WITH both International Men's Day and Children's Day being celebrated last Thursday and Friday respectively, it is only fitting that we take a closer look at the relationship between father and child, with a view to improving it wherever possible. Fatherhood is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding, though challenging, roles a man will ever play in his life, and it is one that must be met with pride and diligence.
November is also observed as Parents' Month, and this year, coincidentally, the focus is on dads, with the theme being 'Fathers Rise, Lead and Be Wise'. All Woman asked the Chief Executive Officer of the National Parenting Support Commission, Kaysia Kerr, to share some practical ways for men to ensure that they are doing their best as parents. She gave these pointers:
“We recommend that from the point where a man realises that he is going to become a father, if he didn't have a plan in place, he should start putting one in place,” Kerr said. “It is important that he anticipates the growth and development of this child, who will be his responsibility for a very long time.”
“A man should understand that the responsibilities of a father does not limit him to the provision of material resources,” Kerr added. “There is a resource called time that some people tend to forget. We are encouraging fathers to, from the get-go, be a part of the parental process. Even before the child is born, accompany the expectant mother to the clinic trips and doctor's visits to hear exactly how that child is progressing in terms of development from in the womb.”
“Sit and have conversations about what both of you will do when the child comes into the world. What is the plan of action as a unit? If it is that you are living in separate homes, is it a visiting relationship? How do you both, from the get go, ensure that this child is going to know that you value and treasure this responsibility?
Kerr pointed out that the days and weeks following delivery are crucial in establishing your involvement as a willing father by supporting the mother as she heals both physically and emotionally from childbirth and adjusts to motherhood.
“When a child is just born, that is when a mother needs a lot of support,” she said. “How are you going to make sure you are there to support her emotionally when the hormones are still raging? You have to ensure that she knows that from day one you are going to be there, including being there to support her emotionally, as this is when she is most prone to suffer from postpartum depression.”
Kerr noted that in many families, men sometimes feel somewhat neglected when a baby is born, as all of the mother's attention is focused on the child. In a situation like this, she said the father's attention must also turn to the child.
“If you don't understand that this is a time when all focus must be on this beautiful gift from God, then you are going to be harbouring all sorts of feelings,” she cautioned. “Once a child comes into the world, the child is the priority.”
“Once the child is born and is growing up, you have decisions to make, and important decisions will have to be made,” Kerr explained. “Questions like, 'Am I going to allow my child to be baptised? In what denomination? Where will he go to school? Which parent will handle what responsibilities?' will need to be answered and you will need to make informed decisions in the best interest of the child.
You are going to now ensure as a father, that you access parenting education,” Kerr suggested. “Grab a book, do your research, call the parenting commission. Learn the elements of effective parenting and be guided by them so that you can parent to the best of your ability.”
“Begin with the low hanging fruit,” Kerr said gently. “If you look at it too globally it might become overwhelming, but you can focus at first on the simple things that you can do immediately. Begin small, and change the things that you can change now, and then make a plan of action to tackle the big things step-by-step.”
She recommends that one of the first things you have to do is make a list.
“Ask yourself: What do I really want to improve? Start with the simple things, like maybe just picking your daughter up on a weekend, or offering to take your son to the barber. The presence means so much. Ensure that you keep your word, and not get sidetracked by others, so that your child knows he/she is valued.”