Last week we chatted about how mother-child relationships may be influenced by the arrival of a new baby and we’ve alluded to the fact that how moms handle things (managing their own stress and well-being, trying to stay affectionate and not suddenly resorting to physical discipline) can affect how kids adjust to becoming a big brother or big sister. Today’s point from the research focuses on father-child relationships.
Point 5: Father-child relationships play an important role in how kids adjust after a new baby is born.
There are only a few studies in this area that have focused on dads, but all of them show that fathers can play a very big role in helping kids adjust after becoming a big sibling. For instance, one study mentioned by Dr. Volling found that “children with warm, empathic, and understanding fathers managed the stress following the birth better than those with uninvolved fathers.” (p. 23) Many dads often take on a more active role with kid #1 after baby arrives, so that mom can care for the baby. This is great if he is loving and nurturing, but obviously not so great if dad is harsh or disengaged.
Research suggests that kids’ relationships with their dads don’t show the same changes that their relationships with their moms show, after the baby is born. Attention from fathers likely acts as a buffer to help kids deal with changes in attention from their mothers. (My sister and I were born 14 months apart. After Bee was born, I realized that when my mom was busy with my baby sister those 30-plus years ago, my dad and I probably spent a lot of time together, which might explain how I came to be such a Daddy’s Girl!)
The arrival of a second child can be a wonderful opportunity for dads and kids to grow closer. Some dads are very hands-on from day one, but others really step up to help out once the second child arrives. You probably know this already – lots of research shows that having a dad who is present and involved is a HUGE protective factor for kids!