Dads, be a hero to your child and find out how you can get more involved in parenting...
“It is a wise father that knows his own child.” — William Shakespeare.
Shakespeare certainly seemed to know what he was talking about in the above quote. But how exactly can a dad get to know his little ones and get involved in their lives?
The reality is that some dads may even feel a bit left out when baby comes along as mummy automatically swings into primary caregiver mode. And of course, the majority of 21st century dads work long, hard hours. So where is the time to bond with the kids?
If you are one of these dads and you think that you’ll just wait until your child is in his tween years to get to know him better — hold that thought.
A child’s early years are crucial for his physical, social, emotional and mental development, and numerous studies have shown that dads can play a big role in this development.
In fact, experts say that fathers can even have much greater influence than mothers in shaping their children (especially boys) into well-adjusted young adults. Therefore, they should get involved in parenting as much as mums.
Here are five ways dads can get involved in caring for and getting to know their little ones, from right before birth onwards.
1. Connect with your unborn child
Research shows that babies in the womb have the emotional and intuitive capabilities to sense their parents’ love. So dads can start connecting with their little ones by talking and even singing to them while they are still in their mother’s womb.
Dads-to-be can also go with their partner for doctors’ visits, look at ultrasound pictures together and feel the little one’s kicks and movements. My own husband used to whisper messages to both his sons each night before they were born, a little ritual that I thought was totally adorable!
Experts say that when there’s a healthy attachment like this between an unborn child and his father, it helps establish a sense of trust, love and recognition once the baby is born.
2. Bond through the newborn routine
Dads may think their newborn baby’s world is mum — which is of course greatly true. But this doesn’t mean that dad should step back and let mum provide all the care-giving. Young infants can be hard work and early motherhood is indeed an around-the-clock job.
This is where dads can step in and get involved, while at the same time, pulling their parenting weight. Dads can help bathe baby, change his diaper, soothe him, rock him to sleep, bring him to mummy for feeds and even bottle feed if mum is expressing breast milk.
When my boys were newborns, my husband would help me out with all the above-mentioned things. However, he personally never thought of it as “helping me out”. Instead he explained to me one day that both of us were equally our sons’ parents and therefore, he wanted to do things for our sons and never felt obliged to do so.
3. Cuddles and comfort
Gone are the days when comforting a child was purely mum’s job. Twenty-first century dads are breaking masculine stereotypes and connecting with their kids with cuddles and verbal and physical expressions of love and tenderness when needed.
Dads are as capable as mums of kissing that boo-boo and making it better, or having an encouraging chat with their child when he is feeling down. Dads can give awesome bear-hugs that make their little one’s world seem like the safest place ever and wipe away tears while whispering words of love and comfort.
Really, there’s nothing more masculine than a man who can express tenderness to his children without holding back. And what this means is that kids get emotional support from the two most important people in their lives — mum and dad.
4. One-on-one time
Starting from their child’s newborn days, dads can connect with their little one by spending quality one-on-one time whenever possible.
From soothing and rocking their newborn to sleep, stacking blocks with their one-year-old, reading a bed-time story to their toddler and going on nature walks with their four-year-old, even the most time-strapped dad can find a way to connect with his child in his own way.
And if dads are worried that their hectic daily schedules prevent them from spending lots of time with their kids, a recent study has shown that it’s the quality and not the quantity of time spent with kids that matters. So if dad can only manage to read a bed-time story to his little one most nights, even that can have a huge positive impact on his child’s development and their father-child relationship.
5. Teach your kids
Yes it’s a blanket statement but how else to encompass all the things a dad can teach his child? Dads can “teach” their kids in a literal sense in relation to school work, and they can teach them important life lessons such as how to be honest, brave and caring.
They can teach their little ones what’s right and what’s wrong through gentle disciplining, and show them how to take responsibility — to own up, clean up and move forward in the right direction. A father can teach his child many valuable lessons and through this forge a strong relationship that will last a lifetime and beyond.
To the fathers reading this — you are so important to your child’s development, so much more than you’d ever know. So go ahead and rock that super-dad status. And mums, getting dads involved in parenting is easier that you’d imagine. Just give them a chance and watch them shine!