Dads really do matter! The earlier they get involved with parenting, the better for the whole whānau.

Out of the loop?

Dads often feel left out of the parenting loop.

Throughout the pregnancy, birth and early years, they feel that much of the focus and information on parenting is designed for mums.

This probably stems from mothers traditionally being the primary caregivers. But there’s lots of evidence that having an encouraging and involved dad in children’s lives — right from the start — has positive benefits for the whole family.

Men make great fathers

Dave Owens, ‘Dad champion’ and initiator of Great Fathers Trust, says that many men find it difficult negotiating the new world of fatherhood. In response, he developed the Great Fathers initiative.

Dave says dads often struggle with the prospect of becoming a dad and the ongoing challenges of how to support the other parent during pregnancy. This is equally important when co-parenting or when parents are not in a relationship anymore.

Parenting practices are culturally influenced. We generally parent based on our experiences of being parented, whether they were positive or negative.

Encouraging dads to think about their own childhood experiences of being fathered, and what they might learn from that or do differently as a father to their children, will help them become conscious fathers.

The sooner the better

The earlier dads get involved with their children, the better. Dads who attend antenatal classes are generally first-time dads who’ve had little or no experience with new babies. This gives maternity services a prime opportunity to include dads, help increase dads’ confidence, and acknowledge their integral role in all aspects of prenatal support.

Men sometimes feel that women seem to instinctively know about pregnancy, birth and babies. Dads may need extra encouragement to be involved throughout the pregnancy.

However, by attending appointments, scans, and antenatal groups that are designed and facilitated well to involve them, dads will gain valuable understanding about their child’s development. Through this increased knowledge their concerns may be lessened and their confidence increased.

Dads really do matter

Making Aotearoa the Land of Great Fathers, by Dave Owens, gives evidence of dads’ value in the lives of their children. He writes that a father who’s positively involved with the birth of his child:

  • contributes to a calmer birth
  • strengthens relationships
  • strengthens the mother-child bond
  • increases breastfeeding rates
  • is more likely to stay in a caring relationship with that child throughout their life
  • helps his child become a socially well-adjusted person – which means better cognitive behavioural, social and psychological outcomes for the child.

Helpful resources for whānau