Q: I am pregnant with my first and very excited, but want to make sure we do it “right.” What are the most important things we can do, starting from a young age, to make that happen and not mess this up?
First of all, congratulations to you! You are about to enter into a whole new life, a whole new world filled with such a variety of feelings, challenges, a tremendous satisfaction that it is truly indescribable.
I have great news for you. There is no such thing as one “right” way for all parents. This is a journey that you are about to begin, and your way will be what is right for you and your baby. Talk about trial and error, now it begins!
I always tell first-time parents to make sure their own house is in order. By that I mean, take pains to address your own emotional health, first and foremost. If there is a partner (father) in the house, your relationship, too, is critical. Hone the communication between you. If ever a relationship will be tried, having your first baby will do it. And communication is key.
There are so many things to explore and discuss as you anticipate Number One’s arrival, topics you likely never have addressed. What values are most important to you to inculcate in your children? What are your beliefs about discipline? How involved do you want your parents and in-laws to be? What boundaries do you want to create for them? The issues can be biggies or seemingly small, like how old should a child be in order to have her ears pierced? But before the child arrives, the topics won’t be loaded and are, therefore, easier to discuss. Take notes and revisit later on down your child’s pathway.
I am happy to share with you that for the first four months of your baby’s life, the most important things you can do are bond with that infant, recover from the pregnancy and birth, and take good care of yourself. Those babies are so portable. They need to be fed, changed, loved and put down. You can’t possibly love them or hold them too much. Then the fun begins. The baby wakes up, and you’re on your way.
When I have been asked your question before, I often answer: “Treat your first born like he’s a second born.” Sadly, it’s just not possible. Of course my point is that sometimes that first child is like the first pancake in a batch. There’s a lot of learning and tweaking to be done. And then Number Two comes along, and you know he won’t break if you let him cry!
I want to share a deep belief that I have when guiding children in their development. In order to grow up, all children need to scale three peaks: They need to learn to tolerate frustration; they need to learn to tolerate disappointment; and they need to learn to delay gratification. The only way to learn these is to have to learn these. I hope you understand what I am saying here. No parent feels good about her child being unhappy, but there will be a whole lot of unhappiness that will guide your child to conquer those peaks.
If you have visited my website, you will see that under the dropdown Betsyisms, I have all kinds of pithy expressions, videos and sayings that you might find useful. There are too many to describe in this column. The two for which I am known, however, are:
The surest way to make life difficult for your child is to make it too easy for him.
Prepare the child for the path, and not the path for the child.
I suggest you print these and hang them on your refrigerator. Allow them to be your guiding light in helping your child to become self-reliant and resilient. I promise you that is what all parents want.
BBB is a child development and behavior specialist in Pacific Palisades. She can be reached through betsybrownbraun.com.
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