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Parenting Being a father Bringing up children is both rewarding and challenging Parents often talk about the joys of watching their children grow up but parenting is not always easy. As parents, we must make difficult decisions about how to help our children grow and develop. Being part of a parenting team means that you and your partner share the decisions and responsibilities for bringing up the children. Deciding together how you care for your children includes planning routines, school and leisure activities. It is also about deciding how you, as a parent, will encourage good behaviour and discourage unacceptable behaviour. Balancing your responsibilities is very important. As a father you don’t want to feel that you are the only one responsible for disciplining the children, or that you are left out of the whole Being a father is your most process altogether. important job It is a good idea to set aside some time to talk with your partner There are many different kinds of fathers. You may be about the following topics: in a traditional, nuclear family, a stepfamily, have full time care as a sole parent or have your children with • How will we get everyone involved to celebrate when one of the children has achieved something special? you on a regular basis. Why not go to the movies or the arcade together to In the past fathers were rarely involved in the day celebrate a good report? to day parenting of their children. They were usually the authority figure of the family, setting • What will we do to help the children develop? You may decide to go swimming on weekends with the the rules and applying discipline. Mothers often children and your partner will take them to after school had the role of the caring parent. sports. This way, both of you can be involved in their The role fathers play in bringing up their children leisure and achievements. has changed in recent years. Fathers are now being recognised as carers, • What sort of discipline will we use? Positive discipline works best, and many tips and ideas are role models for their children and part of the detailed in the Living with... series of magazines, available parenting team. free of charge. See back page for details. With more women in the paid workforce than ever before, fathers are becoming involved in day to day family life and caring for their children. Parenting Line: (08) 9272 1466 1800 654 432 (free for STD callers) Time together Sometimes it may feel as if you are left out as a father—mothers still seem to be the focus of most help and support when it comes to bringing up children. First time fathers If you want to be more involved in the lives of your Along with the joy of having a new baby parents also have children, here are some ideas: doubts about themselves. How will we cope? What will it be like? Will we be good parents? • If you work outside the home during the day: As a new father your regular routines are • Plan to spend time with your children when you get home from work. Help them with disrupted. Day to day life changes their homework, talk with them about their to respond to the needs of day or describe what you have been doing. your baby. This also means your • If you are arriving home at bathtime or bedtime your children will be winding relationship with your down. Choose calm activities such as partner will change. reading a book together, telling a story or There will be many looking at their work. Save the games for times of joy with during the day. your new baby but you will find that you • If you care for your children during the day: have less time to spend with each other. • Make time to go to a playgroup with your children. These groups used to be attended by mothers only but that has now changed. Some new fathers even feel More and more fathers are joining left out or less appreciated than playgroups with their young children. before the baby was born. With feeding and caring for the baby taking a large part of their time, new mothers • Playgroups give young children the chance to mix and play with other children. They understandably often have less time and energy to devote also give you the opportunity to talk about to their partner. your children and discuss ideas with parents who have children of similar ages. Fathers need to understand the reason for this. Giving your support and attention and sharing the care of the baby will help make things easier. It is also a good way to get to know your child and learn about being a father. Fathers & sons Fathers & daughters Your son is observing you closely and copying your behaviour in day to day activities. That is how he learns As your daughter grows from child to teenager your about being a man, male–female relationships, relationship with her changes. friendships and his role in society. It is important to You will always be important to her and she will keep think about what you would like him to learn. needing your love and care. How you express this love Society has changed in many ways since you were a boy will change as she grows up. and your son needs to see that men are now playing She may no longer be comfortable with hugs and their part in caring and nurturing as well as more cuddles she enjoyed so much as a child. It is important traditional responsibilities. to respect this as well as your daughter’s increasing need for privacy. Acting in a caring way, showing interest in what she does and using affectionate words and tone of voice Make time for yourself still show that you love her. Day to day parenting is a tiring and demanding job. Role models You may feel there is never a quiet moment to catch your breath—children need to be taken to and picked For children, parents are the most important role up from school and other activities, they need help models. They watch how you act and copy you in their with homework or would like you to play with them. play and when interacting with their friends. Then there is the shopping to do and dinner to cook Your daughter is learning about male–female and the washing to hang out... It never really ends. relationships by watching the way you act. It is All of this is part of a parent’s daily tasks but it is very important she sees you acting in a caring and respectful important that you also make time for yourself. way with your partner. She will need plenty of examples of good communication to learn about Ask relatives or friends to babysit so you and your positive male–female relationships. partner can go out or sleep in. With children you have less time to devote to one another but make sure you don’t forget to spend some time together. Protective fathers Your own emotional, physical and health needs are Most fathers are anxious and protective when their important. Meeting with other parents will give you a daughter begins dating. It is normal for her to become chance to share experiences but it is good to remember interested in boys and develop close relationships as that you have other roles as well as being a parent to she grows up to be a young adult. She needs your your children. Try to make the opportunity to have a support rather than heavy vetting of boyfriends. coffee or lunch out or take up a sport or fitness activity. Try to allow your daughter to make her own decisions Caring for yourself, spending special time with your about boyfriends and be ready to listen to her when she partner and enjoying the company of friends will needs someone to talk to. strengthen your relationship with your partner and help you be the best father you can be for your children. Sharing the care of baby makes things easier Girls and boys need time with their father Separation & divorce If you are going through a separation or divorce you probably wonder how this will affect the children and how you can help them through this difficult time. • Find a balance between outside activities and time at home. Involve the children in routine activities, give them The most important things you can do as a father are: Making time for yourself responsibilities in your home so they feel they are part of • Let your children know that the separation is not their fault. your household and not visitors. Balancing your responsibilities Often children blame themselves for the fact that their parents are breaking up. It is very important that they • Although it may be tempting try to avoid asking questions about your children ’s about their other home understand it is an issue between your partner and yourself and their new step parent if they don’t talk about it and nothing they have done has caused the separation. spontaneously. Some children feel torn between the two • Make sure they know that you love them and will keep loving them despite the separation and the changes it will households and questioning does not help them settle into the new situation. bring to the family. Explain that you will organise to see them regularly if they do not live with you and make sure you follow through with that promise. Remember Contact visits If the children don’t usually live with you but visit you regularly, • When fathers are involved in the day to day care of their babies it builds special bonds which are important for it may be helpful to consider the following issues when planning children and fathers. your next contact visit: • Even if you don’t see your children a lot, you can still build • Some non residential parents feel they must make up for happy memories together. the breakdown of the family by giving presents and money to their children. This can sometimes lead to accusations • While children still have different experiences with their fathers than with their mothers, the important thing is to be about bribing the children and undermining the children’s loved by caring adults in their lives. new relationship with the step parent. • Sometimes children feel bored when they visit—their • How you act when you are with your children teaches them how to act when they grow up. friends are not around, they don’t have their usual toys or books and don’t really feel at home. You may fear you are • Children, as they get older, need to know that you love them even if they choose different ways to do things. losing their affection and try to make up for it with expensive outings and presents. • Share your ideas about parenting with the children’s mother if possible. Listen to hers. There are some things you can do to make contact visits with your children more successful: For more information • Help your children feel more at home by organising their own place to sleep and space where they can keep books, Living with babies, Living with toddlers, Living with children, Living toys and other possessions in your home. with teenagers and Living with stepfamilies are available free of charge from Parenting Information Centres or by telephoning the • Plan activities for the contact visits. These don’t need to be extravagant. Footy in the park, swimming or playing a Parenting Line on (08) 9272 1466 or 1800 654 432 (free for STD callers). board game together are good ideas. What children need is The videos Living with babies, Living with toddlers, Living your time, company and attention to know they are still with children, Living with teenagers and Living with stepfamilies important people in your life. can be borrowed by calling the Parenting Line and from all public libraries. On the internet: www.fcs.wa.gov.au/parenting Produced by Family and Children’s Services, Government of Western Australia. This fact sheet was written by Claire Halsey, clinical psychologist at Family and Children’s Services and includes material from Being a dad, Parent Easy Guide #26, Parenting SA, Government of South Australia.