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As a father, you feel responsible for keeping your family safe and sound. But to do that, you have to take care of yourself first.

As a father, you feel responsible for keeping your family safe and sound. But to do that, you have to take care of yourself first. The problem: not all men prioritize health and wellness. In fact, a recent survey revealed that 82% of men try to stay healthy to live longer for friends and family that rely on them, but only 50% of men engage in preventative care. Besides regular visits with your healthcare provider, check out these self-care tips for dads to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward for those you love.  

Self-care Tip #1: Stock up the kitchen and car with healthy foods

Eating healthy is a family affair. Dads play a significant role in modeling healthy eating patterns for their kids. Plus, filling up on nutritious foods can give you the energy you need to play and bond with your little one. Make planning, food shopping, and meal preparation a team sport. Both parents have a part to play in bringing the family to the table for colorful fruits and vegetables, delicious lean meats and fish, and fiber-rich grains like couscous, quinoa, pasta, and more. Love a good snack attack but are always on the run? Check out online resources for healthy on-the-go snack inspiration to help you plan ahead for yourself and your family.     

Self-care Tip #2: Move more than you sit 

It is easy for those who have an office job to go from sitting in a car to an office chair, back to the car again, only to end the day on their favorite sofa. Still, the body is meant to move more than sit, and sitting too much during the day may negatively impact your health. Do your best to sneak in a few more steps each day. Set your smartphone or watch to remind you to get up and move at certain intervals during the day, or consider adding a standing desk to your office. Make exercise family fun time by setting up an obstacle course in the back yard, running a contest of timed drills of jumping jacks, lunges, and knee lifts indoors, or hitting a local nature trail. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans offer additional ideas and resources for meeting recommended fitness goals.   

Self-care Tip #3: Talk often

Society often focuses on mental health for new moms, but dads also face mental and emotional health challenges as they enter fatherhood. In fact, up to 25% of new fathers may experience paternal postpartum blues three to six months after their baby arrives. Remember, keeping feelings inside only intensifies them. Engage in conversations with your partner, your children, and your other family members and friends. Pray, meditate, or journal. Find ways to share your concerns, your stresses, your joys, and your sorrows. Life can be overwhelming, especially after a major life change, and it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the US Department of Health has a national helpline for those in need.   

Self-care Tip #4: Listen more 

Fathers play a huge role in child development. In fact, children with actively involved dads are more likely to do well in school and exhibit higher levels of sociability, confidence, and self-control. So, take time to listen to your children – hear their concerns, discover their interests, and learn what makes them unique. Each day gives you new opportunities to be present, creating the tiny moments that shape your lifelong relationship with your children.    

Listening to your spouse is important, too. You’re a team, sharing the same goal to care for your children and provide everything they need to succeed. But remember, nurturing your children begins by nurturing your own relationship. When you each feel safe, loved, and valued, you’re better able to care for the rest of your family.  

Self-care Tip #5: Don’t stop doing what you love 

Being a parent is a gift, but it can come with the price of losing the time that you had pre-children to do your favorite hobbies, visit your favorite places, etc. You’re more than just a dad, and you deserve to continue to pursue activities that bring you joy and re-energize you for your family. Take the time to continue engaging in the activities that you love. As you create balance in your own life, you set a great example for your kids as they grow and begin to find their own interests. You can even share your age-appropriate hobbies with your kids as a great way to bond and spend time together. 

From the first days at the hospital to the college send-off, there are so many ways that dads imprint on the hearts of their children. Even if “family first” is your motto, you still need to prioritize time for yourself. Refresh your mental health and re-energize your body with these self-care tips so you’re better equipped to stand by your family for a lifetime.  

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