Youth-Friendly Manual Shows New Fathers the Ropes

A father kisses his baby.

Even for the most prepared adults, raising a healthy, happy, well-adjusted child is challenging. Adolescents who become parents face extra challenges in terms of education, finances, and emotional maturity.  The New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance recently revised its popular publication, “A Driver’s Manual for New Dads: A resource guide for taking care of your partner and your new baby.” (PDF, 980 KB) Although written for New York residents, the 28-page guide raises issues that are applicable to fathers in all states.

Divided into short sections with sidebars, bullets, and frequent driving and car analogies, the guide is chock-full of material staff can draw upon to lead fatherhood-related discussions with groups of young men. There is so much material that staff should consider breaking it up into short lesson plans focusing on one or two topics at a time.

Here are previews of some of the guide’s sections:

  • Anxiety Before Getting Behind the Wheel. Reassuring new dads that it’s normal to feel nervous about the responsibilities of fatherhood, the guide reminds them they won’t have to carry all the costs—family and friends often provide hand-me-downs like cribs, car seats, and clothes. The guide also encourages dads to visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website to make sure none of their baby’s things have been recalled for safety concerns.
  • What’s Up with the Mom-to-be? This section prepares new fathers for the emotional and physical changes they will observe in their child’s mother, including morning sickness, concerns about miscarriage, and the potential for post-partum depression. Recommendations for supporting moms include giving them massages and helping them with errands.
  • What if You and Mom Are Not Together? For fathers who aren’t in an intimate relationship with the mothers of their children, the guide reminds them to maintain a healthy partnership with the mom. Resolving conflicts, attending the birth, and talking with the mother about planning for the baby’s future are ways fathers can demonstrate interest in being in their child’s life, the guide says.

One section of the guide strongly encourages young men to marry the mothers of their children. You might want to speak with your organization’s leadership team to determine if that section’s approach is a good fit for your program. You may also want to research your particular state’s laws regarding issues such as establishing paternity as the guide focuses solely on New York’s legal system.

More on Teen Parents

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Q&A: Using the HEART Program to Integrate Medical and Mental Health Care for Teen Moms

Creating Sexual Health Classrooms Inclusive of Teen Parents

Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth, the Family and Youth Services Bureau, or the Administration for Children and Families.

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