It's OK to Ask for Help
Becoming a Dad, and adjusting to family life was the hardest thing I've ever done, and by the time our second child came along the cracks were showing.
"I often felt like there were happy families all around me, and I was the only one struggling. So I did what i thought was right, and put on a brave face."
I was not alone. New Zealand blokes are socialised to believe that 'real men' don't need help, and yet rates of male suicide and family harm in this country are some of the worst in the OECD.
Family harm is particularly bad, and most commonly occurs in households where there are young children. It is so common for parents who are stressed, tired and struggling, to feel as though there is no reprieve. But help is out there.
I work with men who have hurt the people they love. These men are not usually commiting random acts of violence, but have often been struggling with symptoms of anger and stress for a long time. Many of these men have experienced childhood-trauma, and face difficulties in their relationships with their own parents.
Most of these men were once Kiwi boys who were told 'chin-up'. These same boys then became teenagers who were told 'man-up'. Now - as Kiwi fathers, we are all too often modeling these same behaviours to our own tamariki. But the message of chin-up and man-up has got to stop, because our boys are growing up without developing an understanding of how to cope with and manage their big feelings.
"Yet as men, and particularly when men become fathers, times can get tough, big feelings can arise - and all too often, the result is, that we just don't know how to cope."
Teaching our tamariki that it is ok to feel difficult emotions is vital. Feelings of sadness, sorrow, and anger are normal, and a healthy part of life. But we must start to encourage the development and expression of these emotions in healthy ways.
In my work with families, helping boys, teens and men, understand and cope with their emotions is so important. Vitally important, I believe, if we are going to make a dent in family harm statistics.
There is no shame in reaching out. Talk to a mate, talk to your family, or have a browse through our researched list of the many support services that are available near you today.
About the author:
Rowan Aish is a co-founder of Parent Village, and a family mental health and support worker.