I was fortunate enough to grow up with a father who was responsible, worked hard, had integrity, and made time for his family. At the time I did not comprehend the intentionality he had to take care of himself so that he could care for me and my siblings. I did not see the moments he strategically shared with friends, so he could build a support system. I did not recognize the moments he made sure he was exercising, so his stress would not get out of hand. I did notice the moments he spent processing how he was doing, so he could be fully present with us. I also did not comprehend how rare it was for fathers to do just that, that is, take care of their mental health. I was fortunate to have a father who tried his best to be a good dad.
Maternal mental health has gotten much more attention in the past five years thanks to public awareness, better education among care providers, and successful public-health efforts. This allows mothers to gain support and care as they continue to venture into motherhood. However, it is no secret the entrance into fatherhood is a huge transition, and at times fathers are left with little attention. Being a father drastically impacts one's life.
Being a father means new demands which impact one’s everyday life from what you may have known. There is now a constant rhythm of change. Each point of their child’s development brings new memories and fun, but also brings new challenges. A child becomes dependent on a parent to take care of their basic needs as well as nurture them. As the child gets older new importance and developmental milestones are pursued which has a direct impact on the parent.Rachel Simmons, author of The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence emphasized this when she wrote, “It’s common for tweens and teens to toggle between loving and hating their parents” – This new back and forth many experience with their adolescents can cause one to feel hurt, confused, and stressed.
So then, how do fathers prioritize their children by taking care of their mental health?
Studies show men who maintain friendships during early days of fatherhood experience lower stress levels. Fathers deserve and need support.
Studies have shown the impact of physical activity on mental health. The AmericanPsychology Association explains that 44% of adults engage in walking or other forms of exercise to cope with stress.
Excessive sugar, caffeine, and processed foods can contribute to anxiety, depression, and irregular sleep. There has been numerous recent findings on the connection of gut and mind health. So be mindful of the things you are putting in your body.
Our children are watching us. They pick up on our flaws and weaknesses. They also see us when we are strong and handle situations well.If you make your physical and mental health a high priority, your children are more likely to follow. Not only will they imitate you, but they will be raised in an environment where attention to one’s feelings and support for one another is encouraged. It may be as simple as telling each to take a deep breath when frustrated. As with most things, often the first step is the most important.