Understanding dad…big impact from small changes

‘I was sitting there terrified, but no one spoke to me. No one asked me how the baby had slept, or how he was sleeping. When actually I was the one getting up during the nights. No one bothered to ask though’. (Young dad, The Cottage Family Centre, Kirkcaldy, 2018).

This quote from a young new dad begs the question: Are dads hard to engage, or easy to ignore?

The evidence tells us just how important the role of a dad is to the life chances of any child. Unfortunately, as services, our practice often tends to overlook dads, focusing on engaging and supporting mums, despite the fact that supportive father-child relationships are equally important for boys and girls. (Scot Gov 2017)

Fathers’ active involvement is linked with their children’s higher educational achievement, attainment, improved social mobility; better behaviour at school including reduced risk of suspension or expulsion. (Scot Gov 2014).

Including dad supports a mother’s mental health, confidence and ability to parent well.

Dads’ groups, projects and workers can be brilliant resources for as long as the funding lasts, but universal services should include the whole family around the child.  Dads still tell us that they often feel excluded from services, and services still tell us that they’re not sure how to get dads involved.

The free Understanding Dad workshop has been successfully evaluated by over 500 participants who have so far taken part in the course.

Janie Tydeman from Home Start was one such participant, ‘Attending the Understanding Dad training has hugely changed our practice – and in a very good way. We’ve made some small changes to our practice, such as addressing invites to both parents, which have had a big impact’.

‘When I first started at Home Start you just got the mum and kids. Now it’s great to see whole families together, all working with us.’

Another participant was Toni Middleton, deputy head at Fair Isle nursery, ‘The training made me think, ‘How have we missed this?’

‘Whenever I asked a mum during an initial visit, ‘Where’s dad?’, I backed off almost immediately if the mum said, ‘Oh he’s not involved’, or something like that.

The training gave me the confidence to change this and to dig a bit further.

In the nursery we now always ask the question, “Where’s dad?” We have changed the information on our paperwork from ‘Parent/carer’, to ‘Mum; dad; carer’. When a member of staff is arranging a first six to eight week review, I’m now vigilant about saying to the member of staff, ‘Find out where dad is’. And if it’s not okay for him and the mum to be at the same meeting, we are much more conscientious about having a separate meeting for the dad’.

We weren’t intentionally excluding dads, but we weren’t actively including them. That’s all changed. The training made me realise actually just how important a dad is. Not just in terms of parental rights, but more so in terms of children’s rights.

At the nursery we are seeing every day how our change in practice is benefitting not just children, but whole families.’

For more information please access the Understanding Dad web page.