When someone you know becomes a new dad, it’s important to send them some kind words. But it can be hard to find the right words. Spoken or sent as a text, what’s the right sentiment to express? There’s nothing wrong with offering a simple “Congrats!” or asking “How’s everyone doing?” But there’s more you can — and ultimately should — say.
It’s normal to wonder about what to say to a new dad, says Sam Nabil, CEO and Lead Therapist of Naya Clinics. “He’s likely going through a range of conflicting emotions — including joy, anxiety, hopefulness, and even sadness,” he says, “which makes it normal to wonder about the right words.”
The safest way to go about talking to your friend, Nabil says, is to first ask open-ended questions like ‘How’s it going?’ What you say next will depend on where the conversation goes after that initial question. If he says something positive, all you need to do is reflect that positivity back to him. “However, if he’s giving off stressed or fearful vibes, you need to be a cheerleader and assure him that he will be awesome as a dad,” says Nabil.
One thing is certain: A new dad will ultimately appreciate any words of encouragement you send his way. If you’re unsure of what to say, here are a few helpful words to consider.
1. “You’re going to be a great dad. Here’s why…”
It’s great to tell a new dad that you believe in and support him. But take it a step further and let them know what qualities they have that will help them succeed at the job. “Naming what it is about them that you see as a particular strength turns kindness into a meaningful moment,” says psychologist Dr. Mitch Kiel. Specificity goes a long way. An example Kiel offers: “I know how dedicated and adventurous you are, this baby is going to be so loved and I’m sure you are going to show them what it means to live life to the fullest.’”
2. “You can be the father you choose to be.”
Many new dads worry that they’re going to fall into the same traps their own fathers fell into, or traps that they’ve seen other dads fall victim to. It’s good to let your friend know that he has the power to write his own fatherhood experience and be the man he wants to be for his child in whatever way he sees fit. “Whether you want to emulate your own father or create an entirely different approach, it’s up to you,” Kiel says. “This is so rewarding and for some an incredibly healing aspect of fatherhood. You get a chance to give a new, little life on earth the experience of having a loving, connected, present father.” Hearing a friend tell them this is very powerful.
3. “This is my favorite thing about being a parent…”
When you’re a new dad, it can be easy to lose sight of all the special, magical moments amidst the chaos and sleeplessness. But those are the moments they will remember most years later. Remind your friend to lean into those and remind him that the old adage “The days are long, but the years fly by” is true. “You can always list the lack of sleep, anxieties, and responsibilities involved but guys can have trouble acknowledging the loving, tender, sweet moments with their kids,” says Kiel. Pointing them out in a kind way can be helpful.
4. “Do your best and that will be enough.”
A new dad might believe that he’s supposed to have all the answers and know what to do in any situation. If they set such expectations, then they’ll be incredibly hard on themself the first time they fall short. Do your best to them know that they’re not always going to get it right, and that’s OK because no one does. “As a friend, you should encourage him to acknowledge that he does not have control of every risk in life,” says child psychiatrist Dr. Helen Egger. “This will set him free to do the best that he can with love and commitment on the forefront of his mind.”
5. “Don’t worry, you’ve got this. Here’s why…”
There’s nothing wrong with giving your friend a nice boost of confidence and reassurance. Realizing that he’s about to have a whole life that he’s responsible for can be daunting. So letting your friend know that he’s got what it takes to handle this — and providing examples as to why — will go a long way to putting him at ease offers licensed marriage and family therapist Jessica Jefferson.
6. “How are you feeling about being a dad?”
It’s not uncommon for new dads to feel a bit left out of the conversation, and letting your friend know that he isn’t forgotten is really helpful. That’s why this question is important. It could also help him work through any concerns or uncertainty he’s feeling, so long as you’re willing to listen to him. “Some may be excited, some might not,” says Jefferson. “Studies show that dads tend to not be as excited as their carrying partner, so it is normal to not feel as excited. The excitement usually comes once the baby becomes real and for most dads that is usually in the delivery room.”
7. “How can I support you?”
New dads have a lot to learn and even more to balance. The first few months can be incredibly trying. Asking them how you can best support them shows that you care and respect their wishes. It may also help them figure out what it is that they need. “They might not know [what they need] at the moment, but simply asking them will let them know that you are there for them,” says Jefferson. “Becoming a dad can be exciting and terrifying but letting them know that you are there is the best thing you can do.”
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