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Tips From the Front Lines of Modern Fatherhood

Tim Kelly is used to giving advice on fatherhood.

For more than two years, the father of two girls has led the expectant-fathers class at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Here are some of the tips he shares with future members of the club:

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* During pregnancy go out of your way to have good times with your wife and build up your relationship so it is ready for the challenges of parenthood.

Give her little gifts to show you appreciate the work she's doing while pregnant.

* As you prepare for the baby, think back to your own childhood and ask: What things did my father do that made me really happy? What things do I wish my father had done differently?

* In the first few hours after your baby is born, write a note sharing your feelings about his or her birth and save it for a special time when your child is older. Also write a letter to your wife expressing your joy and admiration for her.

* In the first few days after the baby is born, let your wife get out of the house while you spend time with the baby. In those early days, spend as much time as you can with the baby so you can gain confidence taking care of him or her.

* Play music you like (but not too loud!) for your baby and dance with him or her or use it to rock your child to sleep.

* Make sure you find time to talk with your wife.

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* If you feel yourself losing your cool when the baby won't stop crying, put the baby down for a minute and give yourself a breather.

* Put your baby in a carrier or a stroller, put together a mini-diaper bag, and go out and do something fun like going to the zoo, the mall, a museum, a restaurant, or a park.

* If your baby is waking up at night or crying a lot, remember it's probably only a phase that will be over in a few weeks.

* You're probably doing more work than you ever did before, so go easy on yourself.

* Tell your children you love them, and tell them often.


More books are showing up on library and bookstore shelves for those dads-to-be looking for a little advice. Here are some suggestions:

* THE EXPECTANT FATHER: FACTS, TIPS AND ADVICE FOR DADS-TO-BE, by Armin A. Brott and Jennifer Ash, (Abbeville Press, 1995). An easy-to-read handbook describing the many changes men experience during their partners' pregnancies.

* WORKING FATHERS: NEW STRATEGIES FOR BALANCING WORK AND FAMILY, by James A. Levine and Todd L. Pittinsky (Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1997). Strategies for fathers and their employers on how work and family lives can best complement each other.

* THE MEASURE OF A MAN: BECOMING THE FATHER YOU WISH YOUR FATHER HAD BEEN, by Jerrold Lee Shapiro (Delacorte Press, 1993). A look at traditional fatherhood with suggestions on ways men can enhance that role.

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