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. However, what it has also done is put 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 really struggled with lockdown and the changing roles and routines that it delivered.
So what advice does Bernic, who is a dad to twin 5-year old boys, have for fathers right now?
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.”
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 own 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.”
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,” says Bernic. “Try and give your wife some down time, and if time and budget allows, 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!”
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.”
Let Loose And Have Fun With Your Children
“Don’t get entirely bogged down in the responsibility and sometimes, tediousness of raising a family,” advises Bernic. “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.”
Enjoy Time With Your Kids
“The time you have with your kids absolutely flies by, so really take the time to enjoy it,” says Bernic. “If you approach the current situation with the right mindset your entire outlook shifts.”
“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. “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.”