Are you a soon-to-be father wondering what the future holds for you? All first-time fathers experience a mixture of excitement and even nervousness as they prepare to become parents.
Although there is no one absolute way to prepare you for parenthood, there are several ways you may do to ease the transition.
To guarantee a smooth transition into parenting, experts recommend the following ways to help you prepare for fatherhood.
Ben Lagrone, Ed.S
Dad Coach and Co-Founder, Balanced Families
“Whiplash.” That’s one of the words I hear men use to describe their transition to parenthood. Even while they watch their loved ones carry a baby for nine months in the womb, it still does not feel real for men until they see the baby.
Parenthood is beautiful. It’s humbling and awe-inspiring. But it can also be overwhelming. The newfound responsibility to care for a child leaves a new dad feeling weighty and solemn.
Can guys do anything beforehand to prepare for fatherhood? Of course! Here are four steps for expectant dads as they prepare for parenthood.
Step 1: Prepare your mind
Being a great father starts with your mindset. It’s about moving from passivity to proactivity. It’s about moving from personal to family focus, from self-serving to sacrifice.
Personal change and development must be the foundation of your function as a father. Change starts with reflection. Here is just a sampling to get you started:
- What models of fatherhood have you seen throughout your life? Which ones inspire you and why?
- What is your long-term vision for your family? What is the partnership like with your spouse or partner?
- What are the values and philosophies that drive you?
- Are you intentional about your personal life choices, or are you passive?
- Do you view yourself merely as a helper for Mom or an active, involved parent?
Another aspect of preparing your mind is getting educated. Great dads are hungry for knowledge.
Read books and follow blogs about pregnancy, childbirth, and child development. Take a birth class with your partner, so you know exactly how to support her. Listen to podcasts about fatherhood.
Without education, you cannot have engaged discussions with your spouse about child-rearing.
Step 2: Prepare your marriage
Pregnancy is not just a time to focus on the baby. It is time to get stronger as a couple. Your relationship is the foundation for your family. It must be impenetrable, functional, and healthy.
Communication has to come to a new level. How can you raise a child together if you are not on the same page? This is really hard work, but it pays off immensely.
So, do not put off hard conversations. Now is the time to invest more than ever in this relationship so your family can thrive.
Step 3: Prepare your home
There is a lot of planning and purchasing before you take a baby home. Do not wait until the last few weeks of pregnancy to assemble everything you need. Make lists of items you need and to-dos to complete with your partner to ensure nothing is overlooked.
Making the necessary financial plans is critical as well. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider, so you have a heads-up about the costs associated with the birth. Then, speak with your health insurance provider to understand your coverage.
You may be left with an expensive bill, so saving money ahead of time in a Health Savings Account is never a bad idea.
Step 4: Find brotherhood
Great dads learn from other great dads. Find experienced fathers you respect and make time to sit down and hear their stories.
What advice do they have? What would they go back and do differently? Connecting with dads in a similar context and life stage is also key. Through community, we share life, get inspired, and feel supported.
No man would deny that fatherhood is hard work, but all would agree that it’s worth it. Nothing rewarding in life comes easy. Embrace the new season coming upon you. Face it with joy, confidence, and a willingness to learn.
Dr. Stacy Haynes, Ed.D., LPC, ACS
Licensed Therapist | Owner, Little Hands Family Services | Author, “Powerful Peaceful Parenting: Guiding Children, Changing Lives“
One day I was watching professional sports, and I thought to myself, parents should be more like coaches. When you think about it, professional athletes have been trained in the sport they play and have years of experience playing, and yet they still need a coach in order to play the game.
As a therapist and parenting coach, I thought about how this relates to how parents, especially fathers can also prepare for parenting. I created a 3-step parenting approach — Train, Coach, Cheer, to help parents help their children succeed in life, similar to how coaches help athletes succeed in the game.
It all starts with training
Most coaches know the skills they want their team to develop. Have you thought about what skills you want your children to have as they develop?
Children benefit from routine, structure, and loving environments, but we cannot forget actually to teach them skills. Most skills that we need for success in life we learn before the age of five…yes, five.
Before your child is even eligible to play most sports, they have gained the skill set to be a fully functioning adult.
Fathers can teach skills like self-regulation by letting their child lose at a game, which is probably not hard for most fathers who want to win anyway. We can strengthen our child’s social skills by teaching them how to interact with peers at the playground before expecting them just to be able to do it.
Fathers can help with problem-solving by helping their toddlers figure out how to get the spoon in their mouth before the food falls to the ground.
Fathers can think about being present to help regulate their child’s emotional response to frustration by calming them when they cry or offering to sit with them when they are scared.
Fathers can think about the many skills that they may wish someone had taught them growing up and make a list to be intentional in training these skills. We can make sure that children benefit from the beauty of play and the idea that many skills will be learned as we play.
Fathers have often been quoted to be the “fun parent” and can use this fun time to teach quality skills they want their children to have.
Coach your child
Children, like good coaches, need fathers who are willing to come alongside them and help them develop. Questions fathers can ask themselves:
- “How will I strengthen my child by teaching them skills as they develop?”
- “What will my approach to my children look like in good moments and in difficult moments? ”
Think about your favorite coach. No matter the sport, we all love the coach that didn’t embarrass you on the field. We loved the coach that showed you how to correct your game and how to succeed without causing shame.
Fathers have the ability to be a coach to their children. Coaches always assess skills and then determine their game plan based on the skills of their players. Let that sink in.
Your child may have different abilities and different strengths. We can help our children by coaching them by recognizing where they may be struggling and offering continued support.
In development, we call this scaffolding— supporting a child until they have fully developed the skill on their own.
Fathers can learn to cheer on their children
“How do I support my children emotionally as they develop?” A father’s support is such a precious gift to a child. Often when we think of cheering, we think of praising effort and praising participation.
I want fathers to cheer even before their child attempts a skill or an activity. How will you show your child you believe in them— not their ability but in them?
My father used to say to me every day, “I love you, and I am proud of you.” Even on my worst days, he would still say these loving words as he tucked me in at night.
As an adult, they stick with me, and I know that I am loved but, more importantly, that I can do anything I set my mind to. The support we show our children can help them even in the darkest moments.
Do you ever notice how loud cheerleaders get when their team is losing? Cheerleaders at a game are there, not just when we are winning. They are also there to help motivate and strengthen our team, even during losing times.
Fathers can learn to be a cheerleader for their children and learn that their words matter. What they say and when they say it will help their child stay in the game and give it their all.
Fathers can be intentional about the skills they want to train, coach their children as they develop and cheer them on to be the best children they can be.
Dr. Maria Shaheen
Senior Director of Early Childhood Education, Primrose Schools®
Becoming a father introduces you to a new world of rewarding yet challenging responsibilities.
From the first few weeks of caring for your newborn to choosing the best childcare, many people go into the experience overwhelmed and anxious about the days to come.
While there is no way to predict the future, preparation around building new routines and making important decisions can ease the stress of the transition for both parents, and the process starts with letting go of all presumptions.
Share parenting responsibilities
A mother carries her baby for nine months in the womb. It may feel easy for fathers to feel left out in the early days of parenting, so it’s important to talk about how fathers can stay active and involved when the baby arrives.
Determine how you will split up new and old tasks with a new baby in the home. What will be the schedule for nighttime feeds? What about bath time?
Consider how you will involve both parents in caring for your newborn. For instance, one parent may have the responsibility of breastfeeding while the other may handle the burping and a diaper change.
Expect the unexpected
Parenting an infant is messy, tiring, and chaotic, but it is also the most amazing, special, and important job you will ever have! Let go of all the ideals and images from social media.
Entering parenthood with an open and realistic perspective can save you the extra step of letting go of impractical expectations in the future.
Educate yourself as a preparation
Choose books, blogs, and other parenting resources that align with your own parenting philosophy. You may even find parenting classes helpful as you prepare to welcome your newborn into the family.
Related: 19 Best Parenting Books
Babysitting a friend or family member’s infant for a few hours and receiving details from close friends and family about the day-to-day tasks of parenting can also be very beneficial.
Additionally, it’s best to speak to your partner about what parenting philosophy, routines, and coping mechanisms will work best for both of you.
Have important conversations before the baby comes
How do you plan to raise your child(ren)? As parents, what will you both do when things get tough?
Develop a plan for how you will handle disagreements or difficult situations. Talk in advance about how you plan to handle those unexpected moments. (For example, getting all the facts before panicking is always a good idea!)
Lean on your support system
Accept help in various categories during this transition. Find other dads to connect with to talk about resources that have helped them and how they have navigated co-parenting.
Friends and family can recommend the best pediatricians and childcare in your area, which should help narrow down the overwhelming list of options on Google.
You may also consider identifying babysitters for monthly date nights or temporary housecleaning help.
Plan how you will model your child
A poll of 2,000 American parents of children ages five and younger found 77% believe character development skills are just as important for their young children as academic skills in early education.
What kind of person do you want your child to be? Responsible, compassionate, giving? Plan how you will model those character traits with your spouse and family.
It is also crucial to choose high-quality childcare that aligns with your vision for your child’s development. It’s best to narrow down your options sooner rather than later since most high-quality childcare options for infants often have waiting lists.
You will be knee-deep in diaper changes, check-ups at the pediatrician, and all the best snuggles. Make sure you stop and smell the roses because these early moments won’t last forever.
As you prepare for all the responsibilities that will accompany your new baby, prepare to love like you have never loved another person in your life.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker | Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher
The best way to prepare for fatherhood is to have a clear understanding of what you are about to embark on. Here are ways to step into the role being as prepared as possible:
Get clear about why you want to have children
Dig deep to see what excites you about becoming a parent. This is vital because parenting, though rewarding, can be grueling, and frustrating, and is for the long haul. You want to make sure you are stepping into this commitment for the right reason.
Talk to friends who have kids
This is a great way to get familiar with what the experience is like for others. Each one of your parent friends will have a different story, so get familiar with all the stories and consider if you still want to join the club!
Get healthy and strong
Getting healthy and strong isn’t just for the body but also for the mind. You will be embarking on a major life transition, and you want to feel as good as possible for this new beginning. In addition, you will be a role model for this new life.
If you take good care of yourself, you will be better able to care for a baby and maintain your own health.
If co-parenting, talk to your partner about your visions of how you would like to co-parent
It is common knowledge that children add stress to a relationship. Talk to your partner about your visions of how you would like to co-parent, from the division of responsibilities, to how to handle differences in parenting choices when they arise.
If you bump heads in this area, seeing a couples counselor may be a great idea to strengthen the relationship where you could become more unified.
Acknowledge that your sex life may change
Know that your sex life will change, especially at the beginning. But with time and if you work on it with your partner, you can still have a fulfilling sex life, it just takes planning and good intentions.
Know that your sleep will change
Particularly during the early stages, babies sleep sporadically. As long as you are prepared for this change and if you remember that it will pass with time, you will get through it.
Keep a sense of humor
Parents make mistakes all the time and whether it is changing blow-out diapers or living with sleep deprivation, a sense of humor always makes the process easier. Don’t forget one!
Dr. Jennifer Silver
Dental Surgeon and Medical Expert, MACLEOD TRAIL DENTAL
Find other fathers
Speaking with other dads who have gone through the same process as you and experienced the novel sentiments that come with first-time parenting may be helpful if you’re getting ready to be a dad.
Being a part of a group of individuals who have comparable experiences and, even better, having a support system to talk about parenthood with is well worth the effort.
You should reach out to your coworkers and other social groups you belong to. You might be surprised to learn how many dads are eager to share their experiences and offer guidance.
Start making the house baby-proof
Baby mobility develops faster than you may anticipate, so why wait to begin baby-proofing your home? This can include everything from installing locks on cabinets and barring stairs with safety gates to plugging outlets and relocating breakable things up and away from your child.
Create account automation
It’s possible that you’ll have less capacity and time than you’d want to manage your bills.
Given your full-time commitment to care for a newborn, it will be easy for you to forget when items are due. Wherever it is possible, set up automatic bill payments to make your life a bit easier.
Automated payments can help you keep track of your spending and ensure that you never forget a deadline.
Recognize your baby’s importance to you
The stages of your child’s life will be varied. You might occasionally feel unconnected or less significant. Returning to work or feeling like the primary carer can be challenging.
However, if you work outside the home to support your family, that doesn’t make you a bad parent.
You’ll undoubtedly have opportunities to shine, as when your child first says “dada” or grips your finger. Or perhaps they want you to sing them a particular song or tuck them in while you’re the only one around.
Ellen Kolomeyer, PhD, PMH-C
Certified in Perinatal Mental Health | Clinical Psychologist, Unpolished Parenthood
Dads and parents who didn’t give birth can experience the same challenges as moms who did give birth.
From mental health struggles, gaining confidence in new roles, figuring out how their identity fits into this new life, and bonding with babies, dads go through similar difficulties.
In particular, dads and parents who didn’t give birth can get postpartum depression and anxiety too. Their symptoms tend to spike between 3 and 6 months after a new baby enters their lives, but symptoms can appear anytime, especially during the first year with a new baby.
Mood and anxiety disorders may show up differently in dads. For example, symptoms such as sadness or irritability and behaviors like aggression, checking out, isolation, and an increase in substance use as a coping mechanism can signal that a father may actually be experiencing depression or anxiety.
Dads may be at higher risk for postpartum mood and anxiety disorders if they are stressed about finances, sleep deprived, feel lonely and on the outside of the intimate mom-baby relationship, or feel like they can’t talk to anyone for support.
Encourage bonding between dads and babies
Research found that the way dads play is amazing for babies’ brains! Dads tend to get into more physical, active play with babies. This helps babies develop better emotion regulation skills later in life.
Play that involves lifting, bounding, tickling, and strength-based play is exciting for babies and toddlers and helps them learn self-regulation.
Encouraging play and other types of bonding for dads (e.g., skin-to-skin; feedings) helps dads feel more included and valued when their unique strengths are really highlighted.
More support for dads
You can help support dads by inviting all parents to the important conversation about mental health, not just moms.
Check in on dads, and don’t make assumptions about how they feel. Ask how they’re adjusting and what kind of support they’d like. Show up for the dads in your life.
We often look to dads as the anchors of the family, and we tend to overlook the fact that they can suffer silently. Dads and parents who didn’t give birth can have many of the same challenges as parents who gave birth.
Remember, our anchors are human too and benefit from support.
Founder, Parental Questions
As a father myself, I know how intimidating it can be to prepare for fatherhood. It’s one of the toughest jobs you’ll ever do but also one of the most rewarding.
Fatherhood is an exciting time that comes with some daunting responsibilities. Preparing for fatherhood means taking positive steps to ensure your child’s physical and psychological health and safety. Here are a few tips on getting ready for this life-changing event:
Strengthen your relationship with your partner
A strong relationship with your partner is essential to creating a healthy environment for your family, so make sure that you are both on the same page regarding parenting decisions, values, and roles in raising the child.
Talk openly about any issues or concerns you have before entering parenthood.
Educate yourself about parenthood
Read books on parenting topics, take classes offered by local hospitals or organizations such as Lamaze International and La Leche League International, attend workshops or seminars aimed at expecting parents, and talk to other parents about their experiences.
This will help prepare you for what lies ahead and give you confidence in your ability to provide quality care for your new baby.
Assemble a support network
You can only do some of it! Surround yourself with friends and family who will support you during this transition period especially if they have children—and offer practical assistance.
This can range from providing advice to lending you a sympathetic ear when things get overwhelming.
Make room in your budget
Having a baby is expensive, so it’s important to be financially prepared for the onslaught of new expenses.
Start by creating a budget and setting aside money for diapers, formula, clothing, doctor’s visit fees, childcare, and other necessities.
Take care of yourself
Remember to take care of your own health and well-being too, as this will be essential for taking on the new responsibilities that come with parenthood. Make sure to set aside some time for yourself by doing activities you enjoy or simply taking a break from the chaos.
By taking these steps, you can be confident that you are doing everything in your power to ensure a smooth transition into fatherhood.
Founder, Salty Endeavors
To answer this question, I had to look back on my own experience when I found out I was going to be a father. While it was thrilling, I recall feeling apprehensive about the future.
Here are some things I wish someone had told me so I could have better prepared for the changes that fatherhood would bring to my life:
Prepare your finances
If you start early, you’ll have plenty of time to make all of the necessary adjustments as your income changes, and you’ll be able to take full advantage of any tax breaks or other benefits offered by your employer or government agencies.
You might want to keep track of all expenses related to pregnancy and childcare, including prenatal care and other medical bills.
Birth costs such as hospital stays and birthing classes, diapers and wipes, formula (if applicable), baby clothes and supplies like cribs or strollers—anything that relates specifically to the birth or raising of a child should be included here.
This will help you determine how much money will be necessary for each month’s expenses as well as what kind of budget needs to be set up in order for everything to run smoothly throughout this process (and beyond).
Plan out for work-life balance
Work-life balance is an important part of being a new dad. When you’re a parent, the work-life balance can get flipped on its head—you may have less time to spend at work, but your work hours are longer and more intense than ever.
That’s why it’s important to prepare for fatherhood by setting up a schedule that works for your family. Here are some common questions that may assist you in this regard:
- “How do I set my schedule up so that I can take care of my family while still getting my work done?”
- “How do I make sure that someone else is there for my kids when they need me?”
- “What do I do when the baby cries at 3 am and wakes up the whole house?”
One way for me to achieve this balance was to uproot my family and relocate to Cozumel, Mexico. I used to leave home and travel a lot as a Scuba instructor. With a new child on the way, I wanted to slow down and be fully present for her.
Moving to a location where I could set up my Scuba Diving School right where we lived was a wise decision. This allowed me to do my work without missing important events in my child’s life.
Learn the basics of first aid, CPR, and choking management
First aid is an essential skill for anyone. It is especially critical if you become a parent.
If your child has a medical emergency while at home alone with them, you’ll need to know how to treat them until help arrives. It would be best if you also learned CPR and how to manage choking.
If your child stops breathing or begins to choke, this knowledge could mean the difference between life and death.
Given my line of work, I have received extensive training in first aid, CPR, and choking management. Such know-how assures me that I would know what to do if my child were to experience a life-threatening emergency.
Certified Birth Photographer
Connect with your partner and go on a babymoon
I think one of the best things to do before the baby comes is to connect with your partner and go on a babymoon.
If a short vacation is not within the budget, do something local together, and have fun! Connect and dream together!
Know that it’s okay not to know what to do
Another thing to do to prepare for fatherhood is to know that it’s okay if you don’t know what to do. You don’t need to know all the things now. Give yourself grace. You will learn. And as you learn, you will grow into a better person and a better father.
See your partner’s needs after the baby comes
My advice to soon-to-be-new dads is this: if you prioritize your relationship with your partner now, you will know them and see their needs after the baby comes.
Having a new baby can be hard, but it’s the best thing you will ever do in your life. You will change and grow like you’ve never known before. This will make you a better person and a better father.
Ensure that you have your schedule and work-life balance set up well for the future
If you are used to working overtime and weekends, look at ways to cut back so that you can be more present in your child’s life. Or, if you need to work weekends, see how you can be intentional about spending time with your new baby during the week.
Fatherhood will be one of the biggest adventures of your life. Get excited!
Dr. Tali Ditye
Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Mommyhood101
In my expert opinion, fatherhood is one of the most important and rewarding roles a man can take on. It comes with a great deal of responsibility but also a great deal of joy.
Here are some tips on how to prepare for fatherhood:
This is perhaps the most important quality for any father. Kids don’t always do what we want them to, and they definitely don’t always behave perfectly. It’s important to be able to roll with the punches and not get too frustrated when things don’t go as planned.
Kids need our time and attention, especially when they’re young. It’s important to make time for them, even when we’re busy with work or other obligations. They’ll remember the times you made an effort to spend time with them, and it will make a big difference in their lives.
Fatherhood isn’t always easy, and our kids will need our support as they grow up and face challenges of their own. Whether it’s offering a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on, being there for our kids when they need us is one of the most important things we can do as fathers.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I support my partner during pregnancy?
Be there for her emotionally: Pregnancy can be very challenging for women both physically and emotionally, so it’s crucial that you support your partner emotionally. Listen to her worries and fears and offer comfort and encouragement.
Help with household chores: Since your partner may be tired or have physical limitations during pregnancy, helping her around the house can be a great help. Offer to cook, clean, or run errands for her if she needs it.
Educate yourself about pregnancy: Learning about the pregnancy process can help you better understand what your partner is going through and provide her with more support.
Go to prenatal appointments with your partner, read books and articles about pregnancy, and talk to other fathers about their experiences.
Be patient: Your partner may experience mood swings or other behavior changes during pregnancy that are difficult to cope with. Be patient and understanding with her during this time.
Encourage self-care: Encourage your partner to take care of herself during pregnancy by, for example, getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and staying active. Offer to join her in a prenatal yoga class or go for a walk.
What are the most important things to have ready for my newborn?
– Clothing: Baby onesie, socks, hats, and mittens
– Nursery: Crib, mattress, bedding, and mobile
– Diapers: Newborn diapers, diaper cream, and wet wipes
– Feeding accessories: Bottles, bottle warmer, and breast pump (if available)
– Bathing and care: Baby bathtub, gentle shampoo, washcloths, and baby lotion
– Safety equipment: Baby monitor, car seat, and baby safety items
– First aid: Thermometer, nasal aspirator, baby-specific medications, and a first-aid kit.
Remember to customize the list of essentials to your specific needs and preferences.
How can I prepare for sleepless nights and the baby’s sleep schedule?
Preparing for sleepless nights and the baby’s sleep schedule can be challenging for many new parents. Here are a few tips that can help:
Establish a sleep routine. Establishing a consistent sleep routine for your baby can help them (and you) get the rest they need. This may mean setting a regular bedtime, creating a calming bedtime routine, or just being consistent in your approach to sleep.
Take turns. Sharing nighttime care responsibilities with your partner can reduce the impact of sleep deprivation and ensure you both get enough rest.
Get help. Do not be afraid to ask your family or friends for help, especially in the early days and weeks. Having someone to step in for a few hours so you can rest can make a big difference.
Prioritize self-care. Taking care of yourself is vital for your own well-being and can help you better manage the challenges of sleep deprivation. This can mean getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and taking time for yourself when you can.
Be flexible. Remember that every baby is different, and what works for one may not work for another. Be willing to be flexible and try different approaches until you find what works best for you and your baby.
How can I build a special bond with my baby?
Skin-to-skin contact: Hold your baby close to your body after birth to encourage bonding and emotional connection.
Be involved: Actively participate in feeding, bathing, playing, and soothing your baby to become an important part of their life.
Sing or read to your baby: Strengthen the bond with your baby by lending your voice and comforting them with your presence.
Respond to your baby’s cues: By understanding and responding to your baby’s needs, you develop a strong, trusting relationship.
How can I maintain a healthy relationship with my partner after having a baby?
Communicate regularly: Take time to talk with your partner, express your feelings, and show support. Talking with your partner about your feelings can help you cope with challenges or stressors and strengthen your relationship.
Prioritize intimacy: Even when you’re busy with your parenting duties, make time for physical intimacy. This may mean planning dates, finding creative ways to be intimate at home, or just cuddling on the couch and watching a movie together.
Show appreciation: Show appreciation for your partner’s hard work as a parent and partner. Acknowledge their efforts and let them know they’re doing a great job.
Share responsibilities: Look for ways to share responsibilities with your partner, such as taking turns waking the baby at night or splitting the housework. This can help reduce stress and workload for both partners.
Practice self-care: Make time for activities you enjoy, such as exercising, reading, or spending time with friends. Caring for yourself can help you feel more energized and present in your relationship.
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