How to Be a Good Parent

How To Ensure You’ll Be A Good Parent

“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”

-James Baldwin

Whether you plan on becoming a parent or you’re unexpectedly entering parenthood, it’s important to ensure you’ll be a good one. A good parent is one who raises a well-adjusted, self-sufficient child who becomes a valuable member of society.

The following nine steps will tell you if you’re truly prepared to be a good parent, and if not, how to achieve that.

Good Parent

1. Reflect on your upbringing

Was your childhood stable? Did you grow up in a happy, healthy family where children were heard and understood? How did your parents interact with you? What methods of discipline did they use? All these questions will provide answers to the parent you will be by default. When we have unresolved traumas from childhood we end up projecting them onto our own children.

Do: Understand how your history will affect your parenting. Work on overcoming your inner struggles.

2. Make sure you’re emotionally stable

How well do you handle stress? Do you become emotionally unavailable in stressful situations? Do you lose your temper quickly? While being a parent is an amazing experience, it’s also a stressful job. So determine how well you deal with stress. It can tell you how you will react when your children push your buttons (and at a certain age they do so daily).

Do: Learn how to deal with your emotions constructively so your children can do the same.

3. Consider your finances

It goes without saying that before you have children you must have the ability to meet their basic needs (food, shelter and a safe environment). But we all know that meeting a child’s basic needs is not enough to successfully bring up a child in our modern world. Unfortunately, access to good education, healthcare and safety comes at a steep cost. Do you have a plan in place to afford all this? Or, do you hope to achieve financial stability by the time your child is of school age?

Do: Work on reaching financial stability. It will allow you to increase your child’s chances of succeeding in life.

4. Check the health of your relationship

How would you rate your relationship with your partner? Did you grow up with parents who had a healthy relationship? We are prone to choosing partners that represent the role models we grew up with (our caregivers). So if your parents’ relationship was dysfunctional, you are likely to end up in the same situation. Unhealthy relationships leave children with emotional scars that affect their interpersonal and romantic relationships as adults.

Do: Avoid repeating history. Address any problems that negatively impact the health of your relationship.

5. Know why you want to become a parent

Do you want to become a parent because the clock is ticking? Do you feel pressured into becoming a parent by your partner or other family members? The right time to have a child is whenever you feel you can raise that child as you would’ve liked to be raised. And even if you’re unexpectedly thrown into parenthood you can still be a good parent. Simply be aware of what it takes to raise a well-adjusted child. It will motivate you to take the necessary steps to achieve it.

Do: If possible, plan ahead for having children and do so when you feel ready. If it’s an unplanned pregnancy, do your best to be as informed and prepared as possible.

6. Ensure you have enough social support

The importance of social support for a new parent can’t be overstated, yet it may be underrated. There’s good reason for the saying “It takes a village to raise a child”. Raising children can be overwhelming and exhausting. Parents need a break sometimes, and they can’t always afford childcare, especially in the early years of a child’s life. In addition, when you go through a difficult time in life your social support will be there to help you sail the rough parenting seas.

Do: If you have the ability, stay close to your support system. If not, become a member of parenting groups, or look for support within your local community.

7. Know the limitations of parenthood

When you accept the responsibility of becoming a parent you relinquish your rights to single living. That means sleepless nights are no longer a choice, they’re a requirement. As a parent, you have to share your quiet space with a not so quiet little person. So let go of perfectionism, and be willing to put your needs last. Because once you have children, everything revolves around them. All the decisions you will make will be for the best interest of your child, even if they are not the best for you.

Do: Be prepared to become selfless!

8. Decide the type of parent you’d like to be

It’s helpful to give some thought to the parent you’d like to be when you do have children. Think of what you liked and disliked about the way your parents raised you. What would you like to bring along (or not) from it on your parenting journey? Paint a realistic picture of your life as a parent. If your expectations are too high, you’ll feel like a failure. And if your expectations are too low you’ll be taken off guard by the complexity of parenting.

Do: Learn as much as you can about the best approaches to parenting and discipline techniques.

9. Discuss parenting styles with your partner

Mismatched parenting styles are one of the biggest sources of conflict when couples have children. For instance, you may prefer an authoritarian approach (strict and controlling) to child rearing while your partner is more of an authoritative parent (warm and communicative). When your parenting values don’t align the power struggles begin. And when this happens, not only do you hurt your relationship and children, but you undermine your parent authority, which leaves children confused and more likely to misbehave.

Do: If necessary, come to a compromise on your parenting styles and stick with the same rules.

Bonus: 5 Good parenting habits I learned and practice as a mom of three

1. Give your child at least 10 minutes of your undivided, one-on-one attention everyday.
2. Let tiny mischief slide, it will make for a calmer household.
3. Ask them what was the best and worst part of their day.
4. Tuck them in bed every night and remind them they’re loved.
5. When you run out of patience, remain mindful of how quickly they’re growing up and changing.

Here is a fun quiz: Will you make a good parent? 

You may also like: Become A More Mindful Person: 5 Easy Steps

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Bond with Your Child

How To Build A Strong Bond With Your Child

Building a strong bond with your child is crucial for a satisfying parent-child relationship. In addition, children’s mental development benefits greatly from a strong bond between parents and children. Studies show that children who have a good bond with their parents are more likely to become happy, independent, and resilient adults.

Ideally, the process of building a strong bond with your child begins at birth. However, that’s not always possible. Factors like birth complications, postpartum depression, or lack of social support can stand in the way. But it’s never too late to build a healthy parent-child relationship.

If you are a future parent, be prepared for the challenges of parenthood for an easier transition. Don’t romanticize the idea of having a child. Despite the amazing things that come with becoming a parent, there are also difficulties. As we all know, cute little babies grow up fast, and we must keep pace with our patience.

building a strong bond with your child

The following five tips are based on positive parenting, the attachment theory,  and personal experience.

1. Discipline with love

All parents struggle to find the right way to effectively discipline their children. However, avoid harsh discipline as it’s very damaging to the parent-child bond. Think how intimidating it must be to have a person many times your size hover over you, demanding your obedience. Often times, we forget how vulnerable children feel when we attempt to discipline them. We may also forget to remind our children of our unconditional love. Children need to know they are not bad when they behave badly. They are simply learning to manage their emotions, and to make wiser decisions.

Tip: When attempting to discipline your children, separate them from their behaviors. Assure them of your love while letting them know that you don’t condone their behaviors, or actions.

Practice: For toddlers- distract them, or remove them from the trigger situation as you physically comfort them. Remind yourself that tantrums don’t last forever. Don’t worry about people looking at you if you’re in a public place. Your toddler’s well-being is more important than the approval of a stranger.

For older kids- when your children misbehave, make eye contact with them as you attempt to discipline them. Give two warnings, then count to three, and if they don’t stop, express your love for them and remove a privilege.

2. Treat them with respect

Have you ever caught yourself yelling at your children telling them to stop yelling? How about trying to get them to do as you say by being sarcastic, or humiliating them? As any parent will tell you, parenting the right way is not easy. Nor do we ever do it perfectly. We have so much going on in our lives, and so little time to do it all well. We are stretched thin, and, as a result, our patience is limited. So we may say, or do things we later regret. But we can’t demand respect from our children through disrespect, it never works.

Tip: Becoming a more mindful parent helps put things into perspective. It allows us to see our children as the immature human beings they are. Remember, they are not trying to upset us on purpose. They just need our help to guide them through our overwhelming adult centered world.

Practice: Speak to your child as you’d speak to an adult you respect. Give them instructions instead of orders, and offer explanations instead of “because I said so”.

3. Have one-on-one time

Giving a child your undivided attention is essential for the development of a strong bond. Children need to be heard and seen by their caregivers without distractions. They want to know we value them, and they are a priority in our lives.

Tip: You don’t need to go out of your way to spend quality time with your child. For instance, adding a few extra minutes to the bedtime routine can be enough to fill your child’s daily love tank.

Practice: Incorporate “special time” in your child’s daily routine. Special time means you spend an uninterrupted amount of time connecting with your child through play. Allow them to choose special time activities.

4. Actively listen to them

Active listening means paying attention to your child’s behavior and body language as they speak. When we half-hear our children we miss subtle cues that offer valuable insight into their emotional well-being. Also, when we actively listen to our children, we make them feel cherished, loved, and secure. As a result, they will share more of their thoughts and worries with us, which allows us to address a situation before it turns into a tantrum, or bad behavior.

Tip: Pay close attention to the way you currently listen to your children when they speak. If you find yourself giving mindless answers that frustrate them, or make them repeat themselves, it’s time to start practicing active listening.

Practice: Next time your child attempts to speak to you, reply promptly even if you can’t start a conversation right away. Let them know you acknowledge them, and you will listen to them. This also prevents a meltdown, which is a child’s attempt to grab the caregiver’s attention.

5. Lead with empathy

Finally, attempt to see things from your child’s perspective. Be empathetic towards the big emotions little humans feel while lacking the ability to control them. When children feel accepted and understood they thrive.

Tip: Don’t act like your children’s boss, instead walk alongside them. Validate their feelings, and tell them how you were once in their shoes. Being able to relate to someone in a difficult situation provides comfort and relief.

Practice: Resist the urge to tell your children to do things, or express their feelings the way you do. Instead, allow them the opportunity to show you their way, then offer your opinion and support.

You can now start paving the way to a fulfilling relationship with your (future adult) child. There is nothing more rewarding than a lifelong parent-child bond.

How do you to create a strong bond with your child? Share your tips in the comments section.

Read next: Mindful Parenting: Stay Present, Think Ahead

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mindful parenting

Mindful Parenting: Stay Present, Think Ahead

In the throes of our busy lives, mindful parenting seems like an unattainable goal. But as the old saying goes, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

The demands of the modern world on today’s parents are overwhelming. We are inundated with information on how to do things the right way, or how we’re failing our children. We are judged based on our parenting styles, and frowned upon if it doesn’t fall into the authoritative category. Children are expected to behave better than adults, and work harder than ever for stellar academic achievements.

This article’s purpose is not to tell you how to parent, but to help you have a better time doing it. And in the process, help your child flourish, and acquire the skills needed to become a well-adjusted adult.

mindful parenting

The benefits of mindful parenting extend to both parents and children. Studies show that mindful parenting fosters healthy parent-child relationships. And it enhances parents’ and children’s ability to regulate their emotions. 

A recent study has linked mindful parenting to better decision-making in children, which is an essential 21st century skill. The reason children who were raised by mindful parents make better decisions is their emotional self-regulation ability. Yet another good reason to give mindful parenting a try.

So how do you embrace mindful parenting?

You stay present, and think ahead. Easy right? Not really, but it will be easier than you expect. Let me explain.

How do you stay present?

By reminding yourself to be present. We all lead busy lives, and in the midst of parenting chaos it’s easy to forget to live in the moment. Because who wants to live in chaos anyway? But this is life with kids. So instead of turning a chaotic moment into a power struggle, or self-pity and regret, turn it into a life lesson for your kids. 

When your children don’t listen after you’ve told them to brush their teeth 25 times, talk to them about natural consequences. Not brushing teeth leads to cavities, and cavities lead to other outcomes, and so on. While it may not make them brush their teeth willingly twice a day, it will certainly change the tone of the conversation. And make them more likely to cooperate. Plus, you’ve just modeled emotional self-regulation. Monkey see, monkey do!

How does thinking ahead help you stay present?

By seeing the adult in your child’s eyes. Everything we do and say to our children will shape the adults they become. When you parent mindfully, you consider the impact of your words and actions on your child’s development. Therefore, thinking ahead forces you to stay present. But that doesn’t mean you’re never allowed to mess up, because you will. 

There will be times when you’ll fail at being a mindful parent. In those moments, allow yourself time to calm down, forgive yourself and apologize to your child. Use these moments as yet another life lesson, and explain to your child that perfection is unattainable. And mistakes are learning opportunities.

Being a parent is the most conflicting job you can ever have. It is exhausting but energizing, difficult but beautiful. A natural instinct, yet an endless learning process. We constantly question our parenting ability, and never feel as though we are good enough at it. 

As parents, we rarely praise ourselves for the resilience required to just be a parent, let alone a good one. So take a moment to appreciate yourself, and commend your parenting efforts. 

If you’re reading this article, know you are indeed a good parent. You are dedicating your precious time to gathering information for the wellbeing of your child. One perfect example of a selfless act.

Have you ever tried mindful parenting? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

You might also like: Become A More Mindful Person: 5 Easy Steps

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What Postpartum Depression Feels Like

What Postpartum Depression Feels Like

Before we dive into what postpartum depression feels like, and what you can do about it, let’s take a look at some statistics.

One recent study found that out of the 4 million live births occurring each year in the United States almost 600,000 mothers will be diagnosed with postpartum depression. In addition, when including women who had a stillbirth or miscarried, the number of diagnosed mothers reaches 900,000.

However, if you add the women who never report their symptoms, or the women who don’t know what postpartum depression feels like, the numbers could be much higher than this. 

postpartum depression

Did you know that you can begin to experience postpartum depression symptoms during pregnancy? It is believed that up to 50% of women who develop postpartum depression after giving birth experience some symptoms during pregnancy. Therefore, early symptom recognition is imperative for prompt treatment. If left untreated, postpartum depression can wreak havoc on your motherhood experience, and it can even affect the development of your child.

What postpartum depression feels like…

Postpartum depression feels like being left alone to survive on a deserted island with no tools. And on this island most days are rainy and gray.  

When you suffer from postpartum depression, you are filled with self-doubt and self-judgement. You scrutinize your motherhood abilities, and focus on your failures. Your mind is flooded with negative thoughts that make it very difficult to enjoy being a new mom. As a result, you feel guilty for your lack of happiness with being a mother, and for your perceived shortcomings.

As a first time mom, I suffered from postpartum depression and I never got help for it. I didn’t know I had it until my second child was born. That’s when I was able to see myself as the good, caring mother I was. The birth of my second child made me realize what healthy motherhood was like.

Now that I look back on my first pregnancy, the signs of postpartum depression were there early on. They showed up mid-pregnancy, and further developed after giving birth. Had I been aware of what I was feeling, I could have avoided a lot of suffering. And I could have been a better mother for my daughter.

Here are the signs of postpartum depression I missed during pregnancy and after birth…

During pregnancy:

  • Lack of excitement
  • Feeling low
  • Lack of motivation to prepare for baby’s arrival
  • Moody and needy
  • Lack of connection with the fetus

After birth:

  • Inability to bond with child
  • Wishing I never became a mother
  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Feeling constantly overwhelmed
  • Feeling inadequate
  • Oversensitivity to well meaning advice
  • Inability to cope with motherhood
  • Guilt

And 10 things I learned about postpartum depression after having three kids…

  1. It is more common than I thought.
  2. It distorts the reality of motherhood.
  3. You can mistake it for “baby blues” (“baby blues” should not last longer than 14 days after birth).
  4. You are not a bad mother for having postpartum depression.
  5. Don’t rely on your care provider to spot your postpartum depression symptoms.
  6. Antidepressants are not always necessary for treating postpartum depression.
  7. Postpartum depression can resolve itself over time, but I would not recommend waiting it out.
  8. You will have a hard time bonding with your child as long as you leave it unaddressed.
  9. When you suffer from postpartum depression you tend to socially isolate yourself.
  10. Once you get a grip on your postpartum depression you will feel liberated. 

Plus, 5 Tips: 

-Be ever observant of your feelings, thoughts and emotions during pregnancy and postpartum.

-Be aware of biological, social and lifestyle factors that can increase your risk of developing postpartum depression. 

-Learn the difference between the “baby blues” and postpartum depression.

-Don’t be ashamed to talk about how you’re feeling as a new mom. 

-Ask for help, and accept when others offer to help you during pregnancy or after birth.

Finally, my advice for mothers who suspect they may be experiencing postpartum depression symptoms is to talk about it. Begin by confessing your thoughts and feelings to the people you feel most comfortable with. Do it sooner rather than later. It is never too early to get the conversation about postpartum depression going. Surround yourself with supportive people, and avoid social isolation. Please remember, there is a way out of postpartum depression if you are aware of it. 

Helpful resources to learn more about postpartum depression and its consequences:

Postpartum depression and the baby blues

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/postpartum-depression-and-the-baby-blues.htm

Postpartum depression

https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/mental-health-conditions/postpartum-depression

Maternal depression and child development

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2724169/

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10 Things First Time Moms Should Know

10 Things First Time Moms Should Know

The following 10 things first time moms should know are meant to help ease your transition into motherhood.

Motherhood comes with so many expectations which often don’t match the reality of it all. Being aware of the challenges that come with being first time moms is essential in order to allow ourselves room for error and for self-compassion.  

These 10 things first time moms should know are based on research, and on my personal experience as a mom of three.

1. Your pregnancy and birth experiences matter a lot

Having complications during your pregnancy, or having a negative birthing experience can prevent you from instantly bonding with your baby. It also makes the new mother experience less enjoyable, and it increases your risk of developing postpartum depression.

Tip: Don’t blame yourself for any negative outcome. The formation and birth of a human is highly complex. Things can go wrong even if you do everything by the book. 

2. Breastfeeding is amazing, but hard

No amount of reading or training can prepare you for the actual experience of breastfeeding, but I will try to be as precise as possible in my description. Breastfeeding is such a rewarding experience if you produce milk, and if you can live through the extreme pain of the first couple of weeks. Be prepared to see your breasts expand to many times their actual size, and feel like they could burst at any moment. Your nipples will be sore, and will likely bleed until your baby learns to latch correctly, so use a lot of lanolin nipple cream.

Tip: Use a breast pump to express some milk if you produce more than your baby needs. It will help relieve some of the engorgement pain. 

3. The baby must-have list is much shorter

When I had my first baby I bought every possible item that claimed to make being a new mom easier. By my third, baby I realized that my list of must-haves for a new mom and baby was much shorter than my first.

Tip: Must-haves: Car seat, crib (if you’re not co-sleeping), pacifiers, breast pump, muslin wraps, baby blankets, onesies, a play gym, teething toys and other age appropriate toys, baby bathtub, some hooded towels, baby nail clipper, basic nose sucker, a bouncer, baby carrier or wrap, a stroller, lots of diapers and wipes. Nice to have: baby monitor, Boppy pillow, Dockatot lounger and white noise device.

4. Lack of sleep is more than physical exhaustion

You probably know that babies wake up every two to three hours to be fed and changed. And, if you are part of the  pack with not-so-easy-to-soothe babies, you might spend most of your time between feeds trying to comfort your baby and keep him/her asleep until the next feed. The reality is, you will be sleep deprived regardless of how fussy your baby is. Among other things, sleep deprivation leads to irritability, anxiety, forgetfulness, increased errors, lack of energy, and symptoms of depression.

Tip: Don’t worry about creating a sleep schedule for the first 3 months. Feed on demand and co-sleep if you’re comfortable with the idea. It will make your life so much easier. In addition, remind yourself often that the newborn stage won’t last forever. You will be able to sleep eight hours a night again.

5. Don’t take the “baby blues” lightly

“Baby blues”  leave you feeling impatient, irritable, moody and emotional. They usually peak around four to five days after the birth of your child, and should disappear within fourteen days. However, if symptoms persist, speak to your doctor as it could be an indication of postpartum depression. 

Tip: Be vigilant and track the duration of your “baby blues”. Talk to loved ones about your feelings and have other adults around as often as possible during this time. 

6. Social support is crucial

When I had my first baby it was just me and my husband. We had no family or friends around and it was very difficult. And because my daughter was born prematurely we were advised not to take her to public places for six weeks due to a weakened immune system. It’s needless to say how lonely and isolating those six weeks were. 

 Tip: If you have no family or friends around have a postpartum plan for socializing. Nowadays there are a lot of resources available for new moms. Try to connect with other mothers through social media groups and local events.

7. Read as much as you can about motherhood

Becoming a mother for the first time is such a wonderful experience that we often forget the hardships that come with it. Therefore, it  is very important to be aware of the changes and struggles that come with motherhood as well. 

Tip: You can learn so much from reading other moms’ stories and tips on motherhood. There is so much information like this on the web.

8. You might hate being a mother before you love it

My experience as a first time mom was definitely not what I had expected it to be before giving birth. I expected to euphorically give birth to my child, instantly fall in love with her, and get through all the challenges of being a new mom because of the unconditional love I had for her. Instead, I was terrified of giving birth and questioned if I’d even wanted to be a mother. Also, due to pregnancy complications, my baby ended up staying in the NICU for ten days while I had to go home without her and pump every three hours. In the meantime, the “baby blues” hit and I felt like the most inadequate mother in the world. Then, I developed postpartum depression. Long story short, I did not love being a mother for the first year of my daughter’s life. 

Tip: Have a support system in place before giving birth. Talk about your negative feelings with your care provider to rule out postpartum depression. Give yourself time to fall in love with your child.

9. Newborn stage is the easiest

Do you know the saying “Little kids little problems, big kids big problems”? My oldest child is now eight years old and I can assure you that, unless you are dealing with health issues, this saying stands true for everything else. I will take sleepless nights over sassy talk-back and school drama any day. I don’t even want to think about the teenage years.

Tip: Remind yourself that, while it may feel like sleepless nights will never end, they actually do. In the future, you will find yourself longing for these moments. 

10. Everything is just a phase

The diaper blowouts, spit-ups, middle-of-the-night walks, colic, teething and temper tantrums are all just normal phases of a child’s life. And they will be gone one day. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself missing these difficult phases one day.

Tip: Savour every stage of motherhood. Deal with every phase as best as you can and let go of guilt, you’ll never do things perfectly as a parent.

I truly hope that the 10 things first time moms should know I shared here will make being a new mother a smoother ride for you.

 

What are some of the lessons you learned as a first time mom? Do you have any tips to share? Please write them in the comment section below.

 

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