- The Washington Times - Monday, January 17, 2005

CHICAGO (AP) — Picture a parent anxiously checking a sick child’s thermometer or hauling the children to the doctor’s office, and the image that usually comes to mind is of Mom.

But with rising numbers of stay-at-home dads, father-only households, shared-custody arrangements and other cultural changes, men are increasingly getting involved in their children’s health care.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is urging pediatricians to help increase fathers’ role in what once was considered mothers’ domain.

The effort recognizes that both parents have a tremendous influence on their children’s physical and emotional health, said Dr. William Coleman, a behavioral pediatrician in Chapel Hill, N.C., and co-author of a 2004 AAP report on the issue.

But it’s also driven by necessity because fathers are increasingly showing up alone with their children or accompanying mothers to youngsters’ checkups and other doctor visits, said Dr. Craig Garfield, an Evanston, Ill., pediatrician and co-author of the report.

“What happens a lot of times is that the father will accompany the mother,” he said, but “will stand off to the back or to the side and not be fully engaged.”

“What this report specifically addresses is to say, to acknowledge this important caregiver and to start to develop a relationship between him and the child’s doctor,” Dr. Garfield said.

Pediatricians should encourage fathers to attend their children’s doctor visits and should actively engage fathers who already do, the academy’s report says. They also should offer evening and weekend office hours to accommodate the trend, it recommends.

Ira Dolin of Gurnee, Ill., is part of the trend. The 43-year-old former financial adviser left his job after his wife gave birth to twin girls. Now he stays home with the 13 month-old babies while his wife works as a portfolio manager and stock analyst.

He says he’s always been the one who takes them to the doctor. It’s a role Mr. Dolin didn’t assume much with his sons from a previous marriage but one he feels increasingly comfortable with, especially because he has seen other dads in the waiting room.

On one weekday doctor’s visit, three out of five parents in the waiting room were fathers, he said.

Dr. Trevena Moore, a pediatrician, said she began studying the issue after noticing an absence of fathers at children’s checkups during her medical residency in Boston.

In her recent study of 104 Boston-area fathers, she found nearly 90 percent had attended at least one doctor visit with their children but few routinely did so, often because employers didn’t allow time off for the visits.

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