Eat, Play, Love: How to be a super dad this Father's Day

The role of a father is as important as a mother’s for a child’s development right from the early years of life.

 |  5-minute read |   21-06-2020
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How many men have actually held your child close to you when they were born? I think the number must be very minuscule. This is because a father’s role in a child’s life as a caregiver is very downplayed and underutilised.

Men, like women, have a huge impact on the health and development of children. The role of a father is as important as a mother’s for a child’s development, from the early years of life. I, in fact, made a promise to myself when my daughter was born years ago, and I make an effort to spend as much time with her even now to keep up that promise.

Spending time with children is very important as it has positive effects on their mind. We need to do more than just providing for their food, clothes and books. In fact, research shows that this helps in lowering the risk of depression, fear and self-doubt. All of these are linked to improved outcomes for children which determines their ability to succeed in life. For instance, if you want your children to score higher on intelligence tests, then you should spend more time with your child.  

Being a parent is not easy

A UNICEF study shows that in the first 1,000 days of life, a child’s brain develops at a never-again-repeated speed of more than one million new neural connections every second. This means that the early years in a child’s life builds the foundation for their growth and development. This early brain development determines how your baby thinks, learns and behaves. This period offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shape a child’s ability to learn, grow and contribute to our society. But this will only happen when a child receives proper health, adequate nutrition, protection, responsive caregiving and early learning opportunities.

main_father-and-daug_062120011623.jpgAs a father, you should spend time and play with both your daughters and sons. (Representative photo: Reuters)

We, as fathers and parents, need to provide the right environment which will shape their brain development. Usually, the younger the child, the less involved the father is in their care. And only when the child gets older, does the father’s role increase. But the kind of care that a child receives during 0 to 3 years of age has the ability to benefit your baby.  

I know it is easier for men to take on a bigger role when your child is older. However, involved parenting should start from the very beginning.

Share the workload

This brings me to the recent times of Covid-19 which we are facing. We had a lockdown and all of us were confined indoors. This is the time when you can help your partner take care of your baby. You can also help in household chores so that she has more time for the baby. This also reduces the disproportionate burden of care that we place on the women.  

You can divide the work and feed your child, help them learn, teach them or even just pat their back after meals so that they burp. After all, men have great chests for that. Feeding a child is traditionally always considered a mother’s duty. What better day to change this mindset than Father’s Day?

In fact, Jharkhand observed the Poshan Pakhwada with technical support of UNICEF from March 8 to 16. It focused on the involvement of men, especially fathers, and how you can become responsible and share the load. During this Poshan Pakhwada, a total of 55,37,946 men participated in different nutrition activities like Poshan Rally, Prabhat Pheri, Poshan Jan Andolan, Annaprashan and Nutrition Counselling at Anganwadi Centres.

It was great to see that so many male caregivers participated in this initiative. As a father you can do three simple things: Eat, Play, Love.

What is eat, play, love?

It means that you as a father can provide proper nutrition to your children. For example, you can ensure that your children take one iron-folic acid tablet every week to prevent anaemia. You can take responsibility for your children’s vaccinations and take them to Anganwadi Centers to get their weight and height recorded. Ensure that your child and family eat a variety of different foods – bring colours to every meal.

You can play with your children. I encourage all parents to talk to their child by responding to them when they cry, smile or coo. This shows your child that as parents, you are there for them. It helps build the brain’s social and communication skills. You should interact with your kids by asking questions when they are older, which is usually more effective than telling him or her what to do.

I also want to point towards a 2018 UNICEF study – Parenting Matters: Examining Parenting Approaches and Practices. It says that most fathers and grandfathers played with their children outside, while mothers narrated stories and sang for their children. However, you can also read stories to your child and help them read and write. It is commonly seen that mothers play with their daughters and fathers interact with boys in young children aged between 0 and 3 years. But you should try and change that and play with both your daughters and sons. After all, we are an equal society and this change should start from our own homes.

Lastly, as a father and a parent, simply love your children. When you shower your baby with love, you eliminate their exposure to the kinds of stress that can become toxic. This includes physical and emotional abuse and neglect. It means that a loved child will deal with stress much better in the future — such as on their first day in school.  

So, this Father’s Day and parenting month, I urge all men to spend more time with your families and engage in co-parenting for the development of your child. I hope you will do so not only during this period when most of us are working from home, but also after this time has passed.

Also read: Dapper Dad is the new Yummy Mummy


Prasanta Dash Prasanta Dash

The writer is the chief of UNICEF Office in Jharkhand.

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