Director of the RCH Centre for Community Child Health, Professor Frank Oberklaid, says while healthy father-child relationships are essential, Australian dads often return to work within two weeks of the birth of a new baby, reducing their opportunities to be an active parent during their child’s first years of life.
“Most dads want to spend lots of time with their kids, but we also know that often they are the main breadwinners for their families. This can make finding enough time for everything really hard,” Professor Oberklaid said.
Most Australian mums, on the other hand, stay at home for an average of at least six months before returning to work.
Whilst dads can enjoy the positive interactions of working bees and annual Father’s Day events, they may find it more difficult to participate in the day-to-day experiences of their child’s early childhood service.
Dads should consider the many benefits that stem from strong relationships between them and their children, including fewer behavioural problems in children whose dads are supportive and sensitive to their independence, improved wellbeing later in life, and improved mental health.
Professor Oberklaid says the relationship between father and child is just as important as the one between mother and child.
He says there are plenty of ways for dads to be more active throughout their child’s formative years.
“One way that dads can get involved is through their kids’ childcare setting. Pick ups and drop offs can be a great opportunity to talk to the educators and share information about how things are going, both at childcare and at home.
“If you have a bit more time, then story time, sharing songs with the group, even taking 15 minutes to check out the play equipment and see the artworks – they’re all great options to spend time with your kids and get involved in an important part of their world,” he said.