Why your mental health as a dad is important to your kids
#FATHERHOOD FRIDAYS 001
Today, there is a lot of focus on a mother’s mental health after the kids come along. However, a dad’s mental health is just as important, and it is sad that this is not addressed as much as it should.
The recent increase in suicide rates all over the world, the high profile suicides we’ve had in that time, and the heartbreaking stories of personal battles all over social media have focused attention on the importance of mental health.
That attention includes the relationship between mental health and parenting. Several studies have shown how children can be adversely affected by their parents’ poor mental health. Everything from low immunity to increased susceptibility to psychological disorders in children whose mothers have poor mental health has been found in these studies.
There is a lot less research on the impact of a father’s mental health on his children, though. However, the existing research shows that it is just as important to a child’s overall growth and development.
This is to say that your mental health as a dad has a very powerful influence on your child’s social skills, language development, and learning abilities. It also affects their overall happiness and self-confidence.
A lot of dads show depression and anxiety symptoms after having children. In fact, one in five fathers in the western world report symptoms of depression after becoming fathers, and one in ten dads experience postnatal depression.
Dads with poor mental health often feel less effective, less confident, less consistent, and less patient as parents. They also spend less time with their kids and are less likely to be involved with their children’s education.
Luckily, men who get support and guidance in the early stages of their new lives as dads become better, more engaged parents, and they have a significantly more positive influence in the lives of their children. Problem is, men are less likely to seek help when they feel they have mental problems.
A great workaround for this is online resources, which men can easily access whenever they feel they are not at their best mentally. There are also several great parenting programs that can be taken with a partner which will greatly help improve your attitude and state of mind towards parenting.
How important is a father’s mental health to his kids?
As a dad, your mental health will affect the quality of your parenting and co-parenting skills. This, in turn, will have a powerful impact on your child’s development.
Fathers who are sensitive and supportive will help their kids develop better social skills and language. On the other hand, when they have mental problems and illnesses, the kids will have more behavioral problems and emotional difficulties.
Fathers who are depressed or who experience snowballing distress become less consistent in enforcing discipline and limits in their children’s behavior. They are also less warm and more hostile towards their children.
Fathers who get support with their mental health, especially early in their parenting journeys, also end up having positive effects on their kids, as shown by this evidence.
For kids to thrive, they need parents who are confident, well supported, and equipped with all the skills they need to parent well. This is why the mental health of both fathers and mothers is extremely important.
So, what can be done?
First, I have to admit that things are not as bleak as all this sounds. Fathers today are more involved in their kids’ lives and are overall more effective than ever before.
But we cannot ignore the fact that a lot of fathers are not coping with this whole fatherhood thing too well. There are three important areas that we need to focus on:
Parental mental health care in maternal, family, and child health services. This is something that should become a routine for both mothers’ and fathers’ mental health.
Co-parenting support. Parents who are co-parenting need to understand what it means to support each other. They need even more support if they are doing it across different family living arrangements.
Find ways to engage dads in parenting support to help build their parenting confidence, and in the early education of their children.
Additionally, dads need access to credible information in formats they can explore, such as books and online resources. This is because while men are less likely to seek help, they tend to gravitate more towards self-help through online resources.