As part of a recent project with CRISIL, Shyamsundar Mochemadkar and Prafull Rangari designed unique activities to disseminate crucial information and encourage the involvement of fathers in child rearing. They share their experience of designing and facilitating the activities for young couples and parents.
The father has an important role in the growth and development of children. His presence awakens the feeling of security in children. In the first 1000 days, children need the love of the father along with food and health care. The physical, mental and intellectual development of the child happens during this period. Every parent feels that their children should be healthy and intelligent. But for that to happen, it is very important for both husband and wife to understand each other and work as a team.
In the focus group discussions (FGD) conducted by ARMMAN, women expressed various expectations from their husbands, including receiving mental support during pregnancy and getting help for household chores. Men wanted to know about risks during pregnancy and get more information about childbirth and development.
Based on these findings, we formulated activities around the key messages about health and nutrition, aimed towards the fathers. Activities included watching informative videos and a slide presentation, tower building, snakes and ladders and caring for newborns.
The presentation covered important aspects such as the first 1000 days of human life, appropriate weight gain during pregnancy, nutrition, and most importantly – the role of fathers.
After that, we conducted the tower building activity, during which the husband was blindfolded, and the wife had to guide him to place the paper glasses on top of each other. The main aim of this activity was to encourage husbands to give mental support to their wives during pregnancy and child caring.
The snakes and ladders game was specially designed for this session and had many positive messages and pieces of cautionary advice regarding child care. Couples were curious and asked many questions while playing the game. One couple asked, “When our child was born, his grandmother gave him honey. It is a traditional belief! What is wrong in it?” We explained that a newborn baby needs colostrum feeding within half an hour of birth. Colostrum is considered to be the baby’s first immunisation. If we give honey or guti, the baby sleeps a lot because of the sugar in honey and does not get the mother’s milk. He misses the first vaccination.
Finally, we played a game to test the fathers’ diaper changing skills. Couples were given a doll and a white piece of cloth which they had to then fold as a diaper and put it on the doll. While the fathers were slightly slow and cautious, mothers showed greater confidence.
In conclusion, when fathers and husbands were involved in such activities, they realised that their role is very important in the family. They have the potential to influence, develop, and make a difference in the life of their child. The role of the father in child development can never be underestimated.