Father's Day is Sunday. And of course, many Fathers will be showered with love and gifts from adoring pint-sized fans and supportive spouses and partners. T-shirts, tools, gadgets, and good food are all great gifts for dad. But, in honor of Father's Day, consider a gift that free, precious, appreciated, and sometimes hard to give: your support. Dads are often seen as playing the supporting role -- even the understudy -- in parenting, and because of this, their importance and need for support often are overlooked.
Fellow parents, partners, moms, wives, family members, brothers, sisters -- consider the following ways to support and uplift new and not-new fathers in their roles, and ponder if the ways in which you currently approach and care for the dads in your life provide the support that's needed.
Check in with dad, too. Dads go through their own experience in pregnancy, birth, and parenting. So much focus is on moms that dads often feel left out of the process. Ask dad how he's doing, how he's enjoying the new baby, to tell you about his child(ren), to see if he needs anything, to show you pictures, etc. Dads are usually brimming with excitement and pride and ready to share. On the flipside, they aren't as likely to share the hard parts -- tune in to see if anything is "off" with dad and offer your support.
Do more listening than talking. Provide ample space to hear his stories and let him brag -- or vent. It's ok to chime in with comments that show your understanding, but try not to take over the conversation or insert condescending "just you wait" phrases. True support means more listening than talking.
Refer to dad as a parent, not a babysitter. A dad is a parent -- not a fill-in, not "daddy daycare," and not a babysitter. While we seem to throw these phrases around frequently and find them lighthearted and humorous, it's important to know that language matters. Referring to dad as anything other than a parent undermines his role and value in a child's life, not to mention his confidence! A dad is a parent. A dad parents his child.
Provide encouragement and empathy. Sometimes, dad needs to vent. Parenting, pregnancy, and birth can be hard and trying, especially when you often feel like an outsider. Offer encouragement to keep trying and working at this important job, and empathize where you can. Like moms, dads need to know that it's ok to express upset, disappointment, and fear. Doing so will help move forward to more joyful moments.
Applaud dad's expertise. The media loves to paint a picture of dad as the bumbling baffoon -- always getting things wrong and clueless as a parent. But that picture is far from the truth. When given the chance, the support, and encouragement, dads do get it "right," and do know how to be a great parent. It's ok if dad doesn't do things the way that mom does -- kids often benefit from the differences in parents. So, when visiting a new family, comment on the ways that dad has it all figured out, how he looks like a natural, and find out the ways in which he already knows his child.