With the sea of information provided to parents in this age of social media, it is hard to know what advice you should listen to. Not to mention all the unsolicited advice you can receive from the well-meaning stranger in the grocery store. I remember feeling overwhelmed with all the do’s and don’ts in my early years of parenting. Even years later I often hear contradicting advice and wonder if I am correctly informed.
Friends have often asked me for my best piece of advice as they are preparing for the arrival of their first child. I always feel like I should have some amazing secret to share with them. You know, just a few magical words that will give them all the answers. Yeah, I hear all the experienced parents laughing at that one. I’m no self-proclaimed expert on parenting, but I’ve been in the game for a decade now. Although I still haven’t found the secret to total success, I’d like to think I know a couple of things about raising kids.
I’ve come up with a short list of pieces of advice that I have found useful over the years. A couple of them are things I chose not to take to heart and learned the hard way I should have.
- Understand how to correctly install your child’s carseat. This is a no-brainer because it just isn’t a risk you want to take. We’ve all read the tragic stories of improperly buckled children being injured or worse.
- Your older children can be the biggest threat to your new baby’s safety. I was surprised when my pediatrician first told me this after we brought home our second baby. She said “just remember that the most dangerous thing to your baby is sitting in this room with us” as she discreetly glanced in the direction of my four-year-old. I didn’t fully understand until my son lovingly tried to feed the baby a piece of candy. Then again when he just wanted to “hug his baby” and nearly dropped him out of his swing.
- Anchor all furniture to the wall. This is definitely one I learned the hard way. I didn’t see the point to making holes in my walls and anchoring furniture that I knew would never fall. Until it did. Let me tell you, there is no fear like hearing a loud crashing noise and rushing into the bedroom to find your preschooler buried underneath a chest of drawers. He just wanted to reach a pair of socks by himself, so he pulled out the bottom drawer and stood in it. His weight was enough to cause the entire thing to topple over on top of him. We were extremely lucky and somehow he was uninjured. You better believe we removed or anchored all furniture after that.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This goes for any stage of parenting. In the early days, don’t be to proud to accept when a friend offers to drop off a meal or your Mom wants to come take care of a few loads of laundry for you. If these offers come in sometime after the newborn stage, you’ll already by smart enough not to refuse. With older kids asking for help can often be more tricky. If your child is struggling at school, ask for help and don’t stop until you find it. When your child is in a hard stage and you just need some advice, don’t hesitate to reach out to someone you respect as a parent.
- Don’t listen to everyone’s advice. That’s right, I’m giving you advice on not taking advice. It is so easy to get overwhelmed with how everyone else thinks you should be parenting. You will find that if you ask five different people for advice on breastfeeding, diaper brands, preschools, etc. you will likely get five different answers. Again, find those parents you trust and seek their advice when you really want/need to hear what they have to say. Ultimately, you are the only one that can make the right choices and decisions for your child.