Tips for fathers navigating the new Covid-19 'normal'

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If your new routine involves far more child care than before, embrace it.
If your new routine involves far more child care than before, embrace it.

The arrival of lockdown in response to the global Covid-19 pandemic saw many South Africans set up home offices, and even with restrictions lifting incrementally, many people are still working from home.

In some cases, one or both parents continue to work remotely, and taking care of the children while keeping a level of sanity is a daily task.

Covid-19 has put fathers in a position they haven’t experienced before - this time spent at home in close confines with their children has presented dads with a golden opportunity to spend time connecting with their children.

In an ideal world, one envisions loads of bonding time over games of catch, sipping make-believe tea out of plastic cups or building a fort.

WFH adds pressure 

However, what it has also done is put a strain on dads who have previously worked outside the home.

Getting accustomed to regular interruptions, needing to be on hand for children’s demands 24/7 and juggling increased exposure to the pressures of home life.

Coupled with work demands and the added stress of lockdown regulations has seen cracks appearing for some, and many fathers may be feeling disillusioned at their frustrations with their children and how they handle them and the role of parenthood.

Jason Bernic, an Executive Life Coach who runs a group coaching circle called 'To Be a DAD' which is designed to assist fathers with the many challenges that come with the role, says that some dads have struggled with lockdown and the changing roles and routines that it delivered.

"Some are finding it a blessing in disguise to spend so much more time with their kids than before, but most are finding the need to introduce structure, routine and discipline, whilst also trying to have some fun."

"As the pandemic evolves, fathers are also concerned about how to navigate a shift back to the 'old normal' and a desire to create a new normal going forward."

So what advice does Bernic, who is a dad to twin 5-year old boys, have for fathers right now?

1. Embrace Your New Routine

Accept that you have had to give up a few (or many) things during this time. You may have had to give up after-work gym sessions or drinks with friends, or perhaps the weekend golf game has gone out the window.

Realise that your children are also going through a stressful time as their routines are equally interrupted and accept your current ‘normal’.

If your new routine involves far more child care than before, embrace it rather than fight the situation and spend this time enjoying the opportunity to be more involved in your children’s lives.

2. Act Like a Role Model

Children learn through our behaviour so if you are handling the current pandemic crisis with stress reactions, anger and outbursts you can expect the same from your offspring.

Keep calm, try to be on your best behaviour around the kids and guide them through their fear and worry about the future.

Do not withdraw emotionally from your family, or get into a mindset of fear and anxiety, as this will rub off on everyone. Don’t shout at your kids or spouse, don’t start drinking to escape or get too caught up in the Covid-19 narrative.

3. Work on Your Marriage

Some fathers are single dads but for those parenting together, being a good dad starts with being a good husband and getting involved in the entire process.

Try and give your wife some downtime, and if time and budget allow, try to implement things like date night so that the two of you can connect.

Also, be sure to share your feelings and discuss worries and concerns you have about the family with your wife – you two are in this together and a strong foundation to the family helps tremendously. Don’t bottle things up!

4. Love Your Children

It is important to love your children while you are raising them. This may sound obvious, but many times we become so involved in the day to day routine of looking after our kids that we forget to show them and tell them that we love them.

Remember to hug, kiss, and snuggle your kids often. You will never, never regret being affectionate with your child and letting them know that they are loved.

5. Let Loose And Have Fun With Your Children

Don’t get entirely bogged down in the responsibility and sometimes, the tediousness of raising a family.

Remember to have fun! Find time to goof around with your children, trot out some dad jokes, play around and enjoy their company.

This is not only good for bonding but is a great stress reliever for both dads and their kids.

6. Be Picky About The Advice You Heed

There is no official guide or absolute authority on raising kids. However, many people along the way may be only too happy to offer their opinions on what you are and are not doing correctly when it comes to your children.

You may have family members who disagree with your routines or discipline styles. They may question your future plans or current actions.

Trust your gut and don’t allow too much outside noise to cloud your family life or cause you to question yourself too harshly.

7. Enjoy Time With Your Kids

The time you have with your kids flies by, so take the time to enjoy it. 

If you approach the current situation with the right mindset your entire outlook shifts.

8. Be Self-Aware

This is a stressful time and your emotions will be up and down. Do something productive every day that gives you a sense of accomplishment.

Men need this and it makes us far more likely to be pleasant to be around.

Be disciplined in your thinking – it’s easy to focus on the things we cannot control, like the economy, but rather focus on what you can control – your thoughts, attitude, actions, behaviour. Bernic goes on to say that often it is about perspective.

Turn negative into positive 

When it comes to parenting, a tiny shift in the way that we approach or interpret something can influence our experience of it, turning negative into positive.

"It is that perspective that my “To Be a DAD” group coaching circle aims to address," he says. "Dads that take part in the coaching often discover, once they start interacting with other dads, that their problems are not as big as they thought they were, or, they're not a problem at all."

"Like with most other situations in our lives, we have a choice, but sometimes the current reality is so blinding that it takes the personal intervention of some kind to slow it all down, just for a second, and take stock."

"It's about who you are and your approach to parenting, ultimately showing up as the best version of yourself, be that a father, a husband or just a human being," says Bernic.

"We know that an active and positive presence of fathers in their children’s lives has a positive effect on those children’s mental and physical wellbeing and reduces the frequency of their negative behaviours."

"If the COVID-19 lockdown accelerates the movement of dads to be more engaged with their children, that could be a lasting benefit from a global public health crisis," he says. 

Submitted to Parent24 by To Be a DAD

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