A child changes the ‘me’ in life to ‘us’.
Having a baby is not about the colours of nursery walls, cute clothes and stroller brands. It is about becoming a parent for a very long time. You can’t be a perfect parent, but you are the best parent for your child.
Look after your own emotional and physical health. Eat healthy and maintain a healthy weight range. Don’t drink any alcohol. Throw away cigarettes and bad habits. Ask for help. Reconnect with family and friends. You will need them.
Rethink childcare and work choices. Home renovations may have to wait until later. This gives you the time and money to parent.
Parenting includes your own childhood experiences. Deal with unresolved mental health issues before taking on the extra stress of having a baby.
Don’t be afraid of parenting or your child. You start your journey in small steps. There is plenty of time to learn how to become a better parent along the way. There are people to help.
0 to 5 Years
‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…’
Charles Dickens, ‘A Tale of Two Cities’.
Nothing can prepare you for the emotion of holding your child for the first time. To raise a child is a huge responsibility, but also a gift and privilege.
Lower the bar of expectation. You will make heaps of mistakes, but there are moments when you ‘nail it’. Enjoy them.
Your child follows their own developmental milestone agenda. Comparisons with other children are not helpful. There is a wide range of normal. Maintain perspective and the ability to see what your child can do and not what they can’t achieve.
5 to 10 Years
You don’t live in a Vogue magazine. There is a difference between dirt and mess.
This is the age of anxiety. A child denies worries, until you ask if they ever feel sick in the tummy, if their heart beats really fast or are they scared of the dark? ‘Yeah, that happens to me’, they will say. ‘There are monsters under my bed’, ‘A robber might break in and chop our heads off’ or ‘I am afraid of tests.’ ‘I worry that something will happen to mummy’.
‘Social shift’, is the change that has altered the way we parent. Digital technologies complicate parenting and impact on homes, schools and community.
Children today have short childhoods. We have forgotten the value of play, simple schedules, family traditions and gifting kids the time to dream, think, create and innovate. About giving children positive memories to take with them into adulthood. To allow children to fail, so that they develop the resilience to cope with life.
We fail our children by trying to ‘fix’ everything for them.
10 to 15 Years
‘Unless you’re willing to have a go, fail miserably and have another go, success won’t happen.’ Phillip Adams, journalist.
Say less, listen more.
These are the vulnerable years. When things go wrong. Failure to recognise and deal with the small problems of childhood, leads to challenges in the preteen and teenage years.
This is when sibling rivalry splits families. Kids develop eating disorders. They may practise self- harm or threaten to kill themselves. School learning problems lead to academic failure. ADHD behaviours can become oppositional and violent.
It is also a great opportunity to get things right. Have your child on your radar. Be around. Take charge as a parent. Ensure you have a strong relationship with your partner or proxy parents. Do everything you can to parent better.
Be consistent with discipline. Stay quiet and in control when your child is screaming at you. Wait and parent when calm is restored. Acknowledge your child’s anxiety, sadness and anger. Always be ready and available to help.
15 to 25 Years
Trust and believe in your emerging adult and be kind.
Somewhere between 15 and 25 years, the hard work of early parenting is rewarded. You may be in the shed or hanging out washing. Your child will appear from the shadows and say, ‘I love you mum’ or ‘I love you dad’. That is enough. Those simple words melt anger, wash away anguish and bring joy. Be proud that you have done a good job. You have raised a child.
School choices are discussed. The role of mentors and recognition of teachers is affirmed. Electronic stalking, cyberbullying and electronic health records are raised as ethical questions for parents and those who care for our young adults.
‘Cruel Friends’ – autism, anxiety, ADHD and SLDs
Autism, anxiety, ADHD and specific learning disorders can ‘pop up’ in any family.
Children develop social, emotional, physical and academic problems when they have a neurodevelopmental disorder such as: autism, high functioning autism/Asperger, anxiety, ADHD or specific learning disorder. Dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia are fancy names that mean significant difficulties with reading, writing and math.
Neurodevelopmental conditions often occur in families with: depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, panic attacks and borderline personality disorders. Motor tics or Tourette syndrome, hypermobility and developmental dyspraxia, otherwise known as developmental coordination disorder (fine and gross motor planning problems) are also described.
If your child has autism, anxiety, ADHD or a SLD, you will know a lot about it. Parents are resourceful, intelligent and sophisticated. A medical perspective is given. One that is practical to assist families, teachers and therapists better understand these ‘cruel friends’ of childhood.