- A support network describes ‘your team’ – the people who share your life that you can turn to for encouragement, support, and personal growth.
- A good support network is vital in maintaining your mental health and well-being. As social creatures, our relationships and connections are a fundamental and core need, behind only physical and safety conditions in importance. Support networks can take many forms, but for most people, family, friends, and colleagues make up your network and offer support during the good and bad times.
Having a powerful support network is important for all parents, but especially for fathers who may face unique challenges when it comes to parenting. Here are some considerations for building a strong support network as a father:
- Connect with other fathers: Connecting with other fathers can be a helpful way to share experiences, gain insights, and build a sense of community. Look for local fathers’ groups, online communities, or other resources.
- Lean on family and friends: Family and friends can be a valuable source of support, whether it’s through practical help like babysitting or emotional support like listening and offering advice.
- Seek out professional support: A mental health professional, such as a therapist or counselor, can provide support and guidance for parenting challenges or personal issues that may arise.
- Prioritize self-care: Self-care is important for all parents, including fathers. This can include things like exercise, getting enough sleep, and engaging in activities you enjoy.
- Embrace co-parenting: If you’re co-parenting with a partner, it’s important to work together and support each other as a team. Communicate openly and be willing to compromise and collaborate.
Remember, building a strong support network is important for being a successful and happy father. By connecting with other fathers, leaning on family and friends, seeking professional support, prioritizing self-care, and embracing co-parenting, fathers can create a powerful support network that will help them navigate the challenges and joys of parenthood.
The value of a good support network:
- Opening up to someone who cares can make us feel much better. It’s essential to reach out so that people know what you’re dealing with. Often we assume that people know what’s happening in our lives, but until you reach out, it’s difficult for them to identify what you’re going through or how much you need them. After all, if someone you know was struggling and needed support, wouldn’t you want to know and help them?
- Many mental health challenges like depression, anxiety, and stress can make us feel isolated like we’re invisible and people don’t care. Reaching out will often show you that the opposite is true. They may have experienced similar issues and can offer relevant advice.
- Opening up to someone and sharing your thoughts and feelings can also help to strengthen your relationship with them. It adds to the intimacy of your relationship and can help them understand you better. Sharing your thoughts also helps your supporters become more aware of your signs, allowing them to pick up these signals in the future and offer more timely support.
- There is also the secondary benefit of you opening up – it can help educate people about mental health challenges and help them understand that it is more common than we think, reducing the stigma. Who knows, sharing your thoughts may help others do the same in the future!
Building your network :
- Having different perspectives is an important reason for having a support network, as it allows you to see issues from other points of view. Therefore, it is helpful to have a mix of other people in your network who can bring different life perspectives, giving us a complete picture of the situation. Having several ‘go-to’ people also ensures you do not over-rely on your support and exhaust them.
- Support networks act as the first port of call when there are significant events in our lives, but many of us will find the time when our existing support network cannot meet our needs. Starting a new career path, becoming a parent, or having relationship difficulties maybe when you want new people to talk to and need to add to your support network.
- To build your network, first, recognize the supports you already have and the strengths they may bring to various situations. Then you can identify where the gaps might lie and look for new contacts.
Consider people in your family who you ‘click’ with, who are willing to offer time and advice, and who may be a source of support.
Friends can be a great source of support as they often know you well from shared experiences – try opening up to some friends you haven’t considered as good support before. You might be surprised at what and who you find.
Workmates can be a great source of help about issues within and outside of work, and a good HR manager can also greatly support decisions about your career path.
Neighbors, casual acquaintances, and friends of friends
- For potential opportunities, build connections with people you often see, such as neighbors and people in your extended social network.
Social media, forums, and groups-Remember that support networks work both ways – make sure you do your part and help others when they are in need. Keep in touch with your network regularly and show genuine interest in their lives. Putting in a bit of time and effort will pay off in the long run – you never know when you may need to reach out.
Tips for keeping your social connections strong:
- Make a list of the people you care about and want to maintain as friends
- Set aside time each week to contact one or more of your friends list. If you’re time-poor, a text, quick phone call, or check-up on social media is better than no contact!
- Make time and show appreciation. Don’t assume your connections know that they’re essential – find ways to let them know, either in word or deed
- Don’t expect too much. We’ve all got our little soap opera going on in our daily lives, and it’s easy to get caught up in it. If your friend ‘goes AWOL’ or is out of touch for a while, don’t take it personally; get in touch and let them know you’re available whenever they’re free.
- Accept them for who they are, including their shortcomings. Nobody’s perfect, as they say – taking the good with the bad is what it’s all about.
- Be honest with your connections without being hurtful. This one shouldn’t need too much explanation, but a true friend genuinely cares about the people in their lives and will find gentle ways to be upfront with those they care about.
- Embrace quality connection over quantity. Better to have a handful of great friends than heaps of acquaintances you cannot rely on.
- Follow up. Maintaining regular contact is vital to making sure people don’t fade into the background
- Remember the little things. Simple things like remembering birthdays are the cornerstone of a good relationship.
- Celebrate their wins. Even if their success gives you a little twinge of jealousy, success in the lives of those you care for should be celebrated.
- Be there for their losses. Be the person that others can turn to when they need to talk, and you will get it back in return
- Get a routine happening. Even if you can’t see them regularly, it can be helpful to have a periodic catch-up scheduled – sometimes, a regular event is easier to maintain than playing musical calendars!
- Remember the Golden Rule – Treat others how you want to be treated!
Maintaining connections is not about the big gestures – it’s all about simple little things. Consistency of reference is the secret!