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The arrival of lockdown saw many South Africans set up home offices. In some cases, one or both parents continue to work remotely, and take care of the children. Hanging on to a level of sanity is a daily task. For creative and conscious advice, follow the 10 top tips for fathers navigating their new normal.

Covid has put fathers in a position they haven’t experienced before. This time spent at home in close confines with their children has presented dads with a golden opportunity to enjoy time connecting with their children. But some dads may need help and so we have compiled 10 top tips for fathers navigating their new normal.

In an ideal world one envisions loads of bonding time over games of catch, sipping make-believe tea out of plastic cups or building a fort. However, what it has also done is put strain on dads who have previously worked outside the home. Getting accustomed to regular interruptions and needing to be on hand for children’s demands 24/7 can take its toll. Add juggling increased exposure to the pressures of home life, coupled with work demands and the added stress of lockdown regulations has left many fathers feeling disillusioned.

Dads are often left with feelings of frustration with their children and how they handle them and the role of parenthood.

Jason Bernic is an Executive Life Coach and runs a group coaching circle called “To Be a DAD”. The group is designed to assist fathers with the many challenges that come with the role. He notes that some dads have really struggled with lockdown and the changing roles and routines that it delivered. “Some are finding it a blessing in disguise to spend so much more time with their kids than before. But definitely 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.” They need help navigating their new normal.

Bernic, a dad to twin 5-year old boys, has these 10 tips for fathers navigating their new normal:

1. Embrace your new routine

“Accept that you have 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. Spend this time enjoying the opportunity to be more involved in your children’s lives.”

2. Act like a role model

“Children learn through our behaviour so if you are handling the current pandemic crisis with stress reactions, anger and outbursts you can expect the same from your offspring. Keep calm, try to be on your best behaviour around the kids and guide them through their own fear and worry about the future.”

“Do not withdraw emotionally from your family, or get into a mindset of fear and anxiety. 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.”

3. 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 partner some down time, and if time and budget allows, try to implement things like a date night. This way 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 partner. You are in this together and a strong foundation to the family helps tremendously.  Don’t bottle things up!”

4. Love your children

“It is 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 will never, never regret being affectionate with your child and letting them know that they are loved.”

5. Have some fun

“Don’t get completely  bogged down in the responsibility and 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 dads and their kids.”

6. Be picky about the advice you take

“There is 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 are not doing correctly when it comes to your children. You may have family members who disagree with your routines or discipline styles. They may question your future plans or current actions. Trust your gut and don’t allow too much outside noise to cloud your family life or cause you to question yourself too harshly.”

7. Enjoy time with your kids

“The time you have with your kids absolutely flies by, so really take the time to enjoy it. If you approach the current situation with the right mindset, your entire outlook will shift.”

8. Be self-aware

“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 cannot control, like the economy, but rather focus on what you can control – your thoughts, attitude, actions and behaviour.”

9. It’s about perspective

“When it comes to parenting, a tiny shift in the way that we approach or interpret something can influence our experience of it, turning negative into positive.”

“Like with most other situations in our lives, we have choice. Sometimes the current reality is so blinding that it takes personal intervention of some kind to slow it all down, just for a second, and take stock. When we are able to see the wood for the trees, we can navigate our way through the forest. When we change the way we see the world, our world changes.”

10. Best foot forward

It’s about who you are and your approach to parenting: ultimately showing up as the best version of yourself, be that a father, a husband or just a human being. “We know that an active and positive presence of fathers in their children’s lives has a positive effect on children’s mental and physical wellbeing and reduces the frequency of their negative behaviour.  If the COVID-19 lockdown accelerates the movement of dads to be more engaged with their children, that could be a lasting benefit from a global public health crisis.”

Bernic’s To Be a DAD online coaching group runs for six months. Members meet online twice a month for an hour and a half. For more information visit