One of the hardest things to face when becoming a father is accepting the fact yours wasn’t a good one. You might have even wondered whether you even could be a good dad if yours wasn’t around or never treated you the way he should have.

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But children don’t judge us based on who our parents were. They look to us as their parents, and what they need from us is often starkly different from what we think. As an expectant father or dad struggling in uncertain territory, it’s important to admit your fears and recognize them for what they are.

These thoughts and doubts don’t measure your value to your child. They don’t reflect your worth or ability to become a better man for your son or daughter, either.

Write a Letter to the Father You Wish He’d Been

Being a good dad is about accepting all your child’s emotions, even the ones that make them feel ashamed and ugly. It will happen to all of us sooner or later, and you’ve likely been carrying around a lot of pain for a while. Working through this in therapy can help, but there is a lot you can – and have to – do on your own, too.

Start by sitting down somewhere you won’t be disturbed and penning a letter to the father you wish yours had been. You never have to show it to anyone. This is a place for you to say everything you’ve never been able to the man you needed in your life so many times.

It’s okay to get emotional. That’s the reason you should do this somewhere private. If the tears come, or if anger emerges instead, feel it all. Let yourself cry or hurt as much as you need to, but recognize this moment as a turning point. You’ve addressed the ghost of the dad you wanted, and now it’s time to put it to rest.

Find Ways to Make Yourself Feel Proud

If you want to be the best father for your children, you have to believe in yourself. This means living a life that you carry with pride. Rather than being defined by your failures and hardships, it’s made by your resilience and determination to learn from your mistakes. Think about what brings you the most insecurity right now. It could be your career status, financial situation or maybe your past.

Start doing things that will help you grow from who you’ve been into who you want to be. Healing from the past can be done through therapy, especially if you aren’t even sure where to begin. On the career front, take steps to improve your prospects.

This could be getting a certificate from a trade school, getting more experience in your field or earning a degree. Look into all your options, including borrowing a student loan from a private lender to cover tuition. Make a commitment to research one small thing each day that will help you grow as a person.

Focus on Being Their Dad, Not the Best

Your children don’t care if you’re good looking, drive a nice car or have all the money in the world. Kids need their dad to be there for them. They need him to listen, to care, to be silly, to cry with them, to make them laugh and so much more.

Let go of all the expectations you’ve put on yourself and shift your attention to their well-being. A good dad makes sure his children always feel loved and secure, no matter what. You’ll likely find that being the best dad for your kids actually does a lot for you, too. Learn from what their love can teach you about yourself.

Additionally, understand your own mental and emotional wellness. If you experience feelings that correlate with depression finds ways to help yourself sooner than later so you can be your best self to be their best dad.

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