The arrival of lockdown in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic saw many South Africans set up home offices, and even with restrictions lifting incrementally, many people are still working from home. In some cases, one or both parents continue to work remotely, while also taking care of the children.
While the lockdown has given dads time to connect with their children, it has also put strain on them – especially those who worked outside the home before the lockdown. Getting used to regular interruptions, needing to be on hand for children’s demands 24/7 and juggling increased exposure to the pressures of home life, coupled with work demands and the added stress of lockdown regulations has seen cracks appearing for some, and many fathers may be feeling disillusioned at their frustrations with their children and how they handle them and the role of parenthood.
Jason Bernic, an Executive Life Coach who runs a group coaching circle called ‘To Be a DAD’ which is designed to assist fathers with the many challenges that come with the role, says some dads are finding it a blessing in disguise to spend so much more time with their kids, but most are finding the need to introduce structure, routine and discipline, whilst also trying to have some fun. “As the pandemic evolves, fathers are also concerned about how to navigate a shift back to the “old normal” and a desire to create a new normal going forward,” Jason says.
He has this advice for dads to navigate their new normal:
Embrace your new routine
“Accept that you’ve had to give up a few (or many) things during this time. You may have had to give up after work gym sessions or drinks with friends, or perhaps the weekend golf game has gone out the window. Realise that your children are also going through a stressful time as their routines are equally interrupted and accept your current ‘normal’. If your new routine involves far more child care than before, embrace it rather than fight the situation and spend this time enjoying the opportunity to be more involved in your children’s lives.”
Act Like a Role Model
“Children learn through our behaviour so if you’re handling the current pandemic crisis with stress reactions, anger and outbursts, you can expect the same from your kids. Keep calm, try to be on your best behaviour around the kids and guide them through their own fear and worry about the future. Don’t withdraw emotionally from your family, or get into a mindset of fear and anxiety, as this will rub off on everyone. Don’t shout at your kids or spouse, don’t start drinking to escape or get too caught up in the COVID narrative.”
Work on your marriage
“Some fathers are single dads – but for those parenting together, being a good dad starts with being a good husband and getting involved in the entire process. Try and give your wife some down time, and if time and budget allow, try to implement things like date night so that the two of you can connect. Also be sure to share your feelings and discuss worries and concerns you have about the family with your wife – you are in this together and a strong foundation to the family helps tremendously. Don’t bottle things up!”
Love your children
“It’s important to love your children while you are raising them. This may sound obvious, but many times we become so involved in the day-to-day routine of looking after our kids that we forget to show them and tell them that we love them. Remember to hug, kiss, and snuggle your kids often. You’ll never regret being affectionate with your child and letting them know they’re loved.”
Let loose and have fun with your kids
“Don’t get entirely bogged down in the responsibility and sometimes, tediousness of raising a family. Remember to have fun! Find time to goof around with your children, trot out some dad jokes, play around and enjoy their company. This is not only good for bonding but is a great stress reliever for both you and your kids.”
Be picky about the advice you heed
“There’s no official guide or absolute authority on raising kids. However, many people along the way may be only too happy to offer their opinions on what you are and aren’t doing right when it comes to your children. Trust your gut and don’t allow too much outside noise to cloud your family life or cause you to question yourself too harshly.”
“This is a stressful time and your emotions will be up and down. Do something productive every day that gives you a sense of accomplishment. Men need this and it makes us far more likely to be pleasant to be around. Be disciplined in your thinking – it’s easy to focus on the things we can’t control, like the economy, but rather focus on what you can control – your thoughts, attitude, actions and behaviour.”
“When it comes to parenting, a tiny shift in the way we approach or interpret something can influence our experience of it, turning negative into positive,” says Jason.
More about Jason Bernic:
Jason is an Executive Life Coach and a dad to twin boys. He has extensive experience within the industry and is the resident life coach on Jacaranda FM. He has just launched “The Life Coach” – the only life coaching cartoon that we know of. Jason’s ‘To Be a DAD’ online coaching group runs for six months and members meet online twice a month for an hour and a half. For more information visit his website here or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, contact Jason on 010 300 0801.
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