, it’s all about being involved and “it’s not really about target shooting.”

I have to admit that during my time in the army, I really enjoyed the time spent on the firing range. Now, I haven’t done any target shooting for a long time, but it’s something that I’ve recently gotten back into. It’s also something my youngest son wanted to try, so we’ve been spending time at the local rifle range in Terrace.

At the back of the small-bore range, a steel gong has been set up at a distance of about one hundred yards. It’s not all that easy to hit considering that we’re shooting a .22 caliber rifle without the aid of a scope. Nonetheless, my son likes to try to hit it.

To be honest, it’s not really about target shooting. It’s about being an involved father and acknowledging the role fathers play in the healthy development of their children. With June 19 being Father’s Day this year, it’s an important topic to talk about.

Being an involved father takes work, but the impact you have on your child’s life is huge. To be an involved father takes consistency, compassion, attention, and time. However, it’s worth the effort.

  • Involved fathers bolster their child’s cognitive development. They help their children develop critical thinking skills, motivation, communication skills, and a sense of independence that will benefit them throughout their lifetimes.
  • Children of involved fathers develop better social skills and ways to cope with the emotional stresses of life. Involved fathers can teach their children how to develop empathy and strong friendships. These skills last a lifetime and help children learn how to build successful relationships.
  • Involved fathers provide a good role model for their children. Having a good role model can help children stay clear of problems with the law or issues with substance abuse.
  • Not only do children benefit from involved fathers, but the relationship between father and mother can benefit as well. I’m sure you’ve heard that old saying about a happy wife.
Taking aim at a shooting range.

What fun ways can you connect with your kids?

While I mentioned that being an involved father takes work, it’s important to remember that you also need to find some fun ways to connect with your children. Put on a cape and become a sidekick for your superhero son. Grab an apron and join your daughter’s tea party. Find a way to be a part of your child’s world.

Last time we went to the range, my son loaded ten rounds and told me that he was going to shoot all of them at the gong. After he hit it on the first shot, he looked at me, smiled slightly and raised one finger. When he raised five fingers, his smile was a little bigger.

I have to admit; at this point, I thought I was doing a good job with teaching him to shoot.

However, speaking as a father, I know it won’t always be this way. You won’t always hit the target, let alone the bulls-eye. There will be times when you’re tired, frustrated and bewildered.

Fatherhood can be trying.

Still, there will be many more times when you do hit the bulls-eye. There will be moments that make you smile and realize that being a father is one of the greatest joys a man can experience.

Like when my son raised 10 fingers and gave me one of the biggest smiles I’d ever seen.

So on this Father’s Day, go out and make a few more of those moments to cherish.

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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