The past few months have been a lot for any parent to handle. As a dad, you’ve probably been scrambling to be the best parent you can through all the changes, uncertainty and stress. Now’s a good time to take a deep breath, think about the important role you play in your young child’s life, and have a game plan for going forward.
They Need You
A close, loving bond with your child helps them feel safe and secure. When they know that you’ll be there for them, take care of them and respond to their needs, then they can relax and develop in healthy, positive ways. Kids learn and grow through their relationships with caring adults — moms and dads, of course, and grandparents and teachers, too — but the relationship between father and child is unique and important. Dads tend to engage their kids in more physical, rough-and-tumble play than mothers. That helps young children build large muscle skills and also helps them learn to regulate their bodies and emotions. Research also shows that dads tend to ask more questions, which is an important way to build vocabulary and communication skills.
Overall, there is a lot of evidence that a close, caring relationship between father and child has a positive impact on their healthy development in all domains, including physical, social-emotional and thinking skills.
So, no matter how stressful, frustrating or tough being a dad can be at times — especially now — try not to forget how important you are and what a difference you make. You’re not perfect. You make mistakes. But in being there for them, trying your best and letting them know you love them, you’re giving your child what they need most.
Take Care of Yourself, Too
Young children can pick up on the emotions of their caregivers, so to be the best parent you can be, you need to find ways to de-stress, stay calm and find positive outlets for any strong feelings you have. We recently shared some ways that moms can engage in self-care, and those same ideas apply to busy dads. If you’re co-parenting, try to make sure that each of you can take a break and recharge every now and again.
Help Them Understand
With so many new and unexpected changes happening around us, you may not know how or what to share with your toddlers. The key is to understand how to talk with your child in age-appropriate ways. Here are some tips and information that can help you and your family through these tough times:
- Tips for talking with young children about coronavirus
- Guiding young children through difficult times
- Helping your child with big feelings
Just Be Dad
Love, attention, guidance, play — your little ones need the same things from you that they always have. They may just need a little more of it right now. It’s ok to enforce normal schedules and limits. It’s also ok to laugh and be silly and maybe even break a few rules. After all, that’s part of the joy of being dad.
More for Dads of Young Children
Check out Daddy Matters, a four-part video series from ZERO TO THREE and YouTube star La Guardia Cross, that explores why dads matter and what matters to dads.