Traditional family roles tend to place mothers as the main caregivers, while fathers become sidelined. Whether it’s work conditions or culture, many fathers unfortunately spend very little time with their children. Especially at a young age, fathers often feel lost not knowing what to do or how to do things “right”.

Mothers and fathers interact with children differently and each contributes in their own unique way to aid in healthy development. According to Zero to Three, a non profit organization focused on child development, fathers are often more physical and stimulating with young children. They tend to play more practical and educational games with their kids, and also help children foster their independence and sense of self differently than mothers do.

Involved fathers have an amazing influence on how children develop. Children tend to perform better in school, problem solving, language development, self-esteem, fewer behavioral problems and also less aggression demonstrated in boys.

Getting involved is a habit that needs practice, so best to start early on with your little one. Here’s how!

Hands-on Involvement
Be involved from day one. Try your hand at changing, dressing, bathing and feeding. These may all seem like mundane tasks, but they are such a great way for you to start building that bond early on. You may make mistakes or do things differently than your partner, but that’s OK. This is your way of figuring out your child’s cues and needs, as well as having fun together. Getting involved early on will help give you the confidence to handle your child in more challenging situations to come.

Educate Yourself
Parenting is a challenging experience and young children develop so fast. Give yourself an advantage by educating yourself on your child’s needs and development. Discuss with your partner your parenting thoughts and preferences before the baby is born to make sure you are both on the same page. Talk about how involved you want to be or how often you can be available.

Connect with Your Child
Hold and hug your child from early on. New research now recommends that even fathers have skin to skin time after the baby is born to help nurture the bond early on. Don’t worry that showing emotions will make you appear as a weak parent or create a lack of respect. Showing emotion and affection will help you build a relationship of mutual respect between you and your children, not one of fear.

Have Special Time Alone
It’s important for fathers to get some time alone with their kids. Take your child out on a play-date, for lunch, for a walk or to the grocery store. You’ll get a chance to form a close bond between the two of you as you share these experiences together. Your child will know they can also come to you if they need help or comfort, and not just to Mommy. It will also help you understand the person your child is behind the behavior; their interests and dislikes.

Fathers have a unique way of play and are more likely to use rough and tumble play like wrestling, running and other physical games. These games are fun and good children’s development. They are an essential way to help your child tune into their own self regulation, and teaches them how to use their bodies without aggression.