Top tips for new dads and their mental health

It’s not only women who experience challenges to their mental health during or after the arrival of a new baby – dads can also be significantly affected.

 

The journey to becoming a dad will differ for everyone, whether they have gone through adoption, assisted fertility, or not.  This transition to parenthood, individually as parents and collectively as a couple, is where many are learning to co-parent for the first time, and many changes occur.  Workplaces can be nurturing and positive environments that recognise and support each person’s journey by offering flexible working hours, working from home, and mental health screening and support during the perinatal period. Dr Jan Smith (pictured below) is a chartered psychologist specialising in workplace mental health. Here, she has some tips for new working dads to consider and some signs to look out for when it comes to mental health.

Becoming a dad is life changing

Talk to colleagues, friends, and family about what helped them transition to becoming a working dad. Most importantly, talk to your partner or co-parent about how you both would like your role as parents and what this could involve.

Schedule in and prioritise family time

If your organisation isn’t supportive to enable you to have the time you want with your family, ensure you prioritise this when away from work, so you feel included in family life.

Have time for yourself

Although your life will be different with a little person now, it’s important that you also have time to do some things you enjoy. Engage in activities that are fulfilling and where you don’t feel under pressure.

Connect with others

Having support from other dads will be helpful, where you feel able to share the joys and difficulties that you might face.

Enjoy it

Dads tend to bond differently with their children compared to mums. Think about what kind of dad you want to be and the types of behaviours that align with this.

new dad mental health

Protect your mental health

It’s not just mum’s who experience mental health difficulties during the perinatal period. Dads, too, are at risk, whether that’s due to sleep deprivation, changes in their relationships, or new responsibilities.  Some signs to look out for are:

One in ten dads-to-be will become depressed during their partner’s pregnancy. In the first year of becoming a dad, their risk of developing depression doubles compared to the general population. It could be:

Feeling helpless and uncertain about the future
Feeling unmotivated and not enjoying the things you once did
Feeling sad, low in mood, numb or empty.

New parent anxiety is natural

However, be aware when fears and worries worsen or are experienced for a long time, for example, having panic attacks or not feeling able to calm.

Feeling stressed

It undoubtedly will feel stressful at times to become a dad.  If you’re able, try to identify the source of your stress and talk to someone about how you are feeling. If you feel like you don’t want to be around others and are isolating from social situations, work, and family, let those who reach in with offers of support help you. There might feel like some days are harder to cope with than others.  You don’t have to do this on your own.  Many organisations are out there to support dads during their transition to fatherhood and beyond.

Becoming a dad can be a thoroughly enjoyable experience.  For some, it can feel overwhelming, isolating, and a time when they are unsure of themselves.  Coupled with sleep deprivation and changes in relationships, dad’s mental health can deteriorate. There are many individual strategies to optimise this during the perinatal period and ways organisations can be proactive and supportive of this transition. Ultimately, you don’t need to do this alone; reach out when you need support, and reach into others who also are becoming new dads.

Read more:

How SMEs can look after staff wellbeing during the festive period

A dad explains how he enjoys the family benefits of working at the John Lewis Partnership





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