Try to remember that it is not what you are known as - Papa, Dadre, Pops, Daddy, Dad, Father, Dadda - that is important, but rather what you do with your child that counts.
This section aims to guide and support you through the various aspects of being the best dad you can be.
We will offer you advice and guidance, whether you’re a new dad or an experienced dad facing a new challenge. The information and guidance set out below provides you with helpful links to trustworthy online resources, as well as helpful information from Barnardo’s experienced staff.
Building stronger relationships with your child
Bonding and attachment is the way we describe the powerful development and feelings that you have for your child.
Some dads may express this as their ‘super-power’, giving them an ability to move mountains as soon as their new baby arrives. Others may find it takes a little longer to have the same emotions.
It is important to remember that dads get tired too and that is perfectly normal, so here are some tips to help promote a healthy relationship between you and your baby whether you’re feeling over the moon or overwhelmed:
- Lots of cuddles and skin to skin contact is best - it’s a myth that babies get spoilt by too many cuddles.
- Talk to your baby, tell them about your day, respond to their sounds, read stories and sing songs; they don’t care if you sing out of tune and neither should you!
- Using a sling to carry your baby benefits them due to the close contact between you both; it will help to soothe them as they will feel safe and secure. This feeling also helps their brain grow and develop.
- Play regularly, have fun and enjoy spending time together. Give your child your attention and try not to be distracted by other things. Set aside some one-on-one time, maybe to go for a walk or play a game together, even try some cooking. Try and remember that every child should feel like an only child, even if it is only for 15 mins a day.
Encouraging your child’s educational development
- Take interest in your child’s school life, try and help them with their homework and attend parent’s evenings as much as possible to see how they’re getting on.
- Helping with homework can be a challenge but there are useful and informative websites that can make understanding subjects a little bit more manageable. Why not take a look at BBC Bitesize?
Managing behaviour, from tots to teens
Our research has shown that success from accessing parenting programmes is far greater when dads are involved. At Barnardo’s we offer many parenting programs that enable and encourage parents to make the best out of their family lives. You can check out what we offer in your area.
If you don’t want to complete a programme, here are some tips that will help with most ages and stages of children’s development:
- Try to work together with your partner to ensure your child receives similar messages and expectations from both of you. This will help your child to feel safe, settled and have consistent boundaries.
- Be clear and consistent
- Praise often, identify the good behaviours rather than focus on the not so good behaviours
- Have fun!
Managing your own wellbeing
Remember being a dad can be both physically and emotionally exhausting.
As a new dad, you would have been supporting your partner through her pregnancy, her labour and discovering how much your life is changing. Life with a new baby is not always the fairy tale that you once imagined. Attention can often be directed at the new mother and baby, and dads may be left feeling isolated and wonder how they’re being supported.
Studies have recognised that dads can suffer anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The Dad Matters website provides additional information and advice on this, as well as information on where to get help.
It is very important to remember that you both need to take care of each other, as well as taking care of your new baby. Be kind to each other, share responsibilities and try to spend special time with just each other.
Another way of managing your own well-being is by taking regular exercise or taking time out for a hobby that you really enjoy.
Being a step parent
Family makeup has changed over time, with many children living within step or blended families. Blended families are formed when you and your new partner decide to live together with your children from past relationships; you may have children together too.
Coming together as a blended family can be both challenging and rewarding, but there are some things you can do to make things a little easier.
- Try to create some family rules. Be aware its likely children in the family have been used to different sets of boundaries and expectations.
- It may be a good idea to sit down with your partner to agree these first before holding a family meeting. It’s a good idea to try and come up with some realistic boundaries, consequences and expectations that you can both implement and use with all the children equally.
- Family meetings can help you all communicate better, are useful in bringing everyone together and for having fun.
- Be respectful if your child has another parent in another home. Don’t undermine their decisions or talk about them negatively to your child.
Include all the children
Children may feel like they’re getting less attention as the number of children in a family grows. In addition, some families may have less time and money to spend on each child for things such as toys, games and activities.
It’s important to give all children the same amount of positive attention to create a home that promotes fairness and fun. Try and spend some quality time with each child, even 15 minutes a day will make a big difference!
Doing enjoyable things together as a whole family, such as family fun nights, will strengthen relationships even further and can be a lot of fun! There are lots of examples of games to play that don’t involve any cost on the internet - sites like Pinterest have lots of ideas.
Adjusting to new siblings
Children can sometimes find it difficult to adjust to sharing their parent with another child. Just sharing their space and belongings with somebody new can be a daunting and unsettling experience for some children. Recognise differences in ages and be aware that some children will need their own space at times.
Feeling like a family unit will occur in time, but don’t expect this to happen overnight. Be open and honest with your partner about things you notice are challenging to ensure you can work together to address things as they arise.
Dads are important in a child’s life. An involved father promotes inner growth and strength. Studies have shown that when dads are affectionate and supportive it greatly affects the child’s brain development, confidence and wellbeing.
Some helpful ideas:
- Have good eye contact and be available for your child when they need you - put down the phone and switch the TV off.
- Where possible, come down to your child’s height when you talk to them.
- Be consistent with your tone of voice i.e. calm and low tone.
- Stay close by when your child is playing.