Parenting advice and training

Family Tent

Parenting support

From the moment you access antenatal care, our Start Well service is here to support you and your family through your exciting journey to parenthood and beyond.

Our Start Well offer is about making sure every child in the borough has the best start in life.

Our aim is for you to have access to the right information, at the right time, when you need it most. We offer a wealth of support, advice and resources to help you on your way.

Online parenting courses

All Wigan and Leigh residents can access free online parenting courses to help you with every stage of family life, from preparing for the arrival of a new baby to understanding your teenager’s brain.

The courses concentrate on how to understand and connect with your child and are fully endorsed by NHS health professionals. Courses are completed online at your own pace and offer a great path towards a happier family life.

Topics covered include:

  • Understanding your pregnancy, birth, labour and your baby
  • Understanding your baby
  • Understanding your child (0-19+ yrs, main course)
  • Understanding your teenager’s brain (short course)

To access these parenting courses visit the OurPlace website and use the code DEAL2030.

Living Life to the Full (LLTTF)

Help and advice is also available from Living Life to the Full (LLTTF), an extensive online resource to help with improving feelings, beating stress and boosting the ability to live well. There is a special section for new parents on how to build your relationship with your baby, boost your confidence as a parent and rediscover time for you.

The courses are free and available in 15 different languages. All modules, books and worksheets are available to download so you can go at your own pace.

Support for new dads and partners

Becoming a new dad or parent is an exciting and, at times, worrying stage for many. Some COVID-19 restrictions are still in place, which may mean that you won’t be able to be present at some of the important moments during your partner’s pregnancy.

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed during your partner’s pregnancy and after the arrival of your baby.

After birth, many parents describe not feeling the overwhelming sense of joy they expected to feel, or not feeling an immediate connection with their baby. This is perfectly normal so try not to worry.

Ways to bond with your unborn baby

  • Talk to your baby. From 18 weeks of pregnancy, your baby will be able to hear you. It might feel strange at first but if you talk to baby regularly, they will begin to recognise your voice. Play the baby your favourite music, tell them about your favourite football club or read a book to them. At birth, your baby will recognise your voice
  • Feel for your baby’s movement. Did you know that you will normally feel movements between 20 and 24 weeks of pregnancy?
  • Download an app to help you understand your baby’s development throughout the pregnancy
  • Talk about names for your baby
  • Prepare the room for your baby
  • If you have fears about becoming dad, talk about them to your partner and family. Parents-to-be often worry they won’t be a good parent or able to afford having a baby
  • Ask if your partner can video record the screen at scans to share with you, if you aren’t able to go in person.

Ways to bond with your baby after birth

  • Where possible, have skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible after the birth. Remember, your baby will recognise your voice and they will now also get to know your smell and heartbeat, which will continue to soothe them in their early years
  • Where you can’t have contact on the ward, video call regularly and ask your partner to share pictures and videos of your baby
  • Continue regular skin-to-skin contact, cuddles and talking to your baby once they return home
  • Bath or massage your baby frequently. Touch releases floods of the ‘happy’ hormone oxytocin
  • Be involved in feeding your baby, whether this is supporting your partner if they are breastfeeding or giving your baby a bottle.

If you need support - a new dad shares his story

You can experience a huge range of emotions, thoughts and feelings when you become a new parent. But what happens when they weren’t what you expected? A new dad shared his honest experience with us and is encouraging other parents to speak up if they feel they need support.

I’d never had a panic attack before so didn’t know how to recognise one. But, with the benefit of hindsight, that’s what was happening. In addition to being woken in the middle of the night because of a newborn baby, I was waking up in a fright, convinced something was wrong, struggling to catch my breath. My wife, understandably irked by being woken up by someone other than the baby, would reassure me that everything was okay and I was dreaming. The more times this happened, however, I was starting to realise it wasn’t just 'one of those things'.

A few weeks earlier, my wonderful other-half had experienced a difficult birth. I can vividly recall how everything was going as well as we could hope for. Stressful, of course, but under control. Then, it wasn’t. Instead of it being us and the midwife in the room, there were enough medical professionals to form a football team.

Maybe it was the sudden nature of it, I’m not sure. On the outside, I stayed calm. Inwardly, I can remember the fear. The sheer terror and concern for my wife. The sense of helplessness. After our son was born, my wife was immediately taken away for a surgical procedure. He was placed in my arms, instead. I still struggle to admit it even now, but in that moment I just wanted to place him back in the cot and be with my wife. I knew my son was okay. He was perfect, sleeping. I was just so worried for his mum, and felt I should be helping her.

Whatever emotions I would have expected to feel holding my newborn son for the first time - such a momentous occasion in anyone’s life - the reality was drastically different. I know now that was probably a perfectly reasonable response in a highly emotional scenario. But at the time, and in the weeks and months following, I felt ashamed.

Ashamed that I had somehow failed my son in the first minutes of his life and that it meant I didn’t have what it takes to be a Dad.

Returning to the time of the nightly panic attacks, I would also experience periods of anxiety during the day. Those feelings of helplessness I experienced in the maternity suite would come flooding back in waves and started to impact on everyday life. For weeks I didn’t speak to anyone about how I was feeling. I felt my wife had enough on her plate even though she had already assumed the role of the world’s best Mum, a title she holds to this day.

Eventually I did bring it up. I can’t remember what triggered it, but we talked everything through. I spoke to a GP for advice and did a bit of my own research. Simply by talking about it, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. I could rationalise everything and make sense of why I was having these feelings. In time, the anxiety waves become less frequent and later stopped.

I’m aware that many couples go through far more serious situations when they become parents. We, in the grand scheme of things, were incredibly lucky. But my experience may resonate with other new Dads, who may have experienced similar feelings. And with most issues related to our mental health, it’s important to talk to someone - whether it’s your partner or a friend and than a medical professional or an expert.

New Dads, as well as Mums, need a helping hand. Support is out there and, again with the benefit of hindsight, I should have reached out sooner. Now I’m a proud dad-of-two, just about staying afloat with the challenges (should that be joys?) of having a young family, aware that your mental health needs a bit of an MOT every now and then.

© Wigan Council