Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Becoming A Parent: 10 Tips For A Successful Transition

 By Brandon

The transition to parenthood can be a very exciting time; however, like any family transition it brings with it certain hazards and stressors that you need to be prepared for. Over the last 3 years much of my research has focused on the transition to parenthood, and I would like to share with you what I have learned:

1. Talk about your expectations BEFORE the baby comes. This includes how you are going to divide housework, taking care of your new baby, employment, what you feel is fair, and more. It is better to communicate and come to a consensus on as many issues as possible so that these issues are not exacerbated when your new baby arrives and the adjustments begin. This also includes parenting strategies (like how you will get your baby to sleep, will you breastfeed, bottlefeed, who will get up at night and when, will you co-sleep with your infant or not, etc.).

2. You will need to learn to be unselfish. This is a hard one for all of us, and it is a process. Your baby will need you and your spouse will need you. If instead you focus on what you want many arguments, hurt feelings, and conflicts will arise. But also be understanding of yourself. It takes time to develop into the parent you want to be.

3. Going along with #2, make sure that you consistently take time as a couple to communicate about your expectations for each other and your feelings about your new life with baby (e.g., concerns, needs, etc.). Ideally, checking in every day would help alleviate the stress and feelings of loneliness that may develop (instead of letting stressors build up over time).

4. Each of you will need an understanding partner who will help you feel validated and understood, so learning to truly listen without giving advice or talking about yourself is helpful. Try listening without making any statements about yourself, and instead ask questions about your spouse and what he/she is talking about. Also, at key points try to summarize back to your spouse what he/she has said, and he/she can confirm that you understood correctly or attempt to clarify. After they are all done you can have your turn to be listened to in the same manner. This can work wonders for your communication.

5. This is not always the case (and mothers may feel this way as well), but on average many fathers often feel inadequately prepared for childcare or household tasks. Many are willing to do them though. Kind words from their wives as they attempt tasks help to solidify the desire in them to help out (or to do the majority of the work, if this is what you have decided in your expectations talks). Yet, if wives make belittling comments about husbands not doing a good job, compare them to other men or women, jump in to help too quickly and without being asked, or even redo the tasks after husbands have finished, coparenting research by Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan shows that husbands will often feel alienated and be much less likely to assist wives with any of these tasks in the future.

6. Set clear boundaries for how much extended family will be allowed to offer support and even stay in your home after baby arrives (not just numbers, but how long). It is also important that neither spouse feels ‘pushed aside’ by an all-too-loving-and-helpful mother-in-law.

7. Whomever is at home with the baby, realize that he/she may feel isolated from the rest of the world. Babies can be time-intensive and demanding. Take time to talk about these feelings and allow each spouse some time for him/herself each day away from baby. Both mothers and fathers have been known to experience the baby blues or postpartum depression.

8. With all of these talks about adjusting to baby make sure to also spend time as a couple not talking about baby!! If you can, get a trusted babysitter or family member to watch your baby and go out on a date, etc. You still need to build your relationship as a couple. If you focus only on your baby, you may let your couple relationship disintegrate.

9. As the baby grows, your strategies will also have to change. It will be a learning process for both of you, and the expectations and feelings talks that you have already set up will be very beneficial in assisting with this adaptation.

10. You may also find that you and your spouse disagree on certain things (e.g., parenting strategies, etc.). Make sure to talk about these things, but also be careful to decide which are actually crucial decisions and which are just old family traditions that may not be necessary.

11. Finally, BE FLEXIBLE.

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