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The Challenge of Parenthood

By Richard Flowers

"A new baby is like the beginning of all things--wonder, hope, a dream of possibilities." (Eda J. Le Shan)

The Transition to Parenthood

Becoming a parent is a major lifestyle change that can be very rewarding yet very stressful. Consider the following advice on how to make this step more easily in your new job as a parent.

Parenthood is a step into a new lifestyle

It is important to be aware that you will be challenged to make changes in your life of being single and may be resistant to those changes. Welcome and embrace the change as a challenge to your new life as a parent.

Parents need to recognize the importance of a mother and a father in a child's life

Even though mothers usually tend to be the primary parent in the child's life, fathers have a very important role in the life and identity of the child. A study on parent-infant attachment found that fathers who were affectionate, spent time with their children, and overall had a positive attitude were more likely to have securely attached infants. (Cox, 1992)

In a 26 year longitudinal study on 379 individuals, researchers found that the single most important childhood factor in developing empathy is paternal involvement. Fathers who spent time alone with their kids performing routine childcare at least two times a week, raised children who were the most compassionate adults. (Koestner, 1990)

A new Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center study points to the important role fathers play in their children's emotional and behavioral health. The study shows that a father in good mental health can substantially reduce the negative influence of a mother's poor mental health on a child's behavioral and emotional well-being. "If a mother and father are depressed, the odds that a child will have behavioral or emotional problems go up eight-fold," according to Robert S. Kahn, MD, MPH, a physician / researcher in the Division of General and Community Pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's and the study's lead author. (Khan, Brandt, & Whitaker, 2004)

In another study According to a Gallup Poll, 90.3 percent of Americans agree that "fathers make a unique contribution to their children's lives." (Gallup, 1996)

Parents, leave your old baggage!

Do not pollute your new life with your spouse and children by bringing in old pain and luggage from the past. Instead promote healing and closure for your new life ahead of you.

Parents, no deposit, no return

It is important to work on your emotional I.Q. You need to make an investment in yourself. You are like a tank of gas in your car. If all you do is drain your tank of gasoline (or in other words your energy source) you will run out of gas and end up emotionally bankrupt. Taking care of yourself, is taking care of others. By investing in yourself you will have more to give your children.

Parents, make time for your spouse

Nurture your relationship with each other. It is important that you have an occasional night out alone together. If you cultivate your relationship with your spouse, you are giving a wonderful gift to your children.

Parents, remember children replicate what they see

If kids are exposed to tension, strife, confusing, fighting or anger they will replicate the behavior as well as internalize it. Kids echo was they are subject to, whether positive or negative.

Putting it all together

Look forward to a new life of hope, challenges, love, nurturing, interaction and change. You will be truly amazed at what your growth, learning and enlightenment as a new parent!

"We never know the love of a parent till we become parents ourselves." (Henry Ward Beecher)

References

Cox, M.J. et al. "Prediction of Infant-Father and Infant-Mother Attachment." Developmental Psychology 28 (1992): 474-483.

Khan, R., Brandt, D., & Whitaker, R. (2004, August 8). Combined Effect of Mothers' and Fathers' Mental Health Symptoms on Children's Behavioral and Emotional Well-being. ARCHIVES OF PEDIATRICS & ADOLESCENT MEDICINE, 158(8), 1.

Koestner, Richard, Carol Franz, and Joel Weinberger. "The Family Origins of Empathic Concern: A Twenty-Six Year Longitudinal study." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 58 (1990): 709-717.

Gallup Poll, 1996. National Center for Fathering. "Father Figures." Today's Father 4.1 (1996):8. (see chart below)

Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine,

About The Author

Richard Flowers AA, BS, MS, CT, is an award winning teacher and consultant in Southern Oregon.


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