- Jun 15, 2022
4 min read
The Modern Father’s Guide to Better Mental Health
Updated: Dec 23, 2022
Becoming a father is a significant life event for any man. All dads are bound to experience unfamiliar emotions and changes throughout fatherhood. When these changes are managed well, fathers positively contribute to the health and wellbeing of the entire family unit.
However, evidence shows that around 10% of new fathers experience depression (1). And because society promotes men to be all-knowing, strong, and self-sufficient, they’re less likely to seek psychological support than women (2).
Therefore, we’re using this Father’s Day to break the stigma surrounding toxic masculinity and provide the overdue support to all superdads out there 🦸🏻♂️
Healthy Dads Nurture Happier Families
The modern family reflects shifts in family gender roles as well as the delegation of household labor and professional work. As mothers are increasingly taking on jobs to meet financial demands, fathers’ roles have naturally expanded from being the sole breadwinner to including more caregiving. That’s why it’s so important to address the mental health concerns that come with these changes to secure the following positive outcomes:
1) Better maternal support
Dad's mental health influences mom's physical and mental health too! Findings suggest that a supportive relationship with one's partner through pregnancy and after birth has been shown to reduce the risk of prenatal and postnatal mental health issues (3). Most new mothers also perceive the father to be a crucial source of support (4).
2) Better child development
Recent studies have focused on how father involvement may be associated with children’s well-being (5). Fathers who show parental warmth, such as being responsive, affectionate, and nurturing, provide the active ingredients that promote healthy development.
3) Better work outcomes
It’s a no-brainer that being healthy leads to better work outcomes. And better work results for fathers secure better financial outcomes to support their families. Therefore, we need to better understand men’s mental health in a workplace context to better support them.
The Modern Father’s Guide to Better Mental Health
As highlighted previously, fathers aren’t getting the encouragement they need to care for their own mental health. It’s time for that to change.
From awareness and education to tangible approaches for self-care, here are some ways fathers can safeguard their mental wellbeing. Ultimately, we want you to be the best version of yourself for you and your family.
1) Adjust expectations and boundaries
There can be a lot of pressure on fathers to be the protector and providers of the family. However, these sky-high demands and unspoken boundaries can wear away at mental health.
Unattainable expectations can lead to the idea that “I’m not going to do a good enough job anyway, so why even try?” Or it could lead to overachieving behaviors that lead to burnout. Hence, the first thing to do is to address expectations that cause stress.
Know that you don’t have to be perfect or know everything. It’s okay to ask questions and seek help. Be vigilant about setting boundaries between work and home. If your job is too demanding, think about what it’s costing you and communicate that with your managers.
2) Honest and respectful communication
As parents, we tend to sacrifice our own needs for the family. When prolonged, that can take us into a downward spiral. That’s why honest, respectful communication acts as a way to advocate for your needs. For instance, instead of holding it in, inform your partner when you’ve reached your limit with your kids so they can step in before you lose it.
Scheduling regular family meetings can also help align expectations and adjust responsibilities. This creates a safe space to discuss each other’s needs, responsibilities, and future plans.
3) Connect with others
Feelings of caregiver’s frustration, grief over losing your old life, and worrying about money are common throughout your journey as a dad. This can feel extremely isolating especially when you’re expected to man up and fight your battles alone.
However, research shows that seeking emotional support decreases the perception of stress and pain. In other words, we handle tough times better when we’re supported by others. In addition to your partner, try talking to other dads or new parents as they’re likely navigating similar challenges. You can do so by striking up a conversation while picking your child up from school. Facebook parent groups are a good place to start too.
4) Schedule in regular me-time
It may seem like a chore to squeeze in self-care amongst heavy work and family demands. However, adapting to challenges includes effectively recovering from parental stressors.
Schedule 30 minutes each day to do something enjoyable or relaxing. This may include taking a warm shower, reading a book, or jogging around the neighborhood. It doesn’t seem like much. But these activities regulate our stress levels which give us more control over our moods and increase our level of patience.
5) Establish presence within your family
Just like mothers, fathers are pillars in the development of a child’s emotional well-being. Hence, it’s worthwhile to incorporate family time to preserve the long-term sanity of the entire family. That’s because good parent-child relationships improve emotional regulation and children’s adherence to good behaviors. Which in turn reduces stress in the long term.
Studies suggest that children benefit when fathers are involved in everyday tasks such as dinner and playing in the backyard (6). Know that while there needs to be a minimum amount of time spent together, the quality of time is more important than the quantity.
Father’s Day is a fantastic reminder of the importance of a mentally healthy dad. Most importantly, we all play a role in encouraging our fathers to prioritize their mental health.
To all our superdads out there, know that you’re no less a man for being vulnerable. You hold the power to create great change in your family and even society, but you don’t have to do it alone!
We’re Here to Help!
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Prenatal and Postpartum Depression in Fathers and Its Association With Maternal Depression: A Meta-analysis
Postpartum depression: risks, protective factors, and the couple's relationship
First‐time mothers: social support, maternal parental self‐efficacy and postnatal depression - Leahy‐Warren - 2012 - Journal of Clinical Nursing - Wiley Online Library
(PDF) The Relationship Between Father Involvement in Family Leisure and Family Functioning: The Importance of Daily Family Leisure