Investing in our Children / Invirtiendo en Nuestros Niños

Tips for New Parents

Some days, I miss having babies. Not enough to actually have more babies, but I have many fond memories (and thousands of pictures) of my children’s early years. I spent hours gazing at my first-born son, captivated by his every expression and movement. But I also felt overwhelmed, uncertain and tired as an inexperienced parent. Very tired. When I had my daughter, I was more confident about what I was doing, but still very tired. Now that they’re older, I sometimes wish I could turn the clock back to relive their younger years – even if just for a brief moment.

 

This monthly column provides tips for anyone who is helping raise children, based on the world-renowned Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, available to families in Santa Cruz County. If you have a question or idea for a future column, email me at triplep@first5scc.org.

 

Dear Nicole, I really like the simple parenting tips in these articles. My husband and I are expecting our first son next month. I’m excited about having a baby, but my friends and family are giving so much advice that it’s getting overwhelming. Do you have any tips for new parents? - Guadalupe

 

Dear Guadalupe,

Congratulations! Raising your child to become a healthy, happy, capable adult is the most important, rewarding, challenging (and never-ending) job you’ll have in life. And like most jobs, it will take both time and practice to gain confidence in your skills and abilities. There isn’t one “right” way to be a parent. Deciding how to parent is a personal choice influenced by many factors, such as how you and your husband were raised; religious beliefs; cultural values and traditions; messages from friends, family and the media; and your life experiences. All these factors can easily make parenting overwhelming or confusing. Here are a few tips to make your job easier:

  • Build a loving, nurturing relationship with your child. This is the first and most important parenting task that continues throughout life. Give your baby lots of quality time and physical affection by holding, touching, looking at and smiling at him. Notice and respond to the signals he gives you when he’s hungry, tired, over-stimulated or needs a new diaper (this takes practice, but it gets easier). The affection and attention you give your child will make him feel loved and secure, which is essential for healthy development and learning.
  • Talk, read, and sing to your baby. Even though he can’t speak or fully understand what you’re saying, your newborn can recognize and respond to your voice. And hearing many words early in life helps children develop social, emotional and thinking skills that will prepare them for school. If you feel uncertain about what to say to your baby, try these ideas:
    • Describe everyday tasks such as feeding, bathing or dressing him. For example, “It’s time for a bath. First we turn on the water. Now let’s get you into the tub.”
    • Sing nursery rhymes, lullabies or your favorite songs.
    • Read simple stories. Show and describe the pictures to your child.
    • Play a game such as “Peek-a-Boo,” “Pat-a-Cake,” or “This Little Piggy.”
  • Give your baby safe and interesting things to see, touch, hear and taste. Let your baby explore with his senses to learn about the world around him. During the first few months, show him toys, books or other items. Describe what he’s seeing and touching. As he gets older, he will try to grab and hold things and put them in his mouth. Make sure that nothing within his reach is sharp, poisonous or a choking hazard. When your child starts crawling, get down on the floor to view things from his perspective and see what other baby-proofing steps are needed.
  • Take care of yourself. This will help you be physically and emotionally available for your child. Talk with your husband about how to share the parenting responsibilities. Set realistic expectations for yourselves as parents. Be kind to yourself when you make mistakes or don’t know what to do. Ask friends or family to watch your child so that you can take care of yourself.

 

Final Thoughts: It’s common to feel overwhelmed and tired as a new parent. If you find that you get upset easily, lose your temper, or feel sad or anxious, these may be signs that you could use extra support. Talk to your doctor, pastor or a friend, or attend a parenting class to get assistance from other parents. Trust me, you won’t be the first parent to reach out for help.

 

Nicole Young is the mother of two children, ages 11 and 15, who also manages Santa Cruz County's Triple P - Positive Parenting Program. Scientifically proven, Triple P is made available locally by First 5 Santa Cruz County, the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency (Mental Health Services Act) and the Santa Cruz County Human Services Department. For more information on Triple P classes and one-on-one sessions for parents, visit http://triplep.first5scc.org, www.facebook.com/triplepscc or contact First 5 Santa Cruz County at 465-2217 or triplep@first5scc.org.

Date: 
August 1, 2015 - 9:00am

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