8 Secrets Every New Parent Should Know
By Sharon Fried Buchalter, Ph.D.
I use the word secrets to describe basic traits that all new parents need to maintain mental, emotional and physical health. Better than that, these foundational traits translate into concrete, real-life coaching skills that you can practice now in your partnership.
How you will parent your child extends from your heart, emotional balance, thinking and people-skills that you have developed in previous relationships. Research has demonstrated that a depressed mom is more likely to have a depressed toddler. An angry father may demonstrate such behavioral patterns for his child to model. To change these patterns now is a golden opportunity to be a successful person and, moreover, an outstanding parent.
Here are the eight secrets that every new parent should know:
1 Healthy Self-Esteem – Long-standing research in education and psychology has connected healthy levels of self-esteem to success and leadership. Healthy self-esteem gives you the edge as an effective, nurturing parent in that you will find yourself with more confidence and willingness to grow with your mate.
2 Open Communication– A fundamental truth about relationships is that your intimacy is founded upon your ability to speak with each other and trust what you hear. Communication consists of speaking a clear message and also listening attentively. If you and your partner don’t speak and listen clearly with each other, then your children are likely to get mixed messages about what you expect from them. See a Keys to Effective Communication.
3 Solving Problems and Resolving Conflict– Believe it or not, the majority of people do not know how to solve a problem. A problem requires that someone observe the situation, assess the dynamics, review the resources and then think through viable solutions.
For example, if you knew ahead of time that you would be breastfeeding your newborn, then you would anticipate any problems you might encounter and then educate yourself on the solutions. You might keep a reference book on breastfeeding nearby for those small emergency questions. It is possible to anticipate the major problems of being a new parent, and educate yourself to solve the problem before it happens.
4 Managing Stress – If you do encounter problems or conflicts, there is no reason that you have to panic or be fearful that you cannot handle it. Learn to identify your stressors as well as your reaction patterns to stress. Once you know which behaviors are unproductive for you or cause you distress, you can change them. See Stress Buffers = Resilience.
5 Building Resilience – Building resilience is probably one of the more important secrets because of its ability to impact your entire life significantly. You will benefit from coaching yourself in resilience right away because it serves you best in the first two months your new baby is home. See A Plan for Problem-Solving and Conflict-Resolution
6 Trusting Your Intuition – I have interviewed many parents in my private practice, workshops and seminars whose children were under 12 months old. When I asked them which secrets they thought were important for new parents, they rated trusting intuition as high. I believe that their responses were influenced by their status as new parents because they had to make decisions and solve problems quickly. They were accustomed to going with their gut feeling. It often turned out to be right. Also when you receive advice about parenting from well-intentioned family members, sometimes it is most important that you learn to trust your own feelings about the situation. When you do so, you’ll arrive at an answer that stems from your confidence rather than another’s advice.
7 Caring and Patience – The qualities of patience and caring will not appear automatically when your child is born, but these two qualities are profound in their effects upon your relationships. If you don’t give or receive enough patience and caring in your relationship, then start practicing now by building loving habits that will be passed on to your child.
8 Flexibility - When your child comes home, time disappears. You enter an environment of meeting the needs of your child on her schedule, and time seems to go away for awhile. Rather than set your life by the clock, you learn to be fluid in the dance with your child and each other. You want to enjoy this auspicious dance, as it happens only once. The dance will bring you the flexibility to adjust to your new relationships.