Studies show that involved fathers contribute to providing a strong, happy, stable environment for a child to grow up in. Flexibility in paternity leave, childcare and work-life balance is increasing and the definition of the father is growing and changing. We need to acknowledge the challenges that fathers face across a range of backgrounds and situations.
It’s normal for all new parents, including dads, to feel confused and unsure if they are ready to face the challenges of parenthood. Being informed about what to expect and where to get further information can contribute strongly to the development of good parenting skills.
There are many misconceptions about what being a father means, for example:
- ‘Newborn children don’t really need dad’: Comforting and bonding with a newborn infant is very important. Dads can help with bottle-feeding (formula or expressed milk), and/or learn about breastfeeding from the midwife or health visitor to be supportive. They can help with other tasks such as nappy changing and establishing a general routine. Simply talking to, holding and rocking your child is hugely important for establishing a bond.
- ‘Dads who take time out to be with their children are jeopardising their career’: Increasingly, men choose to use flexible working arrangements and paternity leave to spend time with their children. Work was traditionally seen as a man’s route to self-definition; today, this is increasingly challenged and many men see becoming a good father as an achievement in itself, rather than an obstacle to progress at work.
- ‘Mum is naturally better at caring for children’: Both parents are on a steep learning curve and developing their new parenting skills at the same rate. However, mothers obtain information from relatives and professionals, which is not always made as immediately accessible to fathers. An informed father is a more confident father.
Men can find themselves becoming single dads through divorce, death or other painful experiences.
Gingerbread is a national organisation which supports lone parents and provides free information on a variety of issues – it also aims to put lone parents in touch with other organisations and groups who are best placed to help them, as well as identifying groups in their local area.
Fathers who either don't have custody of their children or who have a joint custody arrangement may want to be informed about issues such as child support, visitation rights and child safety.
Families Need Fathers is a social care organisation. It helps parents who are worried that their relationship with their children is under threat. They offer help, support and advice.
GOV.UK has information for disabled parents.
Contact a Family have a Dads’ zone on their site specifically dealing with issues around disability. It includes a downloadable father's guide.
The Disabled Parents Network is an organisation run by disabled parents and family members. They offer a telephone helpline, a support network across the country and a quarterly newsletter for members.
The Sheffield Directory Local Offer website offers Special Educational Needs and Disabilities information, services, events and activities.
The Sheffield Directory holds details of various baby and toddler groups in Sheffield.
The Government website has information regarding paternity pay and leave.