Navigating fatherhood later in life: Challenges and rewards

Navigating fatherhood later in life: Challenges and rewards

At the age of 79, Actor Robert De Niro has just had his seventh child, and we’re seeing more men entering fatherhood later in life. The average age of new dads in Australia is 33.7 and it is not uncommon for dads to have their first child in their 40s, 50s and even 60s. There are challenges with older fatherhood, but there are also advantages to having kids in later in life.

What it’s like to become a dad later in life? – ABC Radio National

Professor Jeannette Milgrom, Director of the Parent-Infant Research Institute chats to ABC Radio National about the highs and lows of becoming a dad later in life.

Becoming a dad later in life can present unique challenges and rewards. While there can be many positive aspects to becoming a parent at an older age, such as increased financial stability and life experience, there are also potential concerns that may arise.

Transition to parenthood

The responsibilities of parenting and the changes to lifestyle can be overwhelming for anyone, regardless of age. However, becoming a dad later in life may add to the anxiety and stress levels. Concerns about health, energy levels, and being able to keep up with the demands of parenting may contribute to increased anxiety and depressive symptoms. Here is one new dad’s comments about the impact of a child later in life.

“I just thought my life of travel, independence (both financially and personally) was gone. I had a lot of friends and social gatherings as a non-parent and I really felt my social circle had completed diminished.”

How can we best support this growing cohort?

New fathers who are struggling, regardless of age, are often overlooked and their difficulties are not acknowledged by a system that has focused mainly on mother and baby health and well-being. This means that dads may not be encouraged to access treatment when they need it.

Research conducted by the Parent-Infant Research Institute (PIRI) shows that knowing what to expect and being prepared for these major life changes can help dads manage this transition.

As part of its commitment to building a brighter future, PIRI has developed DadSpace, a website dedicated to supporting fathers across Australia. DadSpace, provides information, strategies, tips, resources, and advice specifically for dads. DadSpace also includes DadBooster, an online treatment program based on best-practice CBT and years of clinical experience and controlled research about how to best reduce moderate to severe symptoms of depression.

What is DadBooster?

DadBooster is a six-session cognitive-behavioural therapy treatment program, closely comparable to the therapy delivered in traditional face-to-face psychology sessions, but entirely under the control of the user. It allows men to work through their own issues and develop strategies for dealing with these. Low-intensity SMS messages provide regular contact, advice, and encouragement to remain motivated in completing the treatment. Changes in symptoms of depression are regularly monitored throughout the program. Men can also invite their partners to access a partner website with information on paternal depression with strategies for managing their own emotional health.

Calling for dads to help evaluate DadBooster

PIRI is conducting a research study to evaluate the effectiveness of DadBooster to help Aussie dads.  The trial is open to fathers with a new baby under 12 months of age who are feeling overwhelmed and experiencing some of the signs of depression.

What dads think of DadBooster?

“The greatest benefit was the program itself; it gave me the psychological support and care I needed. This made me feel that someone out there gets it, is supporting me and understands the highs and lows I’m currently experiencing. The tools in the toolkit, the daily goals and especially the downward spiral were all essential tools to assist my wellbeing.”

“I’ve discovered through my own journey that there are so many dads struggling with mental health issues but who are not comfortable talking about it. DadBooster provides an accessible and private forum to arm these men with skills and knowledge to improve.”

To participate in the DadBooster evaluation, visit the DadSpace website for more information. 

Challenges and rewards

Becoming an older father presents both challenges and rewards. One of the main challenges is the potential impact on energy levels and physical stamina. As men age, they may experience a decline in overall energy, making it more demanding to keep up with the physical demands of parenting, such as chasing after a toddler or participating in energetic play. Additionally, older fathers may face health concerns that could limit their ability to actively engage in their children’s lives. They may need to pay closer attention to their health, both for their own well-being and to ensure they can be there for their children in the long run.

However, there are also distinct advantages to becoming an older father. One advantage is the accumulated life experience and wisdom that comes with age. Older fathers often possess a greater sense of emotional maturity and stability, which can provide a solid foundation for their children’s upbringing. They may have established careers and financial stability, offering their children a more secure future. Older fathers also tend to have a broader perspective on life and can provide unique insights and guidance to their children. Moreover, they may have more time and flexibility to dedicate to parenting, as their professional responsibilities may have settled down or they may have more control over their schedules. This can allow for increased involvement in their children’s lives and the ability to provide valuable support and guidance.

While becoming a dad later in life can present challenges, it is essential to remember that age is just a number, and the rewards of parenthood are not limited by it. By acknowledging and addressing these challenges, nurturing your well-being, and seeking support, you can navigate the journey of fatherhood with resilience, love, and fulfillment. Embrace the opportunity to be a dad and create lasting memories with your child, regardless of the age at which you embarked on this remarkable adventure.