When babies are born, it is a new chapter in your life, embarking on something you have never done before. Learning how to be a parent as you go along, babies do not come with an owners manual or a guide book to each milestone.
When pregnant, the parent has ideas and dreams of how they wish to be, what life will look like when that very longed-for baby arrives. However the birthing is both exhausting and exhilarating, and you become sleep deprived, and with added domestic duties it can sometimes fail to live up to the expectation.
When the baby is born there is celebration, joy and noise! Lots of visitors and excitement during the first week. Then everyone is gone and there is just you and the baby, a quiet home and a responsibility to get it done right.
Sometimes parents look at their baby in wonder and a combination of fear, excitement and love to make everything as perfect as possible.
Babies will eat and sleep on their own schedule. You cannot do much about that, except get into a routine that works for you. Your body is healing and dad is waiting to help, and everyone is tired.
Then there's the pressure to breast feed or not, cloth nappies or disposable, along with society pressures on how to raise your baby and interference from well meaning people.
There is so much conflicting advice for parents on what to do and not to do, when in reality the only standards you need to live up to are your own. As long as your baby is fed, bathed, loved you're doing a great job.
There is also the temptation to wrap children in cotton wool with antibacterial hand wash and wipes and control their play. The idea of creative play outside with dirt seems to be a thing of the past, yet crucial to growing.
I once found my middle child, who had been quiet - *note to parents* quiet means trouble- siting on the floor with a Praying Mantis feet first in his mouth, with its head and front legs moving and him declaring “hmm yum nom nom”. Doctor assured me he would be fine and “kids eat bugs and survive!”.
When babies are born the parent learns to use intuition to understand its cry. Hungry cry, need change cry, bored, tired and so on. A parent can recognise their child’s cry, and what it means even in a crowded setting.
Observation is probably the most important tool parents can use to keep that bond with their child, in the prevention of the physical and more importantly mental heath of the child, and the whole family for that matter.
Watch, listen, observe the characteristics of the child/ family members and when someone looks withdrawn, open dialogue. It can be as simple as asking how are you doing and is everything ok. Starting this as early as possible and keeping it relevant in a calm parental way, creates a bond where the child can come to the parent for any reason at any time. A safety network for both parent and child, but it takes a daily conversation.
How was your day? What did you do? Are you all right today? Anything bothering you? You can come talk to me anytime about anything.
If your intuition tells you something is not right, persist with keeping the door open for the child to come to you, feeling comfortable to share something whether it is small or a big issue, the door being open is important.
All relationships can benefit from observation, and so does dialogue. Sometimes starting a conversation can really save the day and provide comfort.
By doing this you will “know your child’s moods” just like you did when they were babies and just new. Same concept.
Are they quiet? Do they look happy? Moody? Cranky? Snappy?
“Hey Darling whats up? You look like something may be bothering you?”
If they reply “I'm fine!”
Reassure with “you sure? I am here to chat anytime you need about anything”.
Boundaries are super important when parenting, because you are leading by example and teaching your children how to act in the world. Learning at home is where tolerance, patience and playing by the rules starts. Discipline is individual to each family, but as in the real world there are consequences for breaking the rules. No one benefits by not teaching rules, discipline and boundaries to the child, and they cannot cope when they go into the real world as now it is a completely foreign concept to them.
There has to an absolute rule of respect for the home and people in it, and consequences for breaking them.
For example, my boundaries I set with everyone are “I will respect you and your property,I will not lie or steal from you, I will be a good friend if I can help in any way”. I expect the same back.
When someone breaks these rules then I'll either open a conversation and let them know that they have crossed a line and how we can move forward. Or sometimes you just have to understand that some people are not willing to respect your boundaries and you have to separate from them.
Above all things in parenting, boundaries and observation are probably the most important in creating a family dynamic where you are aware of the psychical mental well being of the family members. And this is most important to keeping everyone safe.
Having a great open and strong relationship with your child takes time and years, but when they turn into teenagers you will be so happy and grateful you have done the ground work, and you can observe and use your intuition to know when things are “off” and need more attention.
The most wonderful thing you can give your child is a bond so special that the closeness to you will be life long.