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fathers and mental health 

fathers and mental health 

How to take care of your mental health during fatherhood journey?

Being a father can be demanding. However, many fathers feel ashamed to talk openly about their mental health and the challenges they face. This can lead to mental health issues becoming more prevalent for upcoming dads. 

Being a dad is a big deal; it comes with lots of feelings – some happy, some uncertain. It’s a shift in your world. It’s important to know that it’s okay to feel a mix of emotions as you go through this part of your life. Many fathers may find themselves grappling with questions about their role, identity and relationship changes. Exploring these feelings is part of the journey even if you don’t want to overshadow your partner’s needs or believe that men shouldn’t be emotional.

This is incredibly important in the first months after your child is born, as studies show that up to 10% of dads go through depression and 15% experience anxiety during this time.

With challenges brought by money worries whilst struggling to provide the best for your children, we must recognise the mental health difficulties both new parents face and ensure there is support available for new fathers as well. 

Spotting signs of poor mental health

Taking care of your mental health is like tuning in to your feelings and recognising when something doesn’t quite feel right. Do you feel down often? Are you constantly worried? Do you have trouble sleeping? Do you not enjoy the activities that you used to do? These are signs that your mental health needs some attention. 

But here’s the deal – realising these signs and talking about them is a smart move. It’s not about having all the answers but acknowledging that sometimes we all need a bit of help. Being aware of your mental health and having open conversations about it can lead to a happier and healthier you. That’s not just good for you but also your family.

What’s the impact of having poor mental health?

When your mental health takes a hit, it ripples through your relationships. Communication gets trickier and stress piles up. Connecting with your child may become more challenging, impacting the special bond you share. As a dad, your part in your child’s life, as a role model is crucial and not addressing mental health issues, might unintentionally teach less-than-healthy coping methods to your children.

When a parent is struggling with mental health, it can create a tense or stressful atmosphere at home. It can impact a child’s ability to understand and express their feelings. This may also increase the risk of behavioural issues, like mood swings and acting out, and impact their ability to concentrate. 

How can I support my mental health as a father? 

Here are some guidance and practical ways that you can encourage positive mental health as a father.

Connect with your child/children

Spend quality time with your child. Whether you play games, go for walks, or read together, these moments strengthen your bond and create lasting memories. Take this time to have fun and build skills. Teach them a new game, share your favourite childhood stories, or work together on a creative project. This not only improves the parent-child connection but also becomes a platform for growth and building resilience for both of you.

Reach out to family and friends 

Don’t do it alone. Build a support network of friends, family and fellow dads. Share experiences, joys and concerns. Sometimes, knowing that others have been there can make a world of difference. Encourage your child to connect with their extended family too. These interactions contribute to their sense of belonging and give you some time for self-care. 

Communicate openly

Share your feelings openly with your partner, family and friends. Create a safe space for open conversations with your child. Active listening encourages trust and strengthens relationships.

Prioritise self-care

Take care of yourself physically and emotionally. A brisk walk enhances wellbeing and can clear your mind. Develop healthy habits, like preparing meals ahead and creating routines. These will promote positive coping mechanisms.

Introduce positive habits like mindfulness or a personal hobby, which provide relaxation in the hustle of life. And remember to take breaks when needed. Those moments will help you better handle the challenges that come your way. Set aside dedicated tech-free time. Whether it’s enjoying nature or your hobby, limiting screen time promotes healthier sleep patterns and improves overall wellbeing.

Reflect on fatherhood 

Take some time to reflect on your journey as a dad. Celebrate the victories, acknowledge and address the challenges and give yourself credit for the effort you’re putting in. Reflecting on parenthood allows you to appreciate the growth and lessons that come with the role.

Seek support

If things get tough, don’t hesitate to reach out to healthcare professionals or counsellors for help and guidance. Seeking professional support provides reassurance and guidance during challenging times. It’s like having a trusted ally in your corner. Asking for help is a sign of strength. If appropriate, involve your child in discussions about mental health, helping them understand the importance of seeking help when needed.

Financial support and leave options for fathers

Fatherhood brings not only joy but also a set of practical considerations, including financial support and leave entitlements. Below, we discuss available support options for fathers.

Do I get any financial support as a father?

Being a new father can be financially stressful. Some studies suggest that raising a child can cost you up to £160,000, with this value increasing every year due to inflation. Fortunately, there are benefits that you can access as a father such as the Best Start Grant and the Scottish Child Payment.

It is important to note that these benefits are only available in Scotland. These benefits might not be available in other home countries.

For more information, our Mental Health and Money Advice service can help you with information regarding other benefits that you can apply for.

Do I get any support from my employer as a new dad?

Under Scottish law, you are entitled to up to two (2) weeks of paternity leave from your employer.

Depending on your employer, you may be able to receive more than two weeks of leave or Enhanced Paternity leave. Another option to consider is Shared Parental Leave if your partner would like to work earlier. You can read more about Paternity leave, including the current value of Statutory Paternity Pay, on the UK Government website.

Consider what your best leave option is financially, physically and emotionally for you and your partner. You might want to consider discussing this with a financial planner or professional.

Do I still get support when I adopt a child?

The short answer is yes. You will be eligible for Statutory Adoption Pay and Leave under Scottish law. Unlike paternity leave, you could be eligible for up to 52 weeks of adoption leave depending on certain criteria. You can read more about how many days and how much you are eligible for here.

How much do I get from Paternity/Adoption leave?

Although the value is standardised around the UK, it will also depend on many factors such as your current salary and any other benefits your employer is offering.

Although mainly used for employers, one way you can check how much you should be getting is by using the Maternity, Adoption and paternity calculator for employers. As an employee, you can check whether you are getting the legally required pay from your employer.

support

Our Advice and Support Service is open Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that most fits your needs, including our Change Mental Health services. We offer initial advice on money worries and help to deal with emergencies. 

Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at advice@changemh.org or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page. 

other support available

Fathers Network Scotland
A charity committed to improving children’s lives through the involvement of fathers.

Parent Club
An online resource endorsed by the Scottish Government that offers advice to parents through all the different stages of family life.

Dads Rock
An organisation dedicated to helping fathers in Scotland through group work, workshops, 1:1 and peer support.

Circle Fathers support
Part of the Circle range of support services for fathers and fathers-to-be in the Edinburgh city region.

One Parent Families Scotland
An organisation providing support for single parents, including single fathers.

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