Having kids is an experience like no other. From finding out you’re expecting to dealing with hormone-fuelled teenage temper tantrums, there’s never a dull moment.
The stress and anxiety that come with having children are impossible to fully comprehend until you find yourself (along with your partner) in sole charge of a brand new, tiny little person – and no manual in sight.
Each stage of childhood brings with it its own challenges – and joys, too. Below, we take a look at five key things you can do, as a parent, to manage the emotional ups and downs, and enjoy the journey.
As a new parent, it’s easy and understandable to become totally overwhelmed regarding your baby’s sleeping and feeding schedule. Every book or webpage will give you different (often entirely contradictory) advice until you find yourself utterly confused during the early hours: is your little one crying because they’re cold, or are they hungry? Is it colic? Should you switch to on-demand feeding, whereas before, you’d been trying to get your baby on a schedule?
The best tip, when it comes to your baby’s sleep and feeding, is to be led by your baby and – most importantly – trust your instincts. If you don’t feel that a rigid sleeping schedule suits your baby, then don’t be afraid to stop following it. By trusting yourself and acting on your instincts, you’ll be surprised at how quickly your little one will find their own rhythm and how much less frazzled you’ll feel.
Promote Healthy Habits
It’s never too early to teach your child the importance of healthy self-esteem and body image. The best way to do this is to model good behaviors yourself. Ensure that your young child sees you eating a wide range of nutritious, healthy foods, keeping yourself hydrated, and exercising regularly so that he or she grows up viewing these things as a normal part of daily life.
Talk to your child as she grows about self-image and any worries she has regarding this. Be on the lookout for food issues, and seek medical advice promptly if you see any sign of a problem.
If your child develops serious issues with their confidence, and it’s impacting their life, consider counseling – there are a range of online options as well as regular in-person sessions, too, if your child would feel more comfortable attending in a virtual setting. Be sure to find online therapy that takes insurance to avoid a surprise bill. A therapist can work with your child to identify their feelings and the underlying reasons behind them and build strategies to move forward.
Maintain Your Sense of Self
In the early years especially, this can be a tough one, but it’s vital to maintain a sense of your inherent identity that’s beyond ‘mom’ – although, of course, this is the title and job you’ll always cherish the most.
When your child is a baby, this may be as simple as ensuring that, somehow, you carve out time every day to have a shower, get dressed, spend at least ten minutes outside, and read a page of your book. You’ll be amazed at the difference that clinging to these key habits can make.
As your child gets older and grows more independent, bring back into your life more of the things you loved that maybe have been pushed aside due to an understandable lack of time and energy. If you were part-way through an art course during your pregnancy or used to like spending time at the climbing wall with friends for a couple of hours once a week, get these things back on your schedule.
Connect with Other Parents
For those with kids – and especially for those bringing up their child on their own – making connections with other parents can be a lifeline. Other parents can be a profound source of support and advice, and it can feel less challenging going out and about with your young child if your friend with her own kids comes along, too.
Why not set up a babysitting circle with your other mom friends so that you’ll all have the opportunity to enjoy an afternoon or evening out on your own without worrying about the cost of a sitter? Just a few hours off to enjoy a change of scene can work wonders.
As a parent, self-care is more important than ever before. Make time every day, even when your child is small, for self-nurturing practices; this could be enjoying a meditation while your little one naps, savoring a delicious breakfast of avocado and scrambled eggs with toast, or treating yourself to a relaxing face mask before bed.
Try to undertake at least one self-care activity every day, and see this as an important job to be fulfilled. Not only do you deserve to be rested and nurtured, but the decrease in anxiety and stress that’ll be the result of incorporating self-care into your life means that you’ll be better prepared to handle the beautiful challenges of parenthood, too.