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A new dad’s toolkit

24 October 2016

Mental health Perinatal mental health
Mental Health Nurse Anthony Harrington shares his must-have emotional tools for dads.

Bottle? Check

Nappies? Check

That cute little onesie your mum bought for you to dress up her first grandchild? Check

Everything you need as a dad is packed and ready to go in the nursery that you just repainted to help everyone prepare for your new baby to arrive.

While the light green you painstakingly rolled onto the nursery walls was specifically chosen so your baby felt calm and relaxed when you welcomed them home, have you stopped to consider what you need to manage your emotional wellbeing as a dad?

Don’t forget to pack these essentials into your toolkit, and remember, it is never too late to add more tools.

Support network

Do you have a support network you can call on when you are feeling overwhelmed? Sometimes you will need someone to talk to about the stresses and challenges associated with being a dad.

Remember, people who love you will want to help. So if you need a hand getting some meals prepared, the lawn mowed or just need to have a chat, make sure you have a handful of people you feel comfortable to call on just in case.

Hopes and dreams

Is your little boy going to be the next Messi or Ronaldo, or your daughter the next Serena Williams? Potentially, but a newborn’s expertise is in drinking and sleeping so the sporting dreams might have to go on hold until they can at least crawl.

In the meantime, speak to your partner about your parenting hopes and dreams and get on the same page so you can develop your parenting styles together.

Do you want to stick to a strict routine or are you more flexible? Are you happy to get babysitters or will you adjust your schedules so you can stay home more often?

Having these conversations early will help both of you manage your expectations of parenthood, but also help minimise tension in your relationship.

Your father figure

Your dad or father figure is probably the biggest male influence in your life, but this is your chance to question whether you want to emulate his parenting style or create your own.

Before you welcome your baby into your home, take the time to write a list of everything you loved your father doing and what you would do differently.

You don’t have to be a clone of your father but writing it down can help you identify exactly what being a good father looks like to you.

Being hands on and share the parenting load

While mums are pretty handy tending to a new baby’s needs, dads can do pretty much everything too.

Don’t feel like you have to stand on the margins of parenting, particularly in the early days. Take action, learn to bathe your baby, wrap them, comfort them when they cry or go out for a walk together.

Not only will it give your partner some time for some much needed rest, but it will also help you develop a great bond with your little one.

What to do if you just don’t have the right tool?

Don’t worry, you are not alone. If you need some expert assistance, speak to your GP about your concerns and they can point you in the right direction. Whether that is speaking to a counsellor or getting more intensive therapy.

Did you know?

St John of God Raphael Services provides free support for dads as well as mums who are experiencing perinatal depression and anxiety.

St John of God Health Care
Anthony Harrington - Mental health nurse

Anthony Harrington is a credentialed mental health nurse with more than 26 years’ experience and is the St John of God Raphael Services National Coordinator.