Becoming a father evokes many emotions – joy, fear, anxiety, etc. But, it also brings with it a whole set of responsibilities. Quitting bad habits is a commitment all fathers must make.
By Ashwin Dewan
Ankur Bhatia, who recently became father to a baby girl, is happy and anxious at the same time. While he is overjoyed at the arrival of the little one, he knows that he can no longer afford to be carefree, especially with his health. He is beginning to make changes to his lifestyle, taking baby steps to eradicate his bad habits, which include smoking and not exercising enough.
Deepraj Gurung, a teacher at West Point School, Darjeeling, vividly remembers the period after his son was born. He realised he had to stop chain smoking. Those around him warned that his son could pick up the bad habit from him as he grows up. “The first few months were tough, and I really struggled to resist the urge to smoke. It was my little son's face that motivated me to finally give up smoking," says Deepraj.
Deepraj is not the only father who is trying to quit his bad habits. As a parent, it is important to understand that children observe and learn by example. Hence, fathers should try their best to be an ideal role model and show their children the right way to do things.
1) Smoking and drinking alcohol: Bad habits like smoking and drinking can affect the health of the newborn. Parents, especially fathers, should quit smoking and alcohol while their children are young so that it can prevent the child from picking up the habit. Chain smoking and heavy drinking lead to serious illnesses like cancer, liver failure, etc.
According to research published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Journal 2012, men who smoke before conception can potentially affect the offspring. These inherited changes in DNA could then render their future offspring susceptible to cancer and other diseases.
How to go about it: Try chewing gum every time the urge to smoke is there. If you feel like having a drink, try to substitute alcohol with fresh fruit juice or even plain water.
2) Lack of exercise: The physical health and fitness of a father during conception can greatly impact the health of the unborn child. Exercise benefits both the body and the brain. Moreover, staying fit will ensure that the father is fully involved in caring for his child. On the other hand, leading a sedentary lifestyle can lead to the father developing various illnesses and this can affect the child too. Also, a child might begin to imitate the father and ignore exercise completely, which might impact their physical and emotional health later.
How to go about it: Set aside time every day to indulge in sports and some form of physical activity. If you are busy, try simple things like taking the stairs, walking in the morning or in the evening, etc.
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3) Improper diet: Apart from regular physical activity, fathers should follow a well-balanced and nutritious diet. The period before and after the birth of the baby is crucial and fathers must ensure that they too pay attention to their diet. In fact, a father’s diet and nutrition may be associated with the proper health of the baby.
Fathers should consume a diet rich in vitamin C, zinc, folic acid, proteins and nutrients. Also, they should avoid a high carb diet and try to limit consumption of processed and fast food. Fathers can even take a multivitamin tablet every alternate day, but it is best to consult a doctor beforehand.
How to go about it: Try including more fruits and vegetables in your diet. Drink water instead of sugary juice. Stay away from fried, oily and processed foods as much as possible. On a daily basis, substitute healthier choices such as quinoa for rice, atta instead of maida, etc.
4) Irregular sleep cycle:
Sleep is extremely important for the human body to function. Without proper sleep, it is difficult to think clearly or perform everyday functions. Hence, one habit that every father should avoid is not getting enough sleep. Often, late hours at work can affect the father's sleep patterns. But if the father is sleep-deprived, he will be too tired and unable to share in caring for his child. He will, instead, be looking to catch up on his sleep.
How to go about it: Always maintain a fixed sleeping schedule. Ensure you sleep in an environment free from lights and noise. The bed should also be comfortable to sleep in.
5) Stress and tension: Often, fathers find themselves in situations where they are staring at a possible meltdown or an angry outburst. This also results in stress, which in turn, can affect their children negatively. Seeing their fathers under too much stress can even impact the way a child thinks. The child may wonder if the father’s behaviour has something to do with his own actions and the child may even start feeling guilty.
How to go about it: If you are angry about a particular situation, calm down by counting to ten first. If that does not happen, drink a glass of water. Always remain composed and try to see a particular situation from a positive mindset.
What you do is what your child emulates. Remember, children tend to pick up bad habits from their fathers as well, so being a good role model is something every father must try to be. After all, quitting bad habits is not only beneficial for the father but also for the child.
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