21 tips to help my dad connect with me

By Howard Todd-Collins, Men and Relationships Counselling

Most men like a good manual! Here it is, an easy to read, step by step guide, which explores the significant stages of child development for men... My dad and me and how we connect! 

Pre-birth

For some guys it can be a confusing time as they struggle to find a way of relating with their unborn baby. Here are some useful ways to stay close to your unborn child.

1. Get familiar

Read books and go online to research your baby's progress and development through the pregnancy.

2. Get to the heart of the matter

Attend the doctors appointments with your partner. At 3 or 4 months you get to hear your baby's heart beat. Listen carefully.

3. Get the picture and watch the movie

Nowadays we can see babies move in utero, check out the photos and videos now available at the ultrasound appointments. Put a photo in your wallet.

4. Feel the kick

At around 6 months you will be able to feel your baby kick in your partners stomach. If you lie in the 'spoon' position with your arms wrapped around your partner’s stomach, you will both be able to enjoy the movements of your baby!

5. Talk

Your baby can hear stuff. Get him/her to know the sound of your voice and start chatting and singing as often as you can. Baby will know "my dad" from every other voice in no time!

6. Imagine

Start thinking about what he/she might look like or sound like.

7. Active birth

Becoming clear about your role at the birth of your baby. Create a birthing plan to delineate and define both you and your partner’s hopes. Be present to this process alongside your partner. Make use of the support available from doctors and midwives.

Focus on maintaining a warm, welcoming emotional relationship with your unborn child.

Your baby

Babies need security and predictability. They get this when their mother and father respond to their cries, smiles and noises promptly, consistently and appropriately.

Here are some ideas how you as a dad create a bond with your baby.

8. Physical touch

Babies love being skin to skin. Take off your shirt and put your baby on your chest. Massage her gently; caress her arms, legs, hands and feet. Creating a safe, warm physical relationship is a great way to show love and care.

9. Eye Contact

Cradle your baby in your arms at about chest level, and you'll be at the right spot for connecting visually.

10. Music

Babies love music and they find a soothing spirit when you sing and dance with them. Put some music on the stereo and hold your baby while you dance. Lullabies can be a real bonding experience also as you sing your baby to sleep.

11. Visits

Fathers often skip visits to the pediatrician. Take the time off work to go with your partner and baby to the doctor. This is a good time to learn more about your baby and how she is doing.

12. Routine

Many parts of your baby's routine can be taken care of by you. Consider giving your baby a bath, changing nappies, taking him on a walk, playing with him, or feeding him from time to time. Give your partner a break and create some new bonding time with your baby.

13. Patience

The very nature of the bonding process between baby and father is different and tends to take longer than the process of bonding between baby and mother. Don't get discouraged as the process develops; the feelings of bonding are worth the wait, and will pay big dividends later. Invest quality bonding time and you'll soon be hearing "my Dad this" and my Dad that" as your little one loves following your every move!

14. Just start

Pick up your baby and start following some of these ideas.

Your toddler

Your toddler needs nurture and care. They need encouragement to explore and be guided by you to set appropriate limits and boundaries.

15. Play

Playing with your child can be entertaining and great fun. Provide a safe yet challenging arena for them to learn how to interact with the world and with others. Rough and tumble play is important to establish both limits and boundaries. Encourage your child to explore their own strength and their ability to try new things.

16. Direct teaching and daily interactions

Being engaged, affectionate and helpful with your child will help them to get on well with their siblings and other children. Stay emotionally involved with your child and support them in acknowledging their feelings and help them deal with bad feelings.

 All the developmental stages of childhood growth have their joys and challenges. Your child’s developmental milestones will challenge both you and your partners parenting abilities and specifically the kind of emotional connection you have with your child.

The school years

At school age your child will begin to grasp learning more adult like skills, testing them out and dealing with feelings of success and failure. Accomplishing goals and mastering skills is important for your child’s self-esteem.

17. Challenge

Your influence as a father is to challenge your child to try new experiences and become more independent in a positive manner. Help your child to learn new skills, and take responsibility for their own actions.

18. Be active

Be actively involved and interested in your child’s education, social life and sporting or recreational life.

19. Consistency and reliability

Consistent and reliable attention and care will greatly shape and support your child’s adjustment to new experiences, have stable emotions, and know how to get along with others.

20. Look out!

Look out for any tendency to discourage, be too restrictive, impatient or impose your own solutions. These responses can hamper your child’s creativity, motivation and problem solving development.

Teenagers

Adolescents and teenagers are focused on their personal identity and deepening their social relationships. They will spend more time away from you.

21. Guidance

Focus on your teenagers’ beliefs, values, and plans for the future. Fathers can pull away from their teenager because they want to instill a sense of independence.. However, the importance for you to remain connected at this time is crucial. Teenagers rely on regular conversation, advice, guidance and a sense of your availability.

These steps of ways men can connect with their child are designed as a map but requires you and your partner to research a little further and prepare for the wonderful changes in your child as they grow.

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Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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