Being a first-time parent can be a joyful yet nerve-wracking and overwhelming experience. It can be important to remember that parenting advice generally isn’t one-size-fits-all and that everyone’s experiences as a parent can vary. You may find it helpful to manage your expectations, establish a support system, communicate regularly with your parenting partner (if you have one), care for your physical health, and expect continuous learning. A therapist, whether in person or online, can help you through any doubts or concerns you may have.
Advice For New Parents
Perhaps the most important thing to know as a first-time parent is that being one may not always be easy. The unrealistic expectations that society often places on parents may only increase the feelings of inadequacy and isolation that modern parents can face. Raising children can be a challenge for all parents, so keep in mind that you are not alone.
New parents usually experience many emotions after bringing home their first child. Joy and excitement can be common, as can feelings of fatigue and frustration.
Some of the advice below is more focused on the adjustments associated with bringing a new child home, but you’ll find that much of it applies to coping with the stressors of parenthood in general. Some parents may experience feelings of frustration upon using the advice they’ve been given, only to find it doesn’t work for them. It may be essential to remember that there are generally no absolutes when it comes to parenting advice. What works for one parent may not work for you and your child.
It can be beneficial to seek help and advice from a range of resources for parenting, including healthcare and mental health professionals.
Manage Your Expectations
Some new parents can underestimate the ways in which their child’s needs will impact their daily lives. They may also underestimate the adjustments they will need to make to accommodate their baby’s needs. You may find that your old routines are no longer sustainable, or that you need to shift your work habits. You may have less free time to enjoy hobbies or socialize. These scenarios can be common for new parents, so anticipating them realistically may help you later.
Expectations may also extend to how you behave after the child comes home. For instance, new parents may expect to keep their home in immaculate condition while working full-time and taking care of a baby. Attempting to keep up with an overextended workload may not only be unrealistic, but it may also lead to parental burnout. Acknowledging your limits as you juggle various roles can be one way to practice self-care.
Many first-time parents also underestimate the cost of caring for a child. It can be helpful to assess your budget and spending behaviors prior to the baby’s arrival and make a new budget that includes the increased costs of taking care of your child.
Establish A Support System
Support from friends, family, community, and healthcare providers can be vital for new parents. There are many ways your support system can help you adjust to your new role and continue to help after you’ve assimilated into parenthood. For example, you can ask for their assistance with cooking, cleaning, and running errands, including taking you and your child to doctor’s appointments.
In addition to helping with practical tasks, your support system may aid you in other areas of your life. For example, you might ask a friend to babysit so that you can enjoy a date night with your partner. You may find relief in socializing, playing team sports, or slowly easing back into the activities you liked to do before becoming a parent. In general, you need not lose your sense of self to be a better parent.
Communicate Regularly With Your Parenting Partner
Open and honest communication about expenses, work obligations, household tasks, and personal difficulties can provide a foundation of confidence and trust between you and your parenting partner, if you have one. Effective communication may be challenging at times, especially when paired with difficulties like sleep deprivation and added stress from work. It may take you some time to learn how to productively discuss these topics, especially if they’re uncomfortable to address, even under ordinary circumstances. Navigating these discussions can become easier when both people practice a willingness to listen and empathize.
Care For Your Physical Health
Studies show there can be a clear connection between our physical and mental health, which may be why caring for both is often essential to our overall well-being. New parents frequently face sleep interruptions, physiological changes associated with giving birth, and neglected nutrition and exercise due to changes in daily routines.
One way to cultivate physical well-being may be by seeking support from others. For instance, asking a close friend or relative to temporarily help with your newborn’s nighttime feedings and diaper changes can give you a few nights of uninterrupted rest. You could also ask for their assistance in preparing healthy meals throughout the week. In addition to daily self-care, it can be crucial to keep up with any doctor or other healthcare appointments.
Expect Continuous Learning
Every parent may make mistakes, and perfection isn’t always necessary to be a good parent. For some people, growing as a parent can mean accepting that developing confidence will likely take time. An open attitude toward learning through mistakes is perhaps one of the best ways to strengthen parenting abilities.
Consider Seeking Support Through Therapy
Reaching out for help and support from friends, family, community, and your child’s healthcare provider can be integral for cultivating a sense of confidence as a parent. Many people also seek the insight of a therapist while adapting to life as a new parent. A therapist can provide you with tools to process and cope with the complex emotions that arise during parenting.
Benefits Of Online Therapy
For many new parents, in-person visits with a psychologist aren’t feasible. Time constraints, feeding and naptime schedules, and physical and mental exhaustion may be just a few of the barriers to therapy that some new parents face. Online therapy generally offers the flexibility to get help on your schedule from any location with an internet connection.
Effectiveness Of Online Therapy
A 2019 study reported that online interventions for new parents may be effective in enhancing parental bonding, parental satisfaction, and perceived social support. This study joins a growing body of evidence suggesting that online and in-person therapy tend to be similarly effective.
What is good advice for new parents?
Some top tips for new parents may include managing your expectations and preconceived notions—such as realizing that there’s no such thing as being a “perfect parent”—developing a strong social support system, communicating regularly with your parenting partner, and caring for your own well-being along the way. Many parents also find it helpful to have the support of a therapist to lean on.
What questions may new parents have?
Besides questions about the proper care and health of babies, which can be directed to their child’s doctor, many moms, dads, parents, and other caregivers may wonder about how to manage expectations for themselves. Holding oneself to too high a standard can lead to distress, since perfection is unattainable. New moms, dads, and parents may also think about how to balance quality time with their kids with adequate self-care for themselves. Others may be concerned with how to adjust to their new life in a healthy way amid all the chaos.
What is the biggest challenge for new parents?
New parents may face many diverse challenges depending on their situations. Examples could include trouble adjusting to the parenting lifestyle, lack of sleep or time for self-care, relationship strain with their partner if applicable, financial challenges, getting comfortable with making mistakes, figuring out how to bond with their new baby, and develop a close and healthy relationship as their baby grows. That’s why some of the best advice for new parents is often to be patient and self-compassionate, practice self-care as much as possible, lean on social support, and consider meeting with a therapist for additional support.
What worries and concerns could new parents be having?
New parents might worry about knowing exactly how to take good care of their baby, since there are so many components of health and care that an infant requires. They could face concerns about maintaining a healthy relationship with themselves and their partner, if applicable, during the early years of the baby’s life in particular. They could also fear making mistakes or being an imperfect role model as their infant grows up, even though both are an inevitable and human part of raising a child.
What are some of the challenges faced by parents after the birth of their baby?
Moms, dads, and parents may face many different challenges after the birth of a baby, as it represents a major life change. They could lack self-confidence around their abilities to learn what they need to know about infant care and parenting or fear making mistakes. They might struggle to take adequate care of their own physical and mental health after the birth, since balancing self-care and infant care can be difficult. They may also experience mental health conditions like peripartum depression or anxiety related to a birth or adoption, for which treatment is available.
What emotional factors impact new parents?
Becoming a parent is often a highly emotional experience. For example, new parents may feel joy at welcoming a child into their life, fear or anxiety about making parenting mistakes, and sadness at the thought of challenges their child may grow up to face in the world. Mental health challenges like peripartum depression could also affect the emotions of a new parent.
What advice would you give a new parent who is concerned about making sure their baby's speech and language development advances appropriately?
A few ways to help your child build speech and language skills include having conversations with them, asking them questions, repeating words and phrases to help them learn new ideas and vocabulary, and using music and song to help what they learn stick. Engaging in a simple set of techniques like these works wonders in many cases to help keep your child on track.
What are the stresses of new parents?
Some stresses that new parents may face are general, such as worrying about whether their child’s development is on track, whether they will make parenting mistakes along the way, and finding time for their own sleep and self-care, especially during the first few years. Others may be specific to a particular family’s situation, such as unique health challenges faced by the baby or the parent, financial challenges, and relationship challenges.
How do you keep a healthy relationship after having a baby?
People who are in a romantic relationship when they have a baby may feel motivated to find ways to preserve the health of this relationship once the child is born, since keeping a close bond like this can sometimes be challenging during the first few years of a baby’s life. Some tips include maintaining open communication with your partner, striving to make time for self-care for you both, sharing duties and responsibilities as evenly as possible, and each leaning on best friends, family members, and other forms of social support along the way.
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