Step #1 (for Dads): If possible, arrange your life so you can engage with your baby, early and often
New dads: Based on these recent findings, you can view early fatherhood as a crucial window in which your engagement with your baby has an outsized impact. It’s a bit like having a limited-time, use-it-or-lose-it financial windfall. God has apparently wired your brain in such a way that as you spend hands-on time with your newborn during this stage, your brain will rapidly change to literally make you a better dad for the rest of your life. (As noted in part 1, you can foster certain brain changes at other times too–but this particular period is unique.)
This will not work for everyone’s situation (a military father might be deployed, for example) but if you can appeal for paternity leave, take vacation time off, or work some night shifts while your baby sleeps so you can interact when he or she is awake – now’s the time! And if you can take the baby on Saturday so Mom can sleep in or go out with friends, you may get a triple-win: a rested, appreciative partner, an improved “fathering brain” capacity, and a special connection with your child.
Making time to engage early is also critical because my research revealed a cautionary tale: Dads who didn’t make as much effort to forge a good connection with their kids when they were young found it harder (not impossible, but harder) to feel competent at being a dad 10 to 15 years later.