Don't Forget Dad
by Jaunita May ~ Naturopath
This article is a tribute to all hardworking Dads who sacrifice so much to provide for their families. Whilst mothers also play a pivotal role in family life, statistics show women are more likely than men to attend to their needs for their health and wellbeing. In 2018 the Australian Medical Association (AMA) released an interesting article on Men’s Health, covering the barriers men have when it comes to their health and wellbeing. The article revealed they are more reluctant to seek help from a general practitioner or health professional, and often do not reach out for support from family or friends when they experience health problems. The Victorian government researched why Australian men have poorer health outcomes. Theories included, men are more likely to be employed full-time and have less time for medical appointments, men with mental health problems are more likely to self-medicate, attempting to manage their symptoms through alcohol and other drugs.
Men also struggle with maintaining their health and wellbeing due to difficulties in finding the time to do regular exercise, keeping up socially with friends and family, making healthy lifestyle choices, not seeking support when burdened with stress or mental illness. In 2019 the Australian Government released a report on the health of Australian males. When it came to dietary needs being met, statistics revealed fewer than 1 in 30 men compared to 1 in 15 women consumed enough fruit and vegetables. However, they ranked higher in women when it came to consumption of sugary and sweetened drinks doubling the statistics compared to women! Cigarettes and alcohol use were also higher (almost double) in males than females.
And for Australian fathers, times are changing, in recent decades now both parents are more actively involved in participating in child-rearing. Research has shown fathers that participate in the care of their children can benefit the wellbeing of both father and child. Post-natal depression (PND) does not discriminate either, with 1 in 10 new fathers (that we know reported) suffer from PND. And with statistics rising in single parent families in Australia this includes more fathers taking on the role of single parenting. And more than ever our modernised lifestyle demands more awareness of the barriers men face for their health concerns and that services are more accessible and directed to them, so we can ensure our Dads are not forgotten.
What can Dads do for their health and wellbeing?
Eat more fruit and vegetables - up to 8 cups combined daily, increased fibre and antioxidants
Ensure you are well hydrated 1L per 25 kg body weight - optimising your cellular health
Reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption - try Green Tea for morning pick-me up or Chamomile to chill out in the afternoon/evenings
Schedule more time with your loved ones - are you spending enough time with your partner/children? Communication = connection = happier family
Make that appointment - got a niggling health complaint? Don’t put it off - it may get worse!
Get physical - strength training, cardiovascular activity - look after your heart & bone health
Talk more - something bothering you? Reach out to your partner, friends or family, a problem shared is a problem halved.
What can partners do for Dad?
If you’re the designated cook, include more fruit/salad in lunches and veggies at dinner
Organise some child-free time for both - go out for dinner/lunch/picnic or a fun outdoor adventure - hiking, kayaking, day at the beach. Or a sneaky weekend away. Remember: communication = connection = happier family
Encourage them to seek medical help or help from a health professional if you can see they are suffering.
Are you okay? Ask this if you notice him more stressed than usual, change in mood - then encourage him to seek professional help if you’re concerned.
Exercise together - suggest a brisk morning walk afternoons or weekends, or join the gym together, or take up weekend hiking or mountain biking!
Get some good quality B vitamins, magnesium and zinc for him to take with breakfast, these are the most common deficiencies in men and vital for mental and physical health.
What can kids do for their Dad?
Cuddle him and tell him you love him and how much you appreciate him. Cuddles help reduce cortisol a stress hormone.
Grab a piece of fruit and ask if he needs a good healthy snack! A lot of Dad’s don’t eat enough fruit!
Do some gardening duties without him asking. Often on Dad’s day off he may have to do the gardening, why don’t you take a load off and do some weeding, watering, or if allowed mow the lawn.
Ask to go for a bush walk, mountain bike, fishing, kayaking or a day at the beach. Get Dad out of the house and active! Remind him how fun it is to be a kid again.
If you get worried about your Dad for any reason, speak up to your Mum or an adult family or friend, and let them know your worries.
Useful links and phone numbers to support Dad and family:
Mensline: online counselling for men’s mental health - 1300 789 978
Relationships Australia - 1300 364 277
Beyond Blue - mental wellbeing support - 1300 224 636
blackdoginstitute.org.au - free online self help program for depression, anxiety, stress
MoodGYM.com.au free interactive online training to learn skills to prevent/manage symptoms of depression and anxiety
Australian Men’s Shed Association - your local group 4093 9421 or 4093 0457
Lifeline - crisis support and suicide prevention - 13 11 14
Kids helpline - phone counselling services - 1800 551 800
For all those Dads new at fatherhood and also those more seasoned, wishing you all the love, time and connection your deserve to have with your precious family.
Take care of you and each other,
Love and light, Jaunita ~ Your Family Naturopath