July 13, 2005
Having a child is a major lifestyle realignment that can be very stressful. Dr. Phil offers advice on how to make the transition smooth for both parents and how to be the best you can be in your new role as a parent.
Parenthood is a life decision.
Recognize that you may be resistant to giving in to the changes that occur with parenthood. Embrace the challenges instead of resisting them.
Make a shift in priorities.
It’s not just about you anymore. You have a powerful role as a parent in your child’s life. Make a life decision that your child is going to have a parent who is plugged in.
It is important that a child has both parents in his/her life.
Each parent plays an important role in the child’s development. Although mothers tend to be the primary parent in a child’s life, fathers need to expand their definition of success as a man to include what kind of father they are and what kind of connection they have with their children. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “The mere presence of a father is far less important than the nature of his involvement with his children. When fathers play a visible and nurturing role in their children’s lives, the children have better emotional and social outcomes and are more likely to have stronger coping and adaptation skills, be better equipped to solve problems, stay in school longer, have longer-lasting relationships and have a higher work productivity.”
The most powerful role model in a child's life is the same-sex parent.
It is imperative that this parent has a strong, positive presence in the child's life. A child's personality is largely formed by the age of 5. The early years are very critical because the child is looking to the same-sex parent and modeling him/her. The child picks up voice intonation, as well as whether the parent really values time together. Whether the child feels special or not comes from both parents but especially the same-sex parent.
Life is about choices.
Weigh all the costs. When you make a choice, there are costs in other places. If you choose to make your home life a priority, then there may be sacrifices professionally and socially. Likewise, if you choose to spend most of your time at work, your home life may suffer. Children are demanding. If protecting your home life means you can't work 70 hours a week, then you may need to make changes.
Don't bring baggage into your current life.
No matter how legitimate your pain may be from a prior situation, don't carry those bags into your current lifestyle. Heal those painful feelings and get closure on it, or you will contaminate your current life.
Make emotional deposits.
People are like bank accounts. If all we ever do is make withdrawals, we'll wind up emotionally bankrupt. You can't give away what you do not have. If you're not emotionally available to your child, you're cheating him/her. Make taking care of yourself a gift to your child.
Children mirror what they are exposed to.
If they are exposed to stress, tension, frustration, or anger, they will mirror that behaviorally as well as internally. They reflect what they experience.
Make a priority to nurture your relationship as husband and wife.
Leave the children with a babysitter for an evening and spend some time together. The greatest gift you can give your child is to nurture the relationship with his/her parents.
Taking care of a child as well as other duties, such as caring for the household, can be exhausting. If you sense your spouse is frustrated, stressed or tired, treat him/her to a day off while you take care of the children.