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Parenting Guide Sheets
5. Early Days

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Page 5A
Introduction to this Page

This page builds on the previous ones. If you have come to these pages via the Contents page and have succumbed to the temptation to jump straight here, may we recommend you pause up and go back to page 2 and take in the very foundational issues that are covered there.

Right, we assume you have been through Page 2 where we considered how the mother can even influence the baby while it is still in the womb.  That followed the concept of the ‘blank slate’ and the idea that from the moment of birth you will be involved in everything your child learns in the months and years to come. You may have to leave your child with grandparents or carers but do make sure YOU still have adequate opportunities to input into your child’s life.  

Modern studies do seem to indicate that children left in nurseries can develop well, but if you are able to be available to be with your child in these early days you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have been the person who mostly contributed to their early learning and will be able to look back at the joy that came with that.  This page is likely to be the least comfortable one so far for it comes with a plea from the heart. Some of you may not feel comfortable with it and if that is so, just move on to the next one.

1. Parenting the Newborn Child
2. A Word for New Fathers
3. And so….

1. Parenting the Newborn Child
Nutrition and health education for new parents is now quite common and are beyond the scope of these pages. All we simply wish to do here is make one or two observations about those first couple of years following the arrival of your child, which we hope you will find useful.
a) Clarifying your roles
Your role as parents in the early days, months and years of your new child's life is to include the following:
- providing nutrition to sustain your child and aid its physical development,   
- providing clothing, a home, care and protection i.e. everything necessary to create a safe environment for this tiny defenceless being,   
- providing care and concern and love for your child that makes them, from the earliest days of awareness, conscious of being loved (we'll say more about this in subsequent pages).
b) A Need for Togetherness
With your first child comes a sense of awesome adventure. You've never done this before. This little creature is entirely dependent on us! How do we do this? How do we cope with broken nights? How do we cope with this total and absolute change in our lives by the arrival of this little one?
The answer has to be ‘togetherness'. In what follows we are going to assume the existence of a partner, a husband. In the first few months support is a major issue and if there is no partner, we hope there may be other family members available to help the new mother.
From the moment you arrive home with your new baby (assuming you have her/him in hospital) you are suddenly aware that initially at least, YOU are all that stands between life and death for your child. It is down to you! Awesome!
At this point there are two tendencies to be overcome which you need to be aware of:
You, the new mother, are totally taken up in a new world of baby feeding, care etc. and it's very easy to let your husband/partner become the third member of the family. You mustn't let that happen.
You, the new father, see that your wife/partner is just getting on capably (it seems) with looking after your new child and because she may be breast feeding, feeding is solely her prerogative. Beware two things:  
- starting to feel ‘poor old me', left out of the equation
o your wife desperately needs your support!  
- feeling you've just got to get back to your job and let life carry on as before
o  it can't!
c) Worst case scenario!
This is not to be pessimistic and depressing; this is just to face the realities that face new families. There are two particular possibilities you need to be aware of:
i) Some mothers do go into post-natal depression.
· Get help from the professionals!
ii) Tiredness is very common, especially when you are up feeding your child two or three times a night.
· This is very common; it bears repeating! Many mothers look back and wonder how they coped. They did because they had to but it wasn't easy!
· Tiredness in the middle of the night, when the baby is crying and you can't seem to get him/her to sleep, means stress. Stress means you get desperate in the early morning hours and it is not unusual to feel like throwing your baby. Now this is not being over dramatic; it happens!
· This is where togetherness comes in! You need to be aware of this and you need to talk it through before it every gets to this. The man may feel he needs his sleep to be able to work the next morning, but sometimes there are things that are more important than sleep – the health and well being of your partner and your child.
· There needs to be an agreement that when you, probably the mother, are feeling at the end of your tether in the middle of the night, your partner will step in when you wake him, and take over until the baby is settled and you have time to calm down and rest.
EXERCISE: If you have a new born baby, make a small table with two columns: Dangers to Avoid and How we can over-come and note down things from above.
d) Do Talk!
Depending where you are in your relationship together you will be aware of your need to talk. Elsewhere on this site you will find materials about the need to talk together:

Talking together can be a minefield if you haven't come to the place where you are willing to compromise your ideas, and no more so than in the case of parenting.
You need to talk together:
· in the earliest days of your child's life sharing your feelings and concerns,   
· as your child grows so you can agree strategies for care, training, discipline etc.,
· together  in the teenage years – when your teenager seems an alien and you wonder how to cope,   
· in the separating from family years – as you agree how to cope with empty-nest feelings,    
· in the older support years – as you anguish over the problems your adult kids have!
You need to talk!
EXERCISE: Identify when in a week you and your partner can make time to sit down together and talk without interruption. Decide things you specifically want to talk about. Do it!

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