How to be a parent
Here is some great news for parents. You don’t have to know everything. No parent has all the answers. There is no such thing as ‘the right way’ or ‘one-style-fits-all’ parenting.
It’s OK to feel confident about what you know. And it’s also OK to admit you don’t know and to go looking for the answers – often the ‘dumb’ questions are the best kind!
Parenting does not come naturally. All parents are working it out as they go along. Every parent makes mistakes and learns through experience. Mistakes only count if you keep repeating them. Parenting requires observation, understanding, persistence, imagination, patience, honesty and energy!
Looking after your relationship with your partner
Happy couples have a positive effect on their children. This means that looking after your relationship can help you both get the most out of being parents and partners.
Open communication can help you cope with the relationship changes associated with becoming a parent. You might be getting less sleep, less time to talk to each other and less time alone with each other. This can sometimes lead to disagreements. You can counter these tensions by telling each other how you’re feeling and finding ways to support each other. You can keep your relationship positive by picking your battles and setting aside a time and place to discuss frustrations and work out solutions.
Setting realistic expectations, being understanding and forgiving each other during the early years can often make the difference between staying together and drifting apart. Read our tips for you and your partner.
It helps not to expect too much from yourself or your relationship in the first 6-8 weeks. This is a time of transition and the most important things are getting to know your child and ‘surviving’ sleep deprivation!
Finding the energy
Three things make a world of difference to your energy levels and ability to look after your new baby:
- staying active
- eating healthy food
- getting as much rest as you can.
Regular exercise improves circulation, increases your overall metabolism, boosts the immune system and makes you feel good. A daily walk gets you out of the house and into the fresh air. A change of scenery can do wonders for your mood, or you can just jump around the house listening to your favourite music.
Eating well can be very difficult for busy parents. Have some simple food on hand, like fresh vegetables cut up ready to eat with dips, fruit, yoghurt and wholegrain bread. If you’re breastfeeding, you need a lot of protein and nutrients, plus plenty of fluids. Check out our tips on eating and drinking for new mums and dads.
When it comes to rest, there are three golden rules: sleep when the baby’s sleeping, go to bed early, and nap whenever you can!
You can read more about looking after your health.
Postnatal depression (PND) is a mood disorder experienced by 10-15% of women after the arrival of a baby. Symptoms include sleep and appetite disturbance, crying, inability to cope with daily tasks, exhaustion, irritability, anxiety, fear of social contact or fear of being alone, feelings of guilt, loss of confidence, and negative and even suicidal thoughts. Some women sum it up by saying, ‘There is no joy in anything any more’.
It’s very important for women to recognise the signs and ask for help as soon as possible. You don’t have to cope by yourself. With proper diagnosis and treatment, help and support, women usually make a full recovery from PND.
If you want to learn more about PND and where to go for help, read our series of articles on postnatal depression.
Dealing with stress
Most new parents feel stressed from time to time. Tiredness, a constantly crying baby, daily duties, increased responsibility and anxiety about the unknown can make you feel like it’s all too much. You can cope with stress by getting others to help out, and finding out as much as you can about caring for your baby.
You might also like to read our article on feeling stressed.
A range of services can help you as you adjust to being a parent. You can get free parenting advice in every state of Australia by calling a parenting hotline. There are also many services and support options that can help you.
You can read more about getting support.
Resources to help you with parenting
This short video offers information on the resources that can help you look after your baby. The video notes that extended family and friends can be a great source of support. Also, a clinical nurse specialist talks about Tresilian, Australia’s largest child and family health organisation. There are many other resources available nationwide that can help you with parenting issues. There’s no need for you to feel alone.