Adult male holding smiling boy

Why we need to support and celebrate new dads

Published on
12 June 2023

Dr Matt Price, Barnardo’s strategic lead for clinical psychology and psychotherapy and a practicing clinical psychologist specialising in supporting children, young people, and their families, writes about the importance of supporting dads with parenting and their mental health.

No one ever said that parenting is easy. Raising a child, especially against the backdrop of modern day living and the challenges that presents, is difficult for all parents and carers.  

Over the years, there have been hugely positive developments in improving access to information, advice, and support for new mums.  This is, of course, welcome. However, dads, just like all carers of all genders, can experience difficulties in the early days of parenting too. This can include poor mental health, such as low mood and anxiety, dealing with any resurfacing issues from their own childhoods or struggling to process any trauma brought about by the birth. So, why does so much existing support exclusively focus on mums and therefore, as evidence shows, exclude dads? 

Let’s look at the importance of providing perinatal mental health support for dads as well as some practical advice on how to adjust to life as a dad.  

Parenting as a skill 

At Barnardo’s, we recognise the value in helping parents negotiate the understandable difficulties that they may face as they raise their children. We know that experiences in childhood lay vital foundations for later life, particularly when it comes to physical and mental health. Preparing parents-to-be for parenting seems an obvious thing to do. So, why does ‘parenting support’ often feel neglected, especially so for dads? 

The skills required to be a parent are hugely varied and change over time. Parenting an infant and parenting a teenager are totally different experiences and come with their own unique set of joys and challenges. As a dad myself, I have negotiated some of them so far and, as a psychologist, I know many more lie ahead too. 

I often compare developing skills as a parent to developing skills in my professional life too. We would never expect to start a new job requiring new skills without studying or training for it. Yet we often expect parents, particularly dads, to do just that when taking on arguably one of the hardest jobs in the world. In fact, we know through our own frontline work that dads seeking support worry that it could be seen a sign of weakness or an indication of poor parenting. This isn’t true. Parenting support is about equipping anyone who has a caring responsibility with the skills and abilities to meet the ever-changing needs of children. We need to change this so that dads who actively seek out parenting support are praised and supported in doing so.  

Dads as valued parents 

Most services that offer support to parents work from the assumption that mums are the primary caregivers. This is often – but crucially not always - the case. In these contexts, dads may feel like they are being demoted to ‘second place’. In my experience, this discourages men from playing a more active role in parenting when they feel like it’s not inclusive or welcoming for them. This could trigger feelings of loneliness and isolation which, ironically, could mean that their need for support is even greater.  

Not only does it benefit a child to have lots of adult support around them, but the opportunity to be an active parent is also important for the mental wellbeing of dads. It’s a sad fact that the biggest killer of men under 50 in the UK is suicide, and the time after having a baby is a particularly vulnerable time.  

Studies have found that dads with mental health problems during the perinatal period are up to a staggering 47 times more likely to be classed as a suicide risk than at any other time in their lives. So, if we truly value dads as parents for the role they should play in their children’s lives, then we must create inclusive and supportive environments for them.  

The need for more help and support 

We want to help dads, and anyone else with a caring responsibility, to take an active role in parenting. We want to work with dads and other carers to remove the stigma which exists around accessing parental support by championing the benefits it can bring.  

Barnardo’s runs a wealth of health and wellbeing services for children and families throughout the UK across its network of 62 family hubs. We also welcome the Government’s commitment to roll out more family hubs to give every child the best start for life. It will be important in the local areas which develop family hubs to ensure that family hubs are inclusive for all parents and carers.

Find out what support is available in your area here:

There’s also lots of information on the Barnardo’s virtual family hub, Family Space, here: Barnardo's Family Space | Barnardo's Family Space ( including some advice especially for dads. Dads | Barnardo's Family Space ( 

Barnardo’s services throughout the UK offer help and advice specifically for dads:  

The Young Dads service in Newcastle supports dads up to the age of 25, gives them a voice and signposts to other services,

There is also a group for dads with children up to the age of 5 at Ladywood Children’s Centre in Birmingham.

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For more support with parenting see our tips and information about services for parents and carers.

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