If you are expecting a new baby, chances are you are spending so much time poring over websites, stroller reviews, and Instagram searching for the must-haves for your little one. But before the baby arrives, there are a few things you should do for yourself to be ready to be your best parenting self from day one.
Explore your own childhood experiences and trauma
As parents, our primary source for how to parent is from our own childhood. So as we navigate parenting, even in the early days, we typically model ourselves after our parents. The most responsible thing we can do is take stock of our own childhood– what we loved, what we hated, what worked and what didn’t– and use it inform what we want to be true about ourselves as parents. The earlier you can start to recognize the impact of your own childhood on your current self, the better prepared you can be to lean into the positives and combat the challenges so that they serve your relationship with your child.
Find and practice self-regulation tools that work for you
From the moment your little one is placed in your arms, it is like you’re on a roller coaster of emotions-the most pleasurable and painful ride you’ve ever been on. The highs and the lows, the frustrations, and the sensory overload will be unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. How do we survive? We learn to self-regulate, so that no matter what is thrown our way we have the tools not to avoid the emotions, but to cope and “ride the wave”. Whether your infant is crying non-stop or your teen has just slammed the door in your face; it won’t matter. You’ll have the awareness and self-understanding you need to remain true to your best self in those moments.
Identify your own personal values
This is a BIG one. Whether you are parenting with a partner or on your own, it is so important that you understand your values. At your core, what is important to you? Faith? Success? Respect? Honesty? Rest? It may seem like all that matters right now is that you love your little one. And yes, that is so so so important. AND in order to be consistent and authentic in your parenting, you have to come back to your values. This will allow you to prioritize your time, your energy, and efforts to raise your child in line with what you believe truly matters.
Start practicing self-forgiveness
Parenting is HARD. There is no way around that reality. We are human. We make mistakes. We can be selfish. We lose our temper. We fall short. Add to that the pressures that society and social media put on us to be perfect. It is almost like we are set up to fail. If we can learn the art of self-forgiveness, we can continue to show up day after day, year after year for our kids and our family. This means accepting that we will mess up, it is part of the process. Every time it happens we have two choices: beat ourselves up OR give ourselves grace and learn from it.
Learn to ask for help
Parenting is a relational experience, with our kids, our partners, our extended family and friends. As a new parent, you were likely bombarded with offers to help, but over time the offers start to decline and you might find yourself feeling isolated. It can start to feel like, “Welp, I guess I’m supposed to know how to do this on my own now.” That thought, that unrealistic expectation (which is often self-imposed) is a limiting belief we hold as parents. We feel like asking for help means we are inadequate and assume that other parents have it all together. So we suffer in silence and isolation until we break. While we may all be experiencing different challenges, we are ALL going through it. So humble yourself and begin to reflect on areas where you need support. Your mom, a good friend, a local mom group, therapy…”help” can look so many ways. Parenting is HARD. But with the right support, we can all do hard things.
Whether you’re preparing for your first baby, postpartum, or in the parenting trenches it is never too late to start taking steps to prepare yourself for the challenges ahead.