8 ways to support and build confidence in all new parents.
Let the royal baby/parent judging begin. Right from the get go, media outlets, bloggers and journalists are already criticizing Princess Catherine and Prince William as parents and finding them lacking.
People are outraged, OUTRAGED, that their baby's arms were swaddled instead of extended to the outside of his car-seat straps. While it's true this isn't the best way to strap in a baby, I have no doubt that someone close to home will help them correct that easily made car-seat snafu. They don't really need our international outrage on that.
See more: How to install a car seat >>
Here's a crazy thought: Instead of finding things to criticize and judge about the new parents, what if we do for them what all new parents deserve: How about if we shower them with praise for all the things they're doing right.
Lots of people say the Royal Family is just a figurehead and theirs is just one more baby. That's a fair statement, but the role of figureheads in our society is to act as representatives and to perform symbolic duties. Frankly, I think Princess Kate and Prince William have stood as excellent examples for how to deal with a challenging pregnancy with grace, caution and common sense. From her early hospitalization for hyperemesis gravidarum to the tragedy that befell one of her nurses to managing official royal duties and straight on through her labor, birth and post-partum appearance these two have been nothing but elegant and exemplary.
See more: Hyperemesis gravidarum in royal spotlight >>
As they start their life as parents to the little prince, let's use their celebrity and instead of repeating what happens too often (magazine covers that grade "best" and "worse" celebrity parents and news headlines that pick at their every mistake), let's try something new. What if instead, this family is only shown positive support? What if we used that model on other new parents we know?
No matter who you are, royal or not, nothing rocks your sense of self and self-esteem like new parenting. With so much at stake and so much to learn, mothers and fathers do their best to take responsibility for an entirely new life (and they do it on limited sleep). Mothers learn to care for and raise their babies despite sore bottoms, bellies and nipples. Father's step into new roles and responsibilities in a world that portrays dads as incompetent and bumbling.
The kind of support new parents receive is crucial to how well they adapt. I've seen families where well-intentioned (or not) relatives criticize, correct and nag every little thing the new mother or father does. I've also seen families that nurture and praise and provide unconditional support. Guess which parents feel most confident. Guess which ones have the hardest time.
Here's my advice for how to support new parents:
1. Help mom to heal from birth and get back on her feet by taking care of the cooking, cleaning, laundry and care of her other children.
2. Support her to take care of her baby and herself, her way, even if it's not your way.
3. Don't over-instruct Dad as he learns to diaper, hold and swaddle his baby. He doesn't need to be told, "Hold baby's head." Dads know what they're doing.
4. Be available to help, but avoid offering advice unless it's asked for.
5. Let them learn to trust their own instincts.
6. Tell new parents how great they are. Tell them they're "naturals" and that they're the best parents their baby could have.
7. Act as a gatekeeper for friends and relatives who can't be supportive or who have their own agenda. That might be the aunt who specializes in worst-case stories of things that can go wrong or a friend who won't stop talking about how much she hated breastfeeding.
8. Be positive, nurturing, and helpful and know when to leave the new parents alone.
Here's my official statement for the new Royal Family: Great job, you two. You're off to an excellent start. You're going to love being parents.
Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Ore., with her husband and children. And co-author of, The Complete Illustrated Birthing Companion: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating the Best Birthing Plan for a Safe, Less Painful, and Successful Delivery for You and Your Baby. Got a question for Jeanne? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and it may be answered in a future blog post.
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