The bond between a father and his child differs for every family - but whether working full-time or a stay-at-home dad, a steady father figure is hugely influential and beneficial.
Father of two Shayne Jeffares is the manager of Kidz Need Dadz Charitable Trust in Hawke’s Bay.
Drawing on his own experiences raising two boys, Shayne is well aware of the tests and trials facing modern dads. Having walked in their shoes, he’s now able to lend an ear and give advice.
He opened a branch of Kidz Need Dadz in Hawke’s Bay after seeing the need to support and provide sound information from a ‘dad’ point of view to fathers wanting to be more actively involved with
“It’s looking at ‘how can I improve how I am as a parent, father and partner?’ Through conversation and getting to meet other dads our focus is on nurturing and strengthening relationships within the whole family, which has a flow-on effect for the wider community.”
Shayne says providing a loving, caring and stable home environment is the most important thing for children.
“It doesn't matter if mum and dad live under the same roof or in different homes, we want to encourage dads to be a part of their children’s lives wherever possible.
“The way we relay that message is through a range of support, information and fun activities that encourage dads to want to spend time with their children.”
He says being a supportive parent may look different for everyone and doesn’t have to be a grand gesture - fathers have a positive influence simply by enjoying time with their children.
“The bonding between dad and his child is so important in the early years, particularly those first few months with a new baby which can be a very emotional time.
“It’s getting up at 3am to be with your partner when you have a new baby, it’s feeding the baby and creating those special bonding moments. It’s reading them a story and creating opportunities to spend time and talk with them. This will also allow for some much needed ‘time off’ for mum.
“It’s also about making sure dad is in the right space and looking after himself and has good support to be a positive role model to his children.”
These days more Kiwi dads are taking a hands-on approach to parenting, with a more active role in raising their children.
“What fatherhood meant in New Zealand 20 years ago has changed dramatically – back then dads took more of a back seat with the kids. These days they are just as likely to get involved with playtime, midnight feeds and nappy changes.”
The perception of 'family' has evolved over time and 'traditional' roles have changed.
“We are starting to see more dads who are staying at home, attending play groups, coffee groups and getting out and about with their children.
“I was working with a group of fathers who said they still hear comments like, 'isn’t it nice to see you out with the kids’ or ‘you must be babysitting’.
“Truth is, more dads are stepping up and really loving it. It’s not something they shy away from - they are proud to be claiming that space.”
Shayne says fathers are too often portrayed as 'bumbling' or 'incapable' when in fact they simply take an alternative approach to parenting.
“They are often more relaxed, they like to step back and observe. They are still conscious of nap times and meals but many of them are also very adventurous - taking kids on walks, treks, bike rides and exploring life together.”
Having support networks in place for fathers who are proactively involved with their children gives them a space to share stories and garner advice.
“It’s so important for dads to feel like they are not alone and to be acknowledged that they are doing an awesome job.”
Currently in the works is a Saturday Breakfast Dads group, so fathers can enjoy the morning with their children and meet other dads in the community.
A weekly support meeting for dads is held on a Thursday and Shayne is also available to present to community groups and workplaces regarding Kidz Need Dadz Hawke’s Bay services.
For more information see: www.kidzneeddadz.org.nz and go to the Hawke's Bay tab
or visit Facebook/kidzneeddadzHB