By Jenni Ho-Huan, Life-coach and author of Simple Tips for Happy Kids
Adequate preparation is a battle half-won. According to counseling psychologist Dr Eliza Lian-Ding, couples who ‘worry about becoming parents’ usually do better.
Of course, she was not referring to the worrying that made the difference; but how anxieties can lead parents to seek out answers and therefore be better informed and prepared for the parenthood experience.
With what we know today, a whole host of fears assails us: pregnancy concerns (eg. What if my child is not healthy), environment concerns (eg.: can my child survive in such a competitive world?) ) and personal concerns (what if i am a lousy parent, will having a baby affect our marriage).
Negativity can set in as a result of fears, a lack of information, negative vibes from others’ experiences, a lack of agreement as a couple, and personal health concerns. Nevertheless, as long couples have a positive mindset and a desire to learn and talk through issues, these challenges are surmountable. What’s more, when a couple works as a team to manage parenthood concerns while enjoying the experience, their relationship invariably grows stronger.
The following are some tips to help you prepare individually and as a couple for parenthood.
1. See a parenting coach
Someone once said, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”. Well, we may know a lot today; but very often, it is a bit of this and that. Taken out of context, the information we know may often be more caricatured than accurate, and this can cause a lot of exaggerated anxiety.
Furthermore, different people have different abilities to tackle challenges. For some, losing sleep is deathly while for another, less sleep is perfectly fine!
Seeing a parenting coach as a couple is a great way to prepare mentally. A good resource person is able to draw out your concerns, put them in perspective and equip you with the right information to tackle them. Many voluntary welfare organizations (eg: Focus on the Family, Centre for Fathering) offer programmes by parenting experts.
As you start to listen to what your spouse has to say, you will begin to appreciate where each of you comes from – we are after all, very much a product of our growing up experiences. Our perspectives on children and how to raise them are guided by our own backgrounds.
When a couple makes these discoveries with a wise parenting coach, they can be guided to use these experiences constructively.
2. Do a skills inventory
Don’t try to envisage your whole life as a parent. Start with the first six months. Consider what skills you will need to have and evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Figure out how best you can learn these skills – and so enjoy your baby more. Being well-equipped with the appropriate knowledge will help couples avoid feeling overwhelmed by a newborn. Parents-to-be will find it useful to attend pre-natal classes that equip you with the essential skills to cope with an infant.
Becoming parents also requires couples to learn new skills for their relationship. From discussing finance, relating to in-laws to parenting philosophy, a couple will need to be able to talk through their concerns, find common grounds and come up with strategies to cope with new additions to the family.
3. Help babysit
Up the ante and stretch yourself: offer to babysit your friends’ children – or help. This is a great way to develop a positive frame of mind towards children and embrace the joy they bring. An hour or two of interaction will bring much discovery and delight, and help us see the possibilities for our own growth as we work towards being more patient, gentle, loving, and confident with children.
4. Spend time with friends with children (not pets)
For those who are not ready for babysitting yet, you can also gradually ease into parenthood by simply hanging out with those friends who have children. Many couples will be glad you choose their family for company! Observe parent-child interactions and figure out whether you would do certain things the same way or differently. Listen to your friends’ stories and experience their joy while gleaning wisdom from their mis-steps. Interact with their children to develop skills and confidence.
5. Dream together
Have weekly dream dates together. Read, watch, talk and listen to each other’s parenthood dreams and concerns. A lot of clarity comes as we listen and talk; and we will find issues more manageable when your spouse reassures or agrees to tackle it with you. Talk over lifestyle adjustments to enjoy family life with a kid. Bear in mind the positive aspects of parenthood, such as the gift of raising an independent, unique individual, growing in love, the sense of accomplishment and teamwork, personal growth, and the wonderful feeling of doing things together as a family.
6. See your doctor
At some point in your parenthood journey, the doctor’s advice is needed – first for a physical assessment to help you prepare for pregnancy, and later for regular appointments during your pregnancy. A doctor’s assessment will help you address your physical concerns and prepare your body for having children. It will be useful to keep a little diary of questions which you can bring along for each visit to the doctor.
You can also find out more about medical costs if that is an area of concern for you. There are different options available today for every budget.
7. Talk to important people
Every child calls forth many who want to help, love and care; such as grandparents. Think about what role you would like them to play and ease them into roles you envisage. At the same time, be open to feedback and be prepared to make reasonable adjustments especially if they are going to play an active part in care-giving and parenting.
Another important person to talk to may be your financial advisor who will be able to advise on the extra insurance coverage required with an addition to your family.
Finally, here is a little quiz you can take to assess how ready you are for the parenting adventure:
Are You Ready For A Baby?