Supporting New Dads in the Transition to Parenthood
There’s so much to come to grips with when you learn that you are becoming a parent – and there’s not a lot out there that speaks directly to dads.
SMS4dads helps fathers understand and connect with their baby and partner through free text messages that provide info, tips, and encouragement. Dads can join up from 12 weeks into a pregnancy and throughout the first year of parenthood.
SMS4dads has already delivered over one million text messages to 12,000 fathers – reaching dads in every state and territory in Australia.
“SMS4dads came about because fathers told us that the health system doesn’t provide services that speak directly to dads”, explains Associate Professor Richard Fletcher from the University of Newcastle.
“Research from neuroscience now tells us that a father’s interaction with their baby, even before the baby is born, plays a crucial role in the baby’s brain development” Once enrolled, Dads receive text messages with tips, information, and links to other services to help them understand and connect with their baby and support their partner. The messages are brief, and some have links to more info.
When enrolling, Dads enter the expected date of delivery or bub’s birth date, so the texts are linked to the developmental stage of the baby. Some messages provide tips and encouragement, while others are health related, with information on looking after their baby or about being mindful of their own health and ways to support their partner.
Dads who join up receive three messages a week. Checking in with dads is also an important part of the program. A set of MoodTracker interactive texts are interwoven within the messages to find out how dads are coping. If a dad says he’s not doing so well and doesn’t have anyone to talk to, a health professional from a relevant service makes contact to check in and see if he would like some support.
All the messages sent to fathers have been developed by health professional and researchers.
SMS4dads was first developed as a research project at the University of Newcastle but now includes partnerships with PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia), Red Nose, National Rural Health Alliance, Indigenous HealthInfoNet and Telethon Kids Institute.
For more information and to join up, visit sms4dads.com.au
Originally published in Connected Caregiving Autumn 2023