James and Kimberly Van Der Beek have been through a lot in the last year. Despite the heartbreak the couple has endured, they’re looking forward to 2020 and all the celebrations it will entail. In August, James and Kimberly will celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary.
The two will also celebrate a decade of being parents. In September, the oldest of their five children, Olivia, will turn 10. James says it’s “wild” to see his children growing up before his eyes, noting that maturing allows them to “reveal themselves to you.”
James couldn’t help but gush over Olivia on her ninth birthday. In an Instagram post, he wrote, “My oldest. My conscience. My heart. I don’t think I could ever teach her anywhere near as much as she’s taught me. Thank you for choosing us, my love… Every member of our family is the beneficiary of your grace, your fire, your patience, compassion, and your sage advice. This one came out parent-proof. “
James reflected on parenting during his recent conversation with Good Morning America. “I never felt any ownership over my kids,” he revealed. “I always felt like we just won this cosmic adoption lottery — that we get to know this person and never like they were ours, necessarily.”
“You see what they have going on in their heads and their hearts, and then you see what’s going on behind their eyes that you know they’re not telling you,” he added. “They’ve been dependent on you for so long, and now they have this agenda that may or may not involve you or that they may or may not tell you about. It’s really just astounding.”
James wasn’t at GMA to talk about just his family. He was also there as part of his partnership with Always and Walmart’s #EndPeriodPoverty campaign. The campaign hopes to donate up to 1.5 million pads to girls in need.
James is father to four girls, which has given him new perspective on the issue. “When you’re younger you think about yourself quite a bit and your thinking doesn’t really extend — at least mine didn’t really extend — too far beyond my own needs,” he explained. “But then you have kids, and especially daughters, and you start looking at the world from a whole different perspective and things that you never thought about before all of a sudden you realize are really big issues, like period poverty.”
He elaborated on the issue on Instagram. “So… Dads. Remember when we first learned about periods in school, and everybody kind of squirmed and tried to pretend it wasn’t happening? Turns out that approach can have a detrimental effect on our daughters,” he wrote.
“So let’s step up and chip away at the stigma around this. Studies show that many young girls’ confidence plummets around the time of their first period, but that engaging in your daughter’s life, and treating her period like the normal, healthy thing that it is can help. A lot.“
“As can not having to miss school and extracurricular activities they love because of lack of access to period products – which is currently happening to 1 in 5 girls IN THIS COUNTRY,” he added. “Never really thought about that? Neither did I. But now that we know, let’s do something about it!”
James explained on GMA that this is one of many topics he hopes to encourage conversation about. He hopes to end the stigma around period discussions. He encourages all parents to open up conversations about the important things, and see them as “an opportunity for connection.”
“What kids … want most is connection with their parents,” he explains. His approach is one that makes a lot of sense.
“So whether you’re trying to calm them and they’re screaming at four in the morning or you’re playing catch with them or you’re on vacation, if you just stop and recognize, ‘OK, this is an opportunity for connection,’ then you’re already thinking about a better way to engage with them.”
“They all have different demeanors, different ways about them, different things they’re naturally drawn to,” he continued.
“They’re gonna be who they’re gonna be, and you can try to repress it if you want to go that route, but you’re not going to succeed. I think that’s the real parenting lesson if I didn’t recognize it before, which is … you’re there to foster who they are.”
As for what he’s done with his own children, James is an advocate of being honest and straightforward. “Use the right terms, use the correct terminology,” he told People. “There is no shame if you talk about things bluntly. If you don’t make it weird, it’s not weird.”
James and Kimberly are doing a great service to their children by taking this approach. They’re also doing a great service to the many young girls experiencing period poverty by supporting this initiative. No two approaches to parenting are the same, but we’re all looking for the same outcome — the best for our kids.