Be An Effective Father with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Guide
  • An exclusive interview with Dr. Rob Palkovitz

    Published literature indicates that as many as 10 - 15 percent of adults are living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Even though women are treated more often then men for IBD, a relatively large population of men, and more specifically fathers, are also living with the condition. In honor of Father's Day, I reached out to Dr. Rob Palkovitz, author of Involved Fathering and Men's Adult Development: Provisional Balances, for some expert advice on how to succeed at fatherhood, even if you are living with the pain and inconvenience that goes along with IBD.

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    1) Thank you Dr. Palkovitz for sharing your expertise on fatherhood with the HealthCentral community. My first question is one I suspect many fathers may ponder as they cope with their disease. In your opinion, is it possible for a father to be a "good" father even if he is not comfortable doing some of the activities other fathers can do with their children like hiking trips, or attending sporting events?


    Every father has the potential to be a "good father" even if he faces multiple limitations in ability, comfort and predictability of health and physical functioning. I can say this without qualification, because the things that characterize good fathering are attainable no matter the specific circumstances. In reviewing literally hundreds of studies on fathers, and in observing and evaluating men in radically diverse circumstances, I have identified three things that always matter in facilitating father-child relationships, or in building positive fathering. The good news for fathers in challenging circumstances is that there are many different ways for dads to create these three things. They are:


    1) The emotional climate: creating a sense of connection, attachment, trust, love and warmth. Giving your child a sense of being there for them. Increasing their sense of security and protection.


    2) Behavioral style: Being actively engaged with your child. Demonstrating that you take measures to maintain their safety. Figuring out what is good for your child, and finding ways to make that happen. Modeling positive attitudes and behaviors that you would be pleased to see your child copy. Demonstrating a willingness to answer questions. Monitoring important things in your child's life because of genuine interest in their experiences. Exerting moderate control over their behavior, and giving reasons for requiring behavioral change on their part.


    3) Relational synchrony: Being tuned in to your child's signals. Demonstrating interactions with your child that are developmentally appropriate and showing sensitivity to their needs, abilities, interests, and desires. Teaching during teachable moments. Capitalizing on using your child's emerging interests and abilities to have enjoyable interactions. Having fun together.


    Men who are motivated to be good dads can find countless ways to regularly engage in these things in a way that connects with their children. Men who value the importance of these things overcome obstacles to get them done at levels that they are able to achieve.


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    In Part II of the series, Dr. Palkovitz addresses the feelings of disappointment fathers may experience if their disease is causing them financial distress.


Published On: June 15, 2010