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Advice to new fathers

Updated on June 14, 2012

Yup, see that baby in that crib, pops? That’s right, that tiny human who resembles both you and your wife, girlfriend, partner (fill in your situation) is your responsibility for the next 27 years. Eighteen may be the legal age of adulthood, but let’s face it, most 18 year olds are still just kids in an adult body.

It’s quite a daunting and scary thought as you stand there watching him or her sleep. Who will they become, what will they become and how will your teachings, guidance and discipline shape their futures? And, how will you ever afford to keep a roof over your new family’s head and food on their plates.

Are you starting to have a panic attack yet? Relax, daddy. you’re not alone. We all had these worries. You’re life will change, dramatically, but making and accepting small changes to your life will help ease the stresses of new fatherhood.

First off, there’s no instruction manual or technical support hotline service for that new baby. Learning how to be a dad and what type of father you’re going to be is up to you. Have you ever been in a pitch dark room and had to feel your way to the door? That’s what being a new dad is like, except that room is more like a cave and it’s a lifelong journey to find that glimpse of light. What I’m saying is that you never stop learning how to be a good parent and we’re all just stumbling along trying to find our way.

While I’m unable to pull a how-to guide out of my pocket, I can offer a few pieces of advice that I have found to be helpful and important for your family’s future

Financial help

Get a financial plan in place

The best thing a dad can do to protect his family from life’s unexpected events is to communicate with your partner over the upcoming changes to the household budget, acquire health, dental, homeowner’s and life insurance, and put together a financial plan for the future.

Communicate with your partner: Day care is expensive, depending on where you live a state certified facility will cost around $600 a month. You and your partner will need to determine if it's in the best interest for both to continue working or for one parent to stay at home. Determine if your household can get by on one income and what changes might have to be made to your monthly budget. Go through the monthly bills and see where you can make trims to save money. And start planning ahead to the baby-related expenses that will quickly accumulate.

Health and dental insurance: Medical bills for your children’s immunizations, check-ups, unexpected broken bones, dentist trips, etc. can add up really fast and can be overwhelming. Compare plans and study monthly premium, copayment, deductible and prescription amounts, in- and out-of-network charges, and coverage limits and exclusions.

Homeowner or renter’s insurance: Don’t let a natural disaster, theft, fire or other catastrophes leave your family homeless. Once again, compare plans and choose which deductibles and premiums best fit your financial plan.

Life insurance: Protect your family in the event of the death of you or your spouse. Choose a coverage depending on your family’s size and ages. Life coverage can also be used to cover college costs.

Get a will: A will is a device that lets you tell the world whom you want to get your assets. Die without one, and the state decides who gets what, without regard to your wishes or your heirs' needs. So-called intestacy laws vary considerably from state to state. In general, though, if you die and leave a spouse and kids, your assets will be split between your surviving mate and children. If you're single with no children, then the state is likely to decide who among your blood relatives will inherit your estate. Making a will is especially important for people with young children, because wills are the best way to transfer guardianship of minors.
You may amend your will at any time. In fact, it's a good idea to review it periodically and especially when your marital status changes. At the same time, review your beneficiary designations for your 401(k), IRA, pension and life insurance policy since those accounts will be transferred automatically to your named beneficiaries when you die. - source: CNNMoney

Savings, 401(k) and IRAs: It’s never to early to start planning your financial future. The earlier you start saving the faster your savings will grow due to compounding interest. Also, if your employers offers 401(k) matching contributions, contribute enough to take advantage of the match. You should also look into opening a Roth or Traditional IRA.

Stick to a budget: We all want the luxury items like flat screen TVS, video game consoles, trips and other high-priced items that help make life more fun, but the fun stuff often leads to debt. Before you buy anything ask yourself this question” Do I really need this or would the money I spend be better put to use for future savings or for something my child needs? Be smart and live within your means.

Making time for child, yourself

Just being there is 90 percent of the job
Children, especially newborns and toddlers are very simple creatures. They don’t care if you’re perfect. They’re just happy to have you around to play and keep them fed and clean. There’s a perception that once you have children then you have to stop doing all the things you enjoy. That’s just not true. Incorporate your youngster into your daily routine and activities. If you’re a runner, buy a running stroller and take them for a ride. If you’re a football fan, throw a Nerf football around in the living room as you’re watching the game. If you’re an outdoorsman, take the tot along when you go fishing. They will have lots of fun running free in a large grassy area playing with rocks, insects and dirt while you’re trying to reel in the big ones.

My point being, oftentimes, just being in the same room or outside together will make your child feel wanted and loved. Heck, you might have some fun yourself.

Take time for yourself
Everybody needs time to unwind and escape the daily stresses of parenting. This can be as easy as enjoying the peace and quiet of your house or apartment at the end of the night when both your partner and baby are asleep. I often say that between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. is the best part of my day because I can just sit on my couch and take in the peace and quiet.

Talk to your partner about setting up a babysitting “me” time schedule where each can take a day or night off from being a parent. Go golfing, hang out with your buddies or head up to the sports bar to watch a game. Along with “me” time, arrange for “we” time. Hire a babysitter and take your partner out on a date, remember dating?

Some parents experience a feeling of guilt over leaving their children with a babysitter or a family member while they go out and have fun. Get over it. Getting away from our children for a few short hours helps recharge our batteries and will lower your stress levels, which makes you happier, which makes us all better parents.

Well, that's the basics. The rest is up to you. Remember that you will make mistakes but it's all part of the on-the-job training. Good luck.


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