Are you a dad looking for tools, or someone who wants to support a dad towards greater success and fulfilment? Read on…
In my last article I spoke about why dads play a valuable part during pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and early parenting in improving the health and happiness of the whole family. Identifying how a dad can do this is what I expand on now. Gathering our shared wisdom from past and present experiences can help us fill the new dad’s tool bag with gear that is easy to work with, makes sense, is enjoyable to use, that helps their life to be happier and more successful, is easy to work with, makes sense, and is enjoyable to use.
Health carers, community groups, families, support networks, resources, and expectant parents themselves have already identified many ways of integrating new parenting skills into a man’s world. I’ve picked out my top 10, because of the positive changes I see they create.
If you are a dad looking for tools, or are in a position where you can support a dad, then this is for you.
Relationship wellness for dads – mind, body, and spirit
- Self-care: try mindfulness exercises, guided meditations, and motivational tracks. Explore what creates positive thoughts, trusting intuition, and creative problem solving. Add body awareness exercises, breathwork, massage, touch, movement and notice what brings pleasure to your body and what manages physical and emotional pain.
- Partner care: learn each-other’s love language and express it (see Dr Harville Hendrix). Express your needs and wants. You know yourself the best, so let your partner get to know you even more. You might like to look into NVC (Non-Violent Communication) for tips on how to create great communication between you and your partner.
- Baby care: your baby thinks the world of you. Give them time and you will feel more bonded and invested in their care. I recommend skin-to-skin cuddles, baby wearing, bathing, helping mum out, eye gazing, smiling, playing games, and so much more.
Communication skills – your rights and your responsibilities for an empowered life
- Practise active listening, such as acknowledging, validating, accepting, forgiving, caring, and reflecting back with your partner so that both partners feel heard and understood.
- When making a decision, ensure it’s an informed choice and ‘Use your BRAIN’. BRAIN is an acronym I teach to help people work through a decision. Ask what are the:
of this choice. Check your intuition and say ‘No’ or ‘Not now’ if it’s not right for you. Repeat with any other options that pop up.
- Write a birth and early parenting support plan. Email Birthready and ask for a template, check out other internet sites, or download a breastfeeding plan from the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s website.
Learning skills – understanding how to optimise birth and breastfeeding outcomes
- Attend birth and parenting classes, antenatal visits and peer support groups. Read books like Cheers to Childbirth and other learning materials from community groups like PANDA. Talk to care providers and engage in the process of your parenting journey.
- Integrate new learnings and skills into real life situations to make positive change last. Repetition creates new habits that will serve your purpose better.
- Reach out to community resources – some excellent ones are Beer + Bubs, Sms4dads, Dads Group Inc, PANDA, ABA, Beyondblue.
- Share your parenting stories with your partner, other dads, friends, family, colleagues, support services, and health carers.
Dads who give these tools a go notice the positive changes they create for themselves. It’s empowering to them and it fuels them up to be their best. Dads I support through pregnancy, labour, and early parenting reflect to me how they feel more confident as a dad, have deeper trust in their gut sense of how to look after their family, are more able to make healthy decisions, and work like a team with their partner. They adapt to change more easily, manage their emotions better, and deepen their love for their partner. It’s so awesome to know this happens and to watch it grow!
Men don’t need to fall through the cracks. If we all raise our awareness and tool up our dads, more will feel confident and informed about their rights, choices and responsibilities around the pregnancy to parenting time. We all benefit if we have happier and healthier parents transitioning into life with their baby. It can be done, one small step at a time.
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