A Healthy Approach to Fatherhood

The newest group to get dads more involved in childcare? Pediatricians.

Over the past three decades, fathers' roles in caring for their children have been expanded. A report appearing in the May, 2004 issue of Pediatrics suggests that pediatricians can be instrumental in helping to enhance dads' growing involvement.

Research shows that fathers' interactions exert a powerful influence on their children's social, emotional, and cognitive development beginning at infancy. The long-term positive effects of fathers' direct involvement continues through childhood and adolescence.

Today, more fathers are staying home with their children as more mothers choose to go to work. In addition, among men who do work, the average amount of time they spend with their children has increased in the past decade, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

A father may be a biological, foster or adoptive father; he may be a stepfather, grandfather, teen father, father figure or coparent in a gay relationship. Father involvement stabilizes and promotes healthy family functioning, research shows.

The AAP says pediatricians are uniquely positioned to enhance the father's involvement, since they are perceived as ideal teachers, role models, moral authorities, and supporters of families in the stage of the family life cycle at which men become fathers.

Therefore, the AAP says pediatricians need to make some changes to accommodate and support fathers' expanding roles in their children's lives. Here are some of the changes parents may see as the result of their recommendations:

  • Expanded office hours to accommodate working schedules
  • Encouragement of fathers to come in for at least one visit in an infant's first two months
  • Direct conversation to the father as well as the other parenting partner; solicitation of his opinions
  • Polite exploration of the father's relationship to the other parents, his cultural traditions regarding parenting, and his personal beliefs about his role in caring for the child
  • Sensitivity to and informed about diverse cultural and ethnic values and customs, especially "traditional" father roles
  • Welcome attitude toward fathers at appointments; expression of appreciation for their attendance
  • Reminders to the family that fathers are not just workers or breadwinners, and mothers are not just nurturers or primary child care providers
  • Reinforcement of the father's support of the mother's mental and physical health

Whether you're a mom or dad, you may want to bring this up with your child's doctor. Maybe he or she can put some of these practices into effect. Some additional resources for dads from Parents.com:

Copyright ? 2004; Parents.com

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