An expanding family is generally a joyful event in anyone’s life.
It might be the arrival of a new baby. Or two partners and their families starting their lives together as a new family.
Either way, there are always adjustments that need to be made by each family member.
In this article, we’ll be focusing on Dad’s involvement in an expanding family.
A father’s role in the arrival of a new baby
Perhaps your children are growing up and both parents have decided it’s time to increase the number of family members.
There will be a few things that a loving and nurturing father needs to take into consideration.
#1: Your partner will become pregnant again
Remember last time she was pregnant? That memory is probably already at the back of your mind, seeing how quickly the time seems to have passed since you last became parents.
Pregnancy requires a lot from a woman. She needs to focus on rest, what she eats and drinks, and ways to manage her stress levels. All of this ensures the best possible environment for her baby to grow and for her pregnancy to progress.
The father’s involvement is crucial if the mother is to be able to focus on her pregnancy. Remember, mothers tend to do much more than they should to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible in the family and in the home. She will need all the support and help from her partner she can get.
You can read more about your involvement as a father and how you can best support your partner during pregnancy in BellyBelly’s article Dad’s Role During The Pregnancy.
#2: She will give birth again
She’s going to need your full support for that, but not only as her birth partner. As you probably know, fathers play an important role in sorting out the logistics for the family when it’s time for the birth – especially if you’ve got young children.
You’ll need to work out who will look after your other children, bearing in mind that labor has no schedule and can happen at any time, day or night. You might need more than one support person at the time of birth.
You can read more in Child Birthing: The Basics Dads Need To Know.
#3: She will need to give a lot of attention to the new baby
As you’re not new to fatherhood you will know how involved a mother becomes with her new baby. This is not only necessary for the baby’s survival and emotional development but also for the mother’s emotional well-being.
Research shows the importance of bonding during pregnancy and especially during the postpartum period. Involved fathers will make a huge difference in allowing this bonding to happen successfully.
#4: Your other children will also need their mother
The arrival of a new baby will affect all family members, especially young children and toddlers. Father involvement is crucial in a young child’s life when there’s a new baby family member.
Engaged dads will minimize the effect this will have on a child’s perception of the baby’s arrival. Being extra attentive to your children’s needs while at the same time making sure they can spend time with their mothers will have a positive impact on your children’s lives.
How to be a supportive and nurturing father?
Becoming a father is difficult the first time around and it’s not easy to keep up the level of nurturing and support as the family grows. As children grow, they will become more and more involved with the care of their younger siblings but this will depend greatly on the age gap between the children.
Preparation is key
One of your best aids is to be well prepared in advance. Balancing work and a growing family is not easy, so make sure you make the best possible adjustments so you can be at home as much as possible during those first few weeks.
Discuss your situation with your boss in advance. Try to postpone journeys, if you can, and avoid working overtime. Taking work home is also a bad idea as everyone will probably need you the minute you step through the door.
Prepare your children in advance. Honesty is the best approach in parent-child relationships. We’re not advising you to squash your child’s happiness about the new baby’s arrival but it’s very important children understand what this arrival really means. Children learn about and get involved in family issues much better if they feel they are taken into account.
Explain, at the child’s level, how a baby has no schedule and lots of needs and how their parents are going to be very busy and tired. This will have a positive effect on them and their perceptions.
If her emotional needs aren’t covered, a toddler or a young child won’t remember that this was discussed before the baby’s arrival. If dad takes the time to explain and talk through the upcoming changes, however, and a plan is put in place for the children to explain their emotions and needs as they occur, then parenting other kids in the family will be a bit easier.
Involved dads might also feel they can’t cope with managing an extended family. The pace of today’s world is so fast and demanding fathers can feel anxious and might forget about their own personal needs and wellbeing.
Men, especially caring and involved fathers, tend to put their family members’ needs before their own; this can have negative effects if not dealt with appropriately. Make sure you look for support if you feel you need help.
You can read more about this in Postnatal Depression In New Dads.
What is a blended family?
Another challenge mothers and fathers might face when extending their family is if they have re-partnered and one or both of them have children from a previous relationship.
Although this is quite common today, it isn’t always easy to manage.
Common problems with blended families
Here are some of the most common problems a blended family might experience:
- Different parenting styles
- Not allowing your partner to parent your children
- Children not agreeing with this new family arrangement
- Understanding and accepting you’re the step-parent and not a substitute for the father or a mother your stepchildren already have. This also means your partner’s ex will be part of your family life, which might be difficult to navigate
- Sibling rivalry
- Children’s age differences.
Blending families with teenagers
Small children, small problems; big children…
Parenting teenagers is already challenging in traditional nuclear families. When you’re expanding your family and there are teens around it’s very likely everyone will need to navigate some difficult situations.
Setting up ground rules and clear boundaries about what will and won’t be tolerated in the house should help the family dynamics.
Teens are trying to discover who they are as individuals, what their role in society is, and how to manage relationships. Adapting to their new blended family will require a lot of giving, understanding others’ needs, and plenty of self-control; many teens aren’t ready for that, as they are neither adults nor kids.
It should be the teen’s own parent who takes the lead in talking about this, and mediating between the teen and the extended family.
If a problem arises, try to deal with it in the best possible way as soon as it happens, while understanding that everyone needs space and time to process the triggering event. Once everyone has calmed down, you might want to discuss it as a family or at least involve the stepfamily member who was affected by the teen’s reaction.
Gear yourself up with lots of patience. Child development has several stages and teens will become healthy adults at some point – even if it seems very far away at present.
You might find these articles helpful: How To Transform Your Child’s Challenging Behavior and The Most Stressed Mamas– Is A Newborn Or A Teen More Stressful?
What is a father’s responsibility to his family?
A father figure is very important in a harmonious, well-balanced family. Many fathers might think that financially providing for the family is their main role and as long as they do that family life will run smoothly.
It’s important, of course, especially to a growing family, that cash flow isn’t an obstacle. Finding stable employment and improving their positions are important priorities for most fathers.
We also know how a father’s role has changed considerably in the past several decades. BellyBelly’s article Dad’s Role In The Family-Past And Present covers this transition in depth.
In recent times the most important responsibility of fathers is to protect and support their families physically and emotionally.
When each family member feels comfortable, happy, and secure it means the family is functioning as it should.
What is father’s role in child development?
Being loved and comforted has been proved to be the most important aspects of children’s emotional development.
Although physical development is important for developing a strong healthy body, being emotionally stable is what makes a child grow into a happy and emotionally healthy adult.
During the 50s and 60s, psychological research was mainly conducted by behaviorists who were convinced that babies’ attachment to their mothers was driven by the physical need to be fed. In the mid-60s, American psychologist, H F Harlow, proved there was much more to a growing baby than being fed.
Harlow’s most famous experiment involved placing a baby monkey in a cage with two metal structures. One had bottles of milk; the other metal structure had no milk but was covered with a warm, soft, and fluffy material. The baby monkey spent most of the time cuddling with the warm artificial ‘maternal’ structure. It visited the other ‘monkey mother’ just to feed but quickly returned to cuddle up with the comforting one.
Harlow and his team proved the current psychological approaches to child development had overlooked the importance of love, comfort, and companionship for healthy emotional development.
This proves that emotional attachment is of paramount importance in children’s development. The more love and comfort a child receives, the better.
Our childhood years prepare us for adulthood and when it comes to the importance of nurturing and providing love to our children there are very few differences between mothers and fathers.
Women have a biological advantage in creating this strong bond. They become mothers the moment they’re pregnant and giving birth prepares them to have a very natural and strong bond with their babies. This is extremely important from a biological perspective, as any baby mammal would struggle to survive if it didn’t create a strong bond with its mother.
Fathers, however, take longer to bond with their children. They only really become fathers the moment the baby arrives into their lives. They know they’re going to have a new baby, they’re excited about it and they caress their partner’s belly to feel the baby’s movements, but the real bonding starts only when the baby is born.
Keeping Harlow’s contribution to the study of emotional development in mind, spend as much time as you possibly can with your children. Bond with them, play with them, and hug, cuddle, laugh, and love your kids as much as possible.
You’ll live your parenthood to its fullest while you’re giving your child the best possible upbringing.