Your dad and family experiences
Becoming a dad can make you think about your:
- relationship with your own dad or other male figures in your life
- family background
- experiences of growing up.
These relationships and experiences can influence the way you bring up your own children. You might want to parent just like your dad, or you might want to do things differently.
Also, your partner’s childhood experiences and relationships are probably different from yours. It’s a good idea to share your experiences and discuss what’s important to both of you when it comes to raising your children.
Good times with your dad
You might remember good times with your dad as you were growing up – for example, camping trips, games nights, weekend sport or cooking afternoons.
Remembering what you liked best about times with your dad can help you think about the things you might want to do with your own child.
My dad was the parent who played on the street – not just with me, but with all the other kids. He’d gather everyone for an excursion to the local park or beach, or hold ‘back fence badminton’ competitions. He really prioritised the importance of play, and I’ve taken this on as a parent as well. My dad was also generous with praise – he taught me that every bit of my effort was worthwhile. I hear his voice in my own words when I’m praising my kids’ efforts now.
– Max, father of five
Not-so-good times with your dad
Even if you had a good childhood, most dads don’t want to repeat the things that didn’t work or weren’t positive. You might be very aware of what those things were, or you can think back to them.
He was there, but he wasn’t. He’d be at work or he’d be travelling for work. When I was a teenager, my father would probably spend 8-9 months a year away. I’ve vowed I won’t be like my father. I’ll be there to support my wife and raise my children.
– Callum, father of twins
Family rituals and special dad time
Family rituals are special routines or activities that your family does together. Every family has its own individual rituals. They might be things like crazy handshakes, special dessert on Friday night, soccer at the park on Sundays and so on.
Family rituals are a way of saying, ‘This is who we are as a family’. They give you a sense of belonging.
You might want to think about the special rituals or activities that you did, or still do, with your dad or another male figure in your life – an uncle, stepdad, foster dad or granddad. Special dad rituals might be going fishing, winking goodbye or reading books together.
Every month on a Sunday my dad would pack up me and my brothers and sisters in his car and go for a three-hour drive. We’d get pizza, hop back in the car, then drive home again. I’d love to do that with my kids, but I don’t think my car would make it!
– Kev, father of three
Planning your own special dad time
Thinking back, is there a special ritual, activity or time with your dad that you’d like to keep going with your child? Sharing older family rituals can be a way of giving your child a sense of connection to your extended family.
Or maybe you’re already planning new routines and activities for yourself and your children.
On a Saturday morning I’ll walk to the shops, get the paper and a coffee and walk back home while my wife’s still in bed. I might be able to take the baby when he’s a little bit bigger. I’ll put him in the stroller and get the paper, and we can have a coffee and the wife can sleep in. I’m really looking forward to that.
– Roger, expectant father (30 weeks)
Thinking about your family can sometimes bring up strong or painful thoughts and reactions. If it all seems too hard and you’re feeling worried or down, or you’re getting upset or angry with your partner or other people, it might be a good idea to talk with someone or get professional help.
You could talk to your GP. You could also call MensLine on 1300 789 978 or PANDA on 1300 726 306. These are free and confidential services that can put you in touch with a counsellor.
Things you can do
- Tell your partner about special times or things from your childhood that you’d like to keep going with your child.
- Think about experiences that you’d like to be similar or different in your family. Are there some things you want to avoid? How will you make this happen?
- If you feel nervous or unsure about being a new dad, you’re not alone. No parent has all the answers – there are always things to learn. You can find information about being a dad by checking out our Fathers section and other parts of our website, getting together with other dads you know or attending parenting classes.