Early Stages of Parenting: A Quick Guide for First Time Moms
I have had my fair share of ups and downs during the first three years of my daughters’ life. Thankfully, I have brushed up and read some helpful tips (both scientific and experience based) as to how I should care for my child starting from day one. Since I am still in the process of learning more about how to care for my child, I can share my past experiences and knowledge with you starting on what to do after childbirth up to their toddler years which is under the three to four years old bracket.
In order to give the best possible parenting strategy to your child, you should familiarize yourself with the different parenting stages that your kid will go through as they grow older. Knowing what they need, how they act, their capabilities and limitations while they are in a particular age group will be your key factors in choosing the correct parenting approach to be used.
Ages 0 to 2 Years
Children that fall under these categories are more commonly known as “infants.” They are our new born babies that cannot survive on their own without your help. They are the fragile little ones that will “leech” on to you for everything that they need, in a good way.
The first two years you will share with your child’s life will literally be a “give and give” type of relationship. This means that we, as parents, are responsible for giving everything that our children needs, all throughout the day (even at night). There is no exemption to this rule. That is why the first stage of parenting is called “Catering.”
Your newborn baby will solely depend on your for all that they will need. So be prepared to feed, change diapers, burp, clean, sterilize, pump milk, bathe and send your child to sleep “round the clock.” This is the first major change that you need to undergo as a mother.
During those times, I realized that you must be attentive not only to your child’s needs but as well as your own. In order to give the best to your child, you should be mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally in check first. Remember that a healthy mommy equals a healthy baby.
Know The Most Common Signs of Post-Partum Depression
Since you have just given birth, you will still feel tired, worn out and eventually stressed. When you succumb to these negative factors, it will result in your post-partum depression.
Believe me when I say that post-partum depression happens to all mothers. The only difference is the type of gravity the depression will take on a person. I for one did not realize that I was having post-partum blues until I forgot the bottles I was sterilizing causing them to completely melt. I broke down and cried for several hours non-stop.
When I had my second Post-partum check-up with my doctor he gave me a heart to heart talk regarding my sudden outburst. He said that most mothers are unaware that they are experiencing this depression. Because we usually say to ourselves “I’m just tired” or “I just didn’t have enough sleep” without knowing that these small issues are greatly affecting us. Here is a wonderful article on 4 month sleep regression at Sleep Advisor.
So take note of those little issues that you are experiencing because these can be trigger factors that can lead to depression. Also bear in mind that post-partum blues can happen to anyone as early as day one after giving birth all the way to a year or two or even longer.
Make Time For Yourself
My advice is to have as much rest as you can. I know this is hard to do, but it is also not impossible to achieve. For example, when you are able have your child go to sleep, sleep with them. This can regenerate you before your next task is up.
Also, bear in mind that your doctor will know the best advice for you. Don’t be afraid to ask or open up anything that causes you to feel tired, worn out, sad, angry and the likes. Because these are the most common signs of post-partum blues.
Ask For Help If You Need It, Have A Strong Support Group
I cannot stress this any further but sometimes we mothers tend to hoard all the responsibilities to ourselves. Well, this is the normal reaction we get once we become moms, but if you think you can’t commit to all of your mommy duties, ask for help.
Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Keep in mind that you are still recovering from the first nine months of carrying the baby, then labor and finally childbirth. You have the right and the privilege to ask for any assistance.
Since I had a difficult pregnancy, I was not allowed to give birth to my child normally. Instead, I had no choice but to undergo a Caesarian Section (CS) which caused a longer period of recovery. I had to ask for help when it comes to taking care of my child for the first two to three months.
I and my mother split the workload in half when it comes to my child and her things. I was responsible for feeding, changing, burping and everything that basically has to do with child care except for bathing her. My mother, on the other hand, gives her a bath, sterilizes her bottles, does the laundries for my baby and other heavy workloads that I know I still cannot do as of that moment.
When I was able to get stronger and became accustomed with the basic duties I need to do for my child, I slowly started to take one workload at a time from my mother. I did this gradually until I was able to adjust to all of these tasks. Just make sure you don’t rush yourself and take time to completely adjust before taking another task.
Bond With Your Child As Much As Possible
Nothing can be more rewarding for a mother than to see your child in your arms. Bonding is also the best therapy you can do to relax yourself and keep you focused on giving the best care you can for your child.
Talking to them, holding them tight, cuddling them and keeping them near you will provide them with the safety and security that they need. When they cry, do not take it as their way of manipulating you. It is their way of communicating with you.
When I was able to set a fixed routine when it comes to my daughter’s care, I observed that she became less fussy and her crying episodes lessened as well. Remember that a child’s cry is her last way of reaching out to you. So observe for prior signs that your child will give off before they get really hungry. Some examples includes rooting reflexes when your brush your finger on their cheeks, they eyes look around as if searching for something and many more.
For example, I remembered that she usually gets hungry around two hours after she had her last feeding. Once she finishes her milk, she will instantly soil her diaper. What I do is as soon as I see her move and start to wake up, I feed her. Once she finishes on feeding, I burp her. Finally, I change her diaper so that she can have a comfortable sleep.
One To Two Years of Age
This is the time when your child starts to understand things and are able to start to communicate with you. Of course, it all depends on the way that they would want to reach out to you. This can change from one child to another, so do not expect that your child can do what the other kids his/her age are doing.
This is also the start of the “Conforming” stage of parenting. This is the time when we inculcate the morals, attitudes and values that we want our child to harness and cherish as they grow. This is also the stage that my daughter is in at the moment. Soon, she will be turning three and I will once again shift my parenting strategy in order to accommodate her holistic growth.
Communicate And Interact With Them Properly
Some kids would be able to verbally start to tell you what they want. Others, like my daughter, tend to point, or drag you to what they want. Nevertheless, you should treat them the same way as you treat any person. Do not, shall we say, “dumb-down” your conversation with them by using baby talk.
Converse with them the way you talk with any adult. The only adjustment that you need to do is to choose simple words that your child will understand. Make sure that you choose the simplest forms of words as possible. When I talk with my child, especially when I converse with her after she did something wrong, I kneel down to make our eye contact at level.
It gives her the expression that I am willing to go down to her level so that I can listen to why she did what she did without any aura of authority. It also prevents her from thinking that I am looking down on her as if she is being belittled.
Another is to change the tone of your voice to a calmer, friendlier and soother tone. Having a sound voice tone will allow your child to converse with the same manner. Remember that during these times, your child’s brain is like a sponge that will mimic anything that they see do and hear you say.
Start To Introduce Mental, Social, Emotional and Spiritual Morals And Values
Mental (Educational) Preparation
This is the best time to start being your child’s first teacher. Academically, you can teach your child the basics such as ABC, 123, shapes and colors. That’s what I did with my daughter. Having several teaching materials available also helped me in educating her.
Since kids of this age tend to get bored easily, having interactive toys of different kinds can keep the busy and collaborative at the same time. My daughter might still not be able to communicate verbally very well but she can recite the whole alphabet, count one to ten, distinguish basic shapes and even recite different colors even those that are found on a rainbow.
Being a Catholic, I am very strongly devoted to my religion. This is what I wanted my daughter to have as well. So I also started to teach her how to make the sign of the cross and guide her with a simple prayer. We also take her with us every time we hear mass once a week.
Having a strong religious support can help you child to further appreciate life, the environment and everything that God has created as she grows older and more mature. They will also have a sense of responsibility to care for whatever the Lord has given to them.
During these times, you need to have your child interact with other children of the same age. This will allow you to see how he/she will converse, get along and react with other children. This is also the best time to correct them if ever they misbehave or act violently against other kids, which is unavoidable.
Just make sure that whenever you correct them, do not use aggression or anger. Instead, calmly explain that what they did is wrong and that they should say “sorry” for what they did. Also make sure to praise them if ever they say the magic words like “sorry,” ”thank you,” “please,” and the likes.
Children at this age group tend to have emotional outbursts known as tantrums. Since they do not know how to properly address and handle these emotions, they let it all out in their fits. You should always remember that a child’s tantrum is the result of your child’s inability to express and control their anger, pain, aggression, frustration and irritability.
It is our job as parents to help them and guide them to properly handle their emotions. We should also be able to be patient enough to ask them why they are having tantrums so that we can address each fit depending on the trigger that caused it.
Honestly speaking, I am still continuing this type of training with my daughter. Since there are a lot of trigger factors that can cause her tantrum, this task can be a handful at times. But consistency with this strategy and a lot of patience will surely yield positive results.
Ages Two to Five
Once your child reaches the age of three or four, or when they start to go to school, you will be able to see the fruit of your labor during the conforming stage. The “Coaching” stage is the time when you start to let them decide, act and understand on their own and pray that they have instilled in their hearts and minds the values and moral that you have taught them.
The only thing we need to remind ourselves in this stage is to trust and believe that our child will be able to be socially, mentally, emotionally and spiritually ready for the “big world” that they will venture on. There will still be issues and problems that your child will encounter along the way. If you have successfully taught them to trust you, they will not be ashamed or afraid to share their problems with you.
Guidance from us must not stop just because our child is already in school. Always remember that we are their lifelong teachers. Even if they are already adults, we must always be there to help, guide and support them with whatever they do.