With the new year, what better time to celebrate new dads! Becoming a dad, whether by birth, marriage, or adoption, is a life altering experience that comes with no instruction manual. Ross Noble, an English stand-up comedian, stated in a recent article, “A baby to me is like buying a new gadget that doesn’t come with an instruction book. And then, even if you went online and found the instruction book, those instructions will change every single day. So just approach fatherhood like an amateur.” This is so true! Every day is a new day with not only a new infant, but any new child in your life. Their behaviors will change based on your responses and their age of development. And your responses may change based on various other factors going on in your life. So, don’t feel like you’re alone in feeling overwhelmed.
It is perfectly normal for new dads to feel all sorts of different emotions. While some new dads feel elation, excitement, and euphoria, others may feel nervous, frightened, or overwhelmed. Bringing a new life into the world or taking on the responsibility of another child is one of the biggest changes that someone will go through.
Research shows that fathers--and mothers--don’t fully understand how much is happening inside young babies’ brains starting on day one. A baby’s earliest connections with their parents and caregivers affects their cognitive, social, and emotional health and well-being, and builds the foundation for future learning and success. Consider that 63 percent of parents surveyed said that talking to a baby only starts to impact their growing language skills at three months or older. In reality, babies begin to benefit from hearing language and participating in back-and-forth exchanges starting at birth. Another study showed that 50 percent of parents believe that the quality of a parent’s care has long-term impacts on a child’s development from six months on, when, in fact, this impact also begins at birth. The most important thing to remember is to be present and actively involved with your child by talking to them and physically touching and holding them will help your child gain a sense of security and encourage development.
There are many resources available for not only new dads, but fathers in general. The National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse has numerous articles focusing on new dads. One of those resources is a tip card for new dads that provides timely advice for new dads and some excellent resources.
The most important piece of advice is to simply be there for your new child. Show them the love that surrounds them. Let them know they are safe by hugging them, making time for them, and making them feel special. This advice goes for children of all ages, as this helps their brain grow and builds their confidence, even from birth.
Here are some digital resources that new dads may find extremely useful:
- The Daddy Factor. Zero to Three These resources provide insight into what research shows are the many ways dads positively impact children’s long-term development, and what’s on the minds of dads today that they want us to know.
- National At-Home Dad Network. Providing advocacy, community, education and support for families where the fathers are primary caregivers for their children.
- What to Expect for Expecting Dads provides a week by week guide of getting through the pregnancy with your partner.
Check out our newsletter this month for additional articles and resources for new dads. Congratulations to all the new dads in 2020!
This blog was written by Jackie Taylor at ICF on behalf of the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse under contract to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Family Assistance. Ms. Taylor has more than 25 years of experience in early childhood education, supporting early childhood programs, conducting training and technical assistance and supporting federal programs serving children and families. She trains hundreds of early educators every year on topics such as social-emotional development, working with families, working with children who have been traumatized, and child development. She has written articles, newsletters, and blog posts on topics around children and child care. Ms. Taylor holds a Master of Science in Family and Child Studies from Texas State University.