Educating professionals in helping men become fathers
by Svend Aage Madsen, Ph.D. (Head of project)
January 17th 2007
last updated January 17th 2007
Educating Professionals on Helping Men at Delivery and in Developing a Relationship with their Newborn Child
Framework for Educational Programmes
In several countries a number of professionals and students appear to be very interested in developing skills on how best to serve men as fathers.
In Denmark such educational programmes have been conducted for the following professional groups:
• Obstetric nurses
• Home nurses
• Psychologists and psychotherapists
• Social counsellors
Furthermore seminars and lectures have been held for General Practitioners and Obstetric doctors.
The format and themes of these special training programmes have been as follows:
Introduction – Setting the Scene
1. Naming the father’s role as supporter, helper, relative, spouse and father.
2. Defining the family setting with its conflicting perspectives. These include on one hand family life; equality issues; men’s and partners’ desires as to the man’s responsibility and engagement and the father’s attachment to his infant. On the other hand we find the professional situation: mother-baby support; female professionals; the common view of men as the cause of problems and women as victims, as well as a lack of specific advice for fathers and ways of involving them.
3. Defining the historical situation: There are few traditions to build on in fathers’ families regarding the question of how to be an engaged expectant father, a father in the delivery room, and a father enjoying a close relationship with his infant.
4. Facts on prenatal consultations with GPs/Family Physicians:
• 80 % of participating fathers do not feel invited to participate.
• 50 % of participating fathers do not feel directly addressed by the GP at consultations.
Facts on hospital consultations with midwives:
• 54 % do not consider themselves invited.
• 40 % do not feel directly addressed by midwives during consultations.
5. Facts on fathers attending delivery:
• 95 % of Danish fathers attend delivery in the hospital – because they want to.
• The fathers state a desire to be present for their own sake, not just to support their partners.
• Fathers say that they are satisfied with participating (98 %) and feel that they play an important role.
• 70 pct. wish to stay overnight with the child and the mother in the hospital – this is not always possible.
6. Presentation and discussion of knowledge on men’s experiences and images of being a good father– related to knowledge on women’s images of being a good mother.
7. Presentation and discussion of men’s experiences and relationships with their own fathers and mothers.
8. Presentation and discussion of knowledge on men’s images of the child before and after birth - related to women’s images of the infant.
9. Men’s development into fatherhood during their upbringing, through pregnancy and onwards into life with their children.
10. Psychological reactions of men becoming fathers
11. Reformulation of narratives about men, delivery and relationships with infants:
• Men’s interest in delivery-ward technology is a fully acceptable way of being engaged, present, and attached
• Men often want to maintain their autonomy throughout maternity/medical-services and -communications
• Men often prefer advice to help
• Men often have a lot of difficulty taking time off from work.
12. Proposals for optimizing communication with men as fathers:
• Remember that everybody becomes rigid under stress and more flexible when secure – some men react to stress with anger.
• Many men want very down-to-earth and specific information and informative dialogue.
• Men are often initially on their guard against communication and questioning because of strong emotions and an experience of a lack of structure in the situation.
• Often concrete questions which require specific answers help move communication along – this might be a way to move into more emotional dialogues.
• Men often like sympathy but dislike being pitied – pity takes away autonomy.
• Allow space for self-determination and help the father lay down alternatives.
13. Discussions on questions like:
• Is talking about things always positive?
• Can it be helpful to keep tings at a distance?
• Are there reactions to trauma that are more common in men?
• Is it possible to combine autonomy, action-orientation, and being strong with the need for care and comfort?
14. Discussion about best practice on:
• How to invite and include men as fathers in all services, initiatives, and interventions
• How to bring the father/infant relationship into focus
• How to help fathers fulfil their desire to learn about communication with their newborn as well as feeding, sleeping, washing, etc.
• How to find the right times to provide paternity services
Case-work with “Normal” Fathers and Fathers with Problems
15. Group-discussions are conducted several times during the lessons depending on the duration of the course
Proposed Literature for Further Work
Courses could run over one or two whole days or they might be a continuation of lessons spread over a couple of months. Lectures may be structured according to the same format where courses are not possible.