Top Ten Tips for New Parents
First-time parents are surprised to find that the addition of one (or more) exquisite, small, and helpless person(s)
can make them feel joyful and competent one moment, and small and helpless themselves the next. It is not unusual
to see fatigue, fear, and self-doubt co-exist with pride, unsurpassed love, and hope.
For over thirty years, The Freedman Center staff and New Parents Groups Facilitators have provided support for first-time
moms and dads. Their experience shows that parenthood is the great equalizer; all new parents, regardless of
circumstance, share a remarkably similar journey. The following Top Ten Tips, time-tested by the Freedman Center, have
helped thousands of parents begin that journey successfully.
- Expect stress. Becoming a parent is a major life transition. All transitions, no matter
how eagerly anticipated, are accompanied by some degree of stress. And despite
our best preparations, we may have to adjust our plans as we go along.
- Join a new parents group. It doesn't have to be specific to your life situation.
Single moms, adoptive parents, new dads, two-mom families, parents of multiples, traditional
couples...all first-time parents experience the same basic joys and concerns.
You'll make new friends and find non-judgmental support. And the old saying is true: a
shared happiness is doubled and a shared worry is cut in half.
- Accept help. Don't try to be super-mom or -dad. Neighbors, relatives, friends, and/
or co-workers are often delighted to help, if you let them know what you need. Just
having an hour to sleep, shower, or take a walk while someone you trust cares for your
infant can give you a much-needed lift.
- Believe in yourself. You DO know what's best for your baby. Sort through the mountains of advice
you'll receive from friends, relatives, strangers, doctors, magazines, and parenting blogs. Try out new ideas
that sound good to you. Toss the rest.
- Forgive yourself. You're going to make mistakes. We all do. Nobody has all the answers, and even the "experts" often disagree about "what's best for baby."
- Lower your expectations of yourself. Remember that you have a new baby depending on you for
every need. Let go of any guilt caused by unfinished chores. It is important to take time for yourself and
spend time with your family.
- Ask questions. No matter how much we know about children and about our pre-baby selves, we all
have to learn how to be parents. Be open to surprises; you may find yourself changing some of your preconceived
notions about parenthood!
- Remember who you used to be. Some new parents feel they shouldn't miss their former
"carefree" selves. It's normal to mourn the past, even when the present is full. Ask your pre-baby
friends to stay in touch and be patient while you adjust to your new life. When the time is right,
return to some of your former hobbies and activities. In the meantime, celebrate the new, evolving
- If you have a partner, remember that that relationship and that person is evolving,
too. Try to spend some meaningful time together. Respect each other's parenting style. Talk
about your hopes and fears. Babies benefit from different types of loving interactions.
- Enjoy your baby. While a night spent with a colicky infant can seem endless, the childhood
years actually pass very quickly. Every time your child achieves another exciting milestone, it
means he/she has taken one more tentative yet eager step away from babyhood and you have
taken one more step toward becoming a confident, experienced parent. Relax. Breathe. Enjoy.
Carolyn Curtis-Mahoney, Freedman Center at MSPP staff writer and
author of the children's book
I Took the Moon for a Walk.