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Getting a Father to Help More with the Baby

By Drs. Rick and Jan Hanson

  • Arrange for him to have lots of experiences with the kids. Let him be the one who handles a fussy baby from start to finish or tries to get a toddler to eat some carrots. Direct the kids to him sometimes. Try to arrange for him to spend extended times alone with the children, such as an entire evening from dinner to bed, or better yet, a full day or two.

  • When there's a meeting with the pediatrician or a teacher, try to have your husband come, perhaps by emphasizing that the person wants to talk with both parents. In the meeting, try to have roughly half of the conversation be with the father. For example, if a doctor speaks mainly to you, shift your gaze to your partner, sending a nonverbal signal to the doctor to do the same. If the professional asks a question, encourage your husband to answer by looking at him and remaining silent, or simply smiling and asking, "What do you think?"

Time is on Your Side
Even if it's rocky during the first few years, most dads naturally become more involved as their kids get older - and yes, more able to catch a ball. Plus if you keep at it, and keep asking for what the baby and you and your marriage need, most men will respond. Maybe not perfectly or all the time, but usually with a steady improvement.

Plus the endless tasks of caring for a little one do diminish. Amazingly, there finally comes a time when you no longer have to change a single diaper. Really!

* * *

Rick Hanson, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, Jan Hanson, M.S., L.Ac., is an acupuncturist/nutritionist, and they are raising a daughter and son, ages 16 and 19. With Ricki Pollycove, M.D., they are the first and second authors of Mother Nurture: A Motherís Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships, published by Penguin. You can see their website at or email them with questions or comments at; unfortunately, a personal reply may not always be possible.

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