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10 Practical Activities You Can Do Right Now To Enhance Your Parenting Skills Before Starting A Family

Sabrina Ragan is an experienced and dedicated psychologist and play therapist who works with children and families facing challenging situations. She combines attachment theory, neuropsychology, and solution-focused techniques to build strong relationships and achieve positive results in counselling sessions.

 
Executive Contributor Sabrina Ragan

Whether you've got a little one on the way or you are seriously thinking about making the move into parenthood, chances are you're feeling a bit overwhelmed (big understatement!) about diving into the parenting world. You may have many questions swirling in your head like, “Do I have what it takes?” or “Can I cradle an infant without causing a code red?” are completely expected. You may even be overwhelmed by the amount of parenting information out there.


Father and daughter bonding.

Take a slow deep breath and press pause on the panic button. You’re more prepared than you think, here are some essential warm-up strategies for new moms and dads.


First things first, let's address the elephant in the room - no one is truly "ready" for parenthood. No matter how much research you do or how many great parenting products you buy, the transition into parenthood is an incredible milestone that is so different from anything you've been through and it is so different for everyone. It is an amazing and beautiful experience, but so hard to capture and prepare you for. Every child and every parenting experience is different, so there's no way to fully prepare yourself for what lies ahead. But that doesn't mean you can't equip yourself with some knowledge and strategies to make the transition into parenthood a little smoother.


Discover the basics of baby care


  • Hit the Books… or the Classroom

    • Enroll in a parenting class alongside your partner for an invaluable experience. Rest assured, it's a transformative journey. Explore the fundamentals of infant care, spanning from diapering to feeding, and beyond. Hear from experienced parents and professionals, and ask all the questions you need to feel confident in your abilities.


Learn from the pros: Real parents


  • Chat Up Your Friends Who Are Already Parents

    • Do you have friends or acquaintances who are already parents? Engage in meaningful conversations with them to gather valuable information. They've navigated parenthood firsthand and have a wealth of stories and wisdom to share from their experiences.

    • Make observations of those you see with kids. List what you like about what they do and what you don't like. Use this information to shape your own parenting style.

    • However, it is important to note that while advice from others is helpful, friends and family may offer too much advice and leave you overwhelmed.

Learn to set boundaries


  • Boundaries Are Essential for Both Parents and Children

    • While advice from others is helpful, friends and family may offer too much advice leaving you overwhelmed. When you notice this happening , it is important to learn how to set boundaries. This applies not only to outside opinions but also within your own household.

    • Setting boundaries as a parent involves determining what works best for you and your family, and sticking to those decisions. It can be difficult when well-meaning friends or family members offer their advice, but ultimately you are the one who knows you best and knows your child best and should make choices based on what you feel is right.


Babysitting boot camp


  • Test Drive Parenting

    • Babysit your little niece or nephew. It’s like a crash course in Kid 101. Playtime, homework help—you’ll get the full scoop on what parenting’s all about.

    • For an added challenge take your niece or nephew overnight or for a weekend to see what the experience is like 24/7. With this firsthand experience, you'll gain a deeper understanding of what it truly means to be a parent and can better prepare yourself for the responsibilities and challenges that come with it.

    • Not only will this help you build confidence in your own parenting skills, but it can also strengthen your relationship with your niece or nephew as they see you taking an active role in their care. Plus, it's a win-win situation as you get to spend quality time with them while also gaining valuable insight into parenthood.

    • During your "babysitting bootcamp," take note of any struggles or successes you encounter. This will give you a chance to reflect on how you handled certain situations and what areas you may need to work on before becoming a parent yourself.

    • Also, take note of what it is like to "parent" together with your partner. Was it easy or hard? Did you feel like you were on the same team as you babysat together or did you find you were in conflict over how to deal with certain situations? Were there challenging times that tested your relationship and communication skills?


Do your research


  • Dive Into Other Resources

    • The internet’s a treasure trove of parenting gold. Explored blogs, forums, articles.

    • Libraries are full of parenting books. Grab a stack, take notes, and start building your own parenting playbook.

    • Remember though, there are tons of conflicting parenting strategies and advice. As you research, listen to your gut reaction to the different strategies. Start making your own playbook of what you feel fits with your personality and the family culture you want to create.


Teamwork makes the dream work


  • Partner Planning Session

    • Take the time to sit down with your partner and brainstorm how you would address various scenarios involving your child. It's always beneficial to have two perspectives working together.

    • Talk about different scenarios you see with other kids and how you might respond to the situation.

    • Talk about different experiences you had as a child and what you liked and didn't like about how your parents handled the situation. Use your own upbringing as a blueprint for what to do (and what to skip).

    • This will give you insight into what is important to both of you and how you can come together to create a united approach.

    • During this session, make sure to discuss discipline strategies, communication styles, and any fundamental beliefs or values that are important to your family. This will help create a solid foundation for your parenting partnership.

    • Take a moment to envision your ideal family dynamic. Identify the values that are essential to you. What values are non-negotiable? Clarifying these aspects now will serve as a compass for your parenting approach in the future.


Respect each other's parenting styles


  • No two people will have the exact same parenting style, even within a family unit. It's important to respect each other's individual approach and find ways to work together. This may involve compromising on certain decisions or finding a middle ground that both partners can agree on.

  • It's also important to communicate openly and honestly about your parenting styles. Discuss why you have chosen certain methods and how they align with your values. Respectfully listen to each other's perspectives and be open to trying new approaches.

  • Remember, the goal is not to change each other's style, but rather find ways to complement and enhance it for the benefit of your children. You are both important pieces of a parenting puzzle. When you find ways to work together that relies on each other's strengths you become an incredible parenting team.

  • Back each other up in front of your child and other people. Make sure to support each other in front of others, even if you don't agree with what your partner is saying. You can discuss this later when you find a private time to talk about what you might have or should have done differently. This shows your child that you are a unified front and they can't play one parent against the other

  • It's also important to have regular check-ins with each other about your parenting approach. Set aside time each week to discuss what is working, what needs improvement, and any concerns or challenges you may be facing as parents. Make sure to listen actively and respectfully during these discussions, valuing each other's perspectives and finding ways to compromise if necessary. By maintaining open communication, you can continue to grow and evolve as co-parents.

  • Make sure to show appreciation for your partner's efforts in parenting. Thank them for the things they do well and acknowledge their contributions. This not only strengthens your bond as a couple, but also sets a positive example for your children. They will see the importance of mutual respect and gratitude in relationships.


Remember self-care


  • Becoming a parent means putting someone else's needs before your own most of the time. But don't forget about taking care of yourself (and your partner!) as well. This includes getting enough rest, eating nutritious meals, staying physically active, and taking breaks when needed. When you prioritize your own well-being, you'll have more energy and patience to handle the challenges of parenting.

  • Make sure you are aware of what it feels like to be overwhelmed or when stress is creeping in. This will help you to know when self-care is not just needed but essential. Pay attention to the signals and trust your instincts. Make time for yourself. Whether it's going for a walk, reading a book, or taking a relaxing bath, find activities that help you recharge and rejuvenate.

  • Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help. Parenting can be overwhelming at times, and it's okay to ask for help. Don't try to do everything on your own - reach out to family members, friends, or even a professional if needed. Asking for help shows that you are prioritizing the well-being of yourself and your family.


Parenting’s no walk in the park, but with a little prep work you can create a strong foundation for your family. Use these tips to get a head start on your parenting journey. One final point, and possibly the most important, do not let your anxiety of being a good parent get in the way of enjoying every moment of the journey. If you remember anything from this article remember this, your relationship with your child is the most important, don't let your anxiety of being a good parent distract you from being fully present and enjoying every moment with your child. Trust yourself, trust your partner and most of all, trust your child. They will guide you more than you could ever imagine.


If you're looking for personal support, encouragement, and wisdom along your journey, I invite you to check out The Empowered Moms Community. Gain access to valuable resources and connect with fellow moms who understand the joys and challenges of parenthood. As parents, we're all in this together. Let's embrace our mistakes, learn from them, and grow together. The journey may not always be easy, but it's undeniably worth it. Together, we'll navigate the joys and challenges of parenting, supporting each other every step of the way. This exclusive platform is designed specifically for mothers like you, who are committed to nurturing their child's success in all aspects of life. And don't forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for weekly doses of inspiration and valuable insights.


 

Sabrina Ragan, Child Psychologist

Sabrina Ragan is an experienced and dedicated psychologist and play therapist who works with children and families facing challenging situations. She combines attachment theory, neuropsychology, and solution-focused techniques to build strong relationships and achieve positive results in counselling sessions. Sabrina's own experience of motherhood without family support led her to create the Empowered Mom's Membership Community, which offers a supportive space for like-minded individuals to connect. Sabrina's main focus is to improve the lives of children and families, and this commitment drives everything she does at Keystone Child and Family Therapy and in the Empowered Mom's Membership Community.

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