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New book offers advice on building good fathers

Father's Day is a time that never seems to receive the same attention as Mother's Day. An expert at The University of Western Ontario shares his thoughts on how dads can become more involved and recognized in their children's lives.

Father's Day is a time that never seems to receive the same attention as Mother's Day. An expert at The University of Western Ontario shares his thoughts on how dads can become more involved and recognized in their children's lives.

Neil Campbell, professor in the Departments of Family Medicine and Psychiatry at Western, is an expert on fatherhood, prenatal dads, expectant fathers and first-time fathers. He is also executive director of Dads Can ( www.dadscan.ca ), an organization based in London, Ont. that promotes responsible and involved fathering, and a psychotherapist at the London Health Sciences Centre.

He offers these comments as Father's Day approaches:

"The role of fathers has changed a great deal over the past several decades," says Campbell. "Today, the average father is 28.6 years of age (in the Middlesex London area) when his first child is born. Many of these new dads feel parenting to be a shared responsibility and view it as teamwork."

 There is an increase in the number of dads wanting to participate more actively in parental leave, with some considering staying at home for part of it.

"My advice to new dads is to be there - communicate, play, be involved at all levels of your child's development.

Learn to put your child first. It isn't easy, but with careful planning and the balancing of work, family and self needs, it can be done."

Campbell's book "Dads Under Construction: Adventures in Fatherhood" (Dundurn Press), available in bookstores across Canada, is the first Canadian book for fathers on responsible involvement, written from a man's perspective.

The book provides personal memories of Campbell's journey into fatherhood, first as a son, then as a father, sharing his insights on how to be an involved father. He believes the answers to the question "what is an involved father?" can be found within the experiences and stories of our own lives.

"A father is always under construction," says Campbell. "Men don't become fathers by some magical process of just knowing what to do or by just being there. They become fathers by being involved. You play an essential role in your child's development and it is important to be there, be involved and to be responsible. Father is not something you are, but something you do. It is an activity for life."