Sunday, October 6, 2013

How to Make a New Dad More Confident

I'll admit something to you. Something that is not quite mine to confess but I'll tell you anyways.

T used to hate holding babies. When he was forced asked to hold one he would treat them like they were time bombs about to explode at any moment. He'd never been around that many babies and zero newborns before Cali came along so I knew it would take a little time before he was comfortable with her. 

Heck. It took (is taking) me time and I was comfortable around babies before her.

To make matters worse, aside from the 72 hours right after she was born, he wasn't with us for the first month of her life so when he saw us Cali and I had already had those 5 weeks to bond and adjust to each other. Realizing this, it was even more important for me to make sure I did everything I could on my part to make him feel connected and important. So I wanted to list some things I tried to do to give him confidence in fatherhood. 

Shut up and let him struggle 
  I don't mean for this to sound cold but I had to remind myself of this constantly. He's a new parent and all new parents struggle at first. I did and that's how I learned. There's nothing that will give you a greater sense of accomplishment than when you have to fight hard for something and you eventually get it so I had to let him experience that.

Understand that we'll do things differently 
How I change her diaper, how I hold her, how I bathed her... All of these are things that I had to figure out what worked best for Cali and I. T had to do the same thing and even though his ways look different than mine, I know he has the same goal in mind - her comfort.

Let him have "his thing"
For T this is bath time. As moms - and especially stay at home moms - we have more opportunities to be around our babies. Dads need to have at least one thing that is always their "job". Giving dad a chance to form a special bond with his child can dramatically improve parent-child relationship and give mom the chance to watch with pride. Now that Cali and T have established their bath routine, you can definitely tell that Cali knows something is wrong when I try to do bath time!

 Affirm him 
All new parents worry that we're not good enough at some point and dads are no different. Having an outside perspective - YOU - reaffirm that he is doing well will help build his confidence in his abilities. No one wants to do things they're not good at, so reminding him that he's a rockstar at being a dad will only serve to fuel his desire to continue getting more involved.

Break some rules 
Sometimes rules need to be broken. I have this thing about nighttime feedings... I like to keep them short and sweet. I keep the lights off, I don't talk to Cali, and I try to get her back in her crib as quickly as possible. But there were times during the season when T wasn't getting to see her that much when he'd pick her up in her crib and just hold and talk to her for a while. To me it was worth breaking the rules so that daddy and daughter could have a little bonding time.

Get excited when he comes home
And not just the 'hand off the baby and run to take a shower' kind of excited. Teach your child how to appreciate the other parent and to get excited to see them at the end of the day. I believe it's important to be an example of love and respect by acting out your appreciation towards your spouse and their hard work.

Share the struggles
He may have no idea that you're just as scared and confused sometimes as he is... so tell him! Let him know that you are constantly learning and adapting right alongside him and that you're in the "trenches" together. Then tell him how much you trust his judgement and abilities to learn new things and how good he is at fatherhood.

I understand all of these aren't natural.  Sometimes it is hard to relinquish control and let dad have a longer leash but maybe give a couple of these a try and if you have any other ideas I'd love to hear them! Parenting is tough and it's even tougher if both parents aren't working as a team. Plus, the more confident dad feels the more he'll want to help!

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