New Parents, New Worries - It can hit at any time; that creeping lump in your throat as the true realisation of what parenthood means finally hits you. The responsibility, the duty, the trust, the reliability, and let's face it the judgement every parent faces from other parents. Each way you and your partner express yourself will have an impact on the child; every word, every action, and every choice. Those are weighty things to contemplate, aren't they? Don't worry; things aren't nearly as hard as they sound.
It can hit at any time; that creeping lump in your throat as the true realisation of what parenthood means finally hits you. The responsibility, the duty, the trust, the reliability, and let's face it the judgement every parent faces from other parents. Each way you and your partner express yourself will have an impact on the child; every word, every action, and every choice. Those are weighty things to contemplate, aren't they? Don't worry; things aren't nearly as hard as they sound.
When a first child comes along, it usually triggers a series of self-examination exercises. Many parents balk in disgust at their faults, forget the strengths they have and begin to feel completely inadequate. Perhaps they feel ill-equipped to fulfill the role of parent, even citing their own parents as being at fault. While this is a natural reaction, it is also counter-productive. Every human being is flawed no matter how they were raised, and therefore every parent is flawed. There is no perfect parent, because there is no perfect parent for them to model. It is the chicken and the egg argument all over again. So relax, it's ok.
The first step towards solid parenting is dropping judgement. Don't judge how others parent, and do not take in any judgement about your own parenting choices. Those playground moms with the $1000 strollers and three kids running around are not experts. Just because they have more children than you doesn't mean they know what they are doing any more than you do. Educate yourself on child development, behavioural changes, discipline and any other subjects you find interest in. Then make your own educated decisions. When you have the knowledge, judgement by others will mean nothing.
The second step is in recognising your own patterns of anxiety. Our own experiences create our worries. If you broke your arm falling off a play structure as a child, then you may find yourself preventing your child from climbing play structures. It's a completely normal reaction, yet recognising the origin of your anxiety will help to let go and allow the child to play in their age appropriate way. If there is an eating disorder in the family, you can be sure the child will recognise the behaviour and at some point, mirror it. The same is true for those who smoke, drink excessively or behave abusively. Children see, hear and mimic far more than we give them credit for.
The third step in being a good parent is logic. Try to view your child's behaviour logically, even as an infant. For example, a six month old infant is securely strapped into an age-appropriate car seat which has been anchored to the frame of the car as per the manufacturer's instructions. Before setting out, the baby was fed and changed into a clean diaper. Yet just a few minutes after getting in the car, the child begins to scream. Not just cry, but scream.
Before jumping to conclusions, think about a rational reason the baby could be crying. The child has been fed, so it can't be that. The bottom is clean. The child's temperature is normal. There are no injuries. There is no history of colic or irritability, and the infant is not teething. Consider this: most children and babies hate being confined, especially in something as restrictive as a car seat. It can spark even an infant-sized temper tantrum. A screaming baby does not necessarily mean injury, pain, or hunger – even though it sure sounds like something is very wrong. Sometimes crying is just crying – but only if the parent is very, very sure everything else is as it should be.
The fourth step in being the best parent you can is in preparation. The home of an adult is far different than what the home of a child should be living in. The standards we have for ourselves are usually not quite as stringent as what is needed to properly care for children. Begin by taking a safety inventory, and to do that one must explore every inch of the living space on hands and knees. Go around looking for items that can be broken, have something poked into, swallowed, pulled down, cause harm, spilled, eaten, torn, climbed, fallen on or down, trapped in or out of, opened, closed etc.
Any child at the crawling, creeping, walking stage of movement can get into anything – and they will. If it is there, they will find it. A long lost earring or coin in the couch cushions? It will be found by little hands. Fingers will get squished in door jambs, kitchen drawers will be opened and stairs will be attempted. Prepare the home in every way for the movement of a small child with no sense of safety or depth perception.
The fifth step in being a good parent is vigilance. Be vigilant about safety in the home. Try out all those little gadgets to safeguard your child. The outlet cover-ups are a good start, as little fingers fit in those holes very nicely. Safety gates on the top and bottom stairs are essential; even on doorways leading outside it is important. Also be vigilant about education.
Keeping educating yourself about child development as the youngster grows. This will help keep a good perspective when other parents offer their two-cents worth. Which leads us to being vigilant about ignoring judgement; don't listen to those know-it-alls. They don't know you and your family. Be vigilant in recognising your own issues and how they impact your parenting. Try to be true to your own vision of a good parent. Finally, don't forget to get down in the dirt and have fun! Create memories with your child!
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