Black Dads Matter: Tips for Fathers & Fathers-to-Be
Jeff Bergen

Parenting isn’t easy, especially in today’s world. We’re all facing new challenges each day, but one thing remains constant—dads are an important part of their child’s life, no matter what.

We see you. We know you are working tirelessly to be great dads. So, we’re smashing stereotypes to bring you some tips to help you continue to be the awesome fathers you are.

MYTH: Black men don’t want kids.
A survey says that more than 80% of Black men do want children, according to Johnson & Johnson’s Senior Medical Director, Dr. Robyn R. Jones, who adds, “it is very important to them to have them and be committed to them.”

MYTH: Black dads are absent.
According to Dr. Jones, about 70% of non-Hispanic, Black kids are born to parents who are not married. We’re in a new world right now, where you don’t have to be married to be committed to each other. You can be there as parents in the same household,” she says. “Even though we have the antiquated stereotype of ‘the unwed mother,’ it doesn’t reflect today’s world and it doesn’t mean they are unpartnered. And the partner can be a very strong part of their life, conveying the message that they are there to stay.”

MYTH: Black dads are not stable family men.
There is a narrative that has spread through Black communities and is perpetuated in the media’s depiction of Black fathers, but Dr. Jones says the data is saying something different. “Over the last couple of decades, the CDC has found that Black non-resident fathers are more actively involved in their children’s lives than other non-resident ethnicities, share responsibilities more frequently and display more effective coparenting than Hispanic and White fathers; this strong involvement is driven in part by the status of Black fathers’ relationship with the child’s mother” she says.

Don’t believe the hype.
If those myths sound ridiculous, it’s because they are. Unsubscribe from the stereotypes and the myths we’ve highlighted here. Listen to your own heart and be the Black dad that you want to be, the one that rises up and shows the world that you’re here to stay.

Be part of the birth plan.
We don’t want to scare you, but according to the CDC, in the United States, the maternal mortality rate for Black women is about 44 per 100,000 live births vs 17.9 for white women. Infant mortality rates for non-Hispanic Black babies (10.8 per 1,000 live births) are also more than double that of non-Hispanic white babies (4.6). “I share this so you understand that you need to advocate for both your partner and your baby,” says Dr. Jones. “And that can start with a birth plan.”

Prepare for the big day by attending appointments and classes with your partner. Talk about who you want in the room with you for delivery, what you want in your birth plan, and how best you can advocate for the care of your family. Dr. Jones advises that you discuss your birth plan with your support team a month or two before the due date so that everyone knows your needs, wants, and goals for a healthy delivery.

If you want to know the difference between a midwife and doula or just want to learn more about birth plan, click here to check out this article featuring Dr. Jones discussing maternal health and so much more.

Do the day-to-day.
Be present with your kids, you’ll find hidden moments when you can create memories they will treasure forever. Create a nightly reading routine, teach them to cook your signature dish, and get on the floor to engage with them during playtime. Something as simple as doing your child’s hair each day can lead to fun interactions and amazing conversations. And hey if you don’t have a favorite recipe to share, why not discover one together? Get inspiration from cooking shows, then sample different dishes until you find your family’s menu must-have. So don’t shy away from tasks that seem overwhelming. You can always YouTube it first!

Lead by example.
Your child will absorb everything you do, so try modeling kindness to others—and to yourself—sometimes being a good dad can start with being good to one’s self. Explore calming techniques, like meditation, that can help you when frustrations are high at home, but also in daily life, like when you’re stuck in traffic. Prioritize your own health and wellness. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself with healthy eating habits, exercise, and mindfulness practices. This will help you be your best self for your loved ones who need you and it sets a great example for your child too.

Practice patience, but don’t put on a good face for your child’s sake when you feel like you don’t have it all together, they will just see right through it anyway. By naming and validating your emotions, you are allowing them to see that it’s OK to have these feelings. You can even take it a step further by modeling a coping strategy to show them how you can work through it—and how they can too. If they have big emotions or worries, show them how to turn this negative into a positive. Ask them to say it out loud, sometimes speaking the problem allows you to see it’s not so scary. Teach them how to turn that into a positive thought. For example, if your child is nervous about making friends. Have them flip the script from, “I have no friends, no one will like me” to “Once the kids get to know me, they will like me.”

Don’t shy away from having the tough conversations. Children as young as infants are aware of race and identity, so to raise race-conscious kids, start talking early and don’t stop. Taking the first step is the hardest part, but you are not alone. Check out this guide to help you with those conversation around racial bias and activities to do as a family.

For more great tips and advice, listen in to a candid conversation ESSENCE Lifestyle Editor, Victoria Uwumarogie recently had with Dr. Robyn R. Jones and former wide receiver and football commentator, Nate Burleson. Click here to enter the Johnson & Johnson Empowerment to Health Equity hub and check it out now.