Parenting Advice: Why You Should Seek It
The idea of seeking parenting advice seems like a no brainer for many of us and you might wonder why I would write an article on the subject. The fact is that many parents think that asking for help around issues of parenting indicates that on some level they are not worthy of being parents, and further, they believe that "good parents" should be able to figure out parenting problems by themselves.
It should just come naturally. You've heard women talk about how becoming a mother is a natural instinct and when the baby is born, you have this automatic natural bond that is forever! True in some cases, but not in all cases nor should the expectation be that everyone steps into parenthood with ease, commitment, and the knowledge of how to be a good parent. It's just not that way.
In reality, parenting is a huge responsibility. Anyone who is a parent knows that it's nothing like they thought it would be. Even if you've read all of the best parenting books, were the oldest child in your family and had lots of practice with caretaking, or have worked with kids in some way either as part of your job or as a volunteer – you still were probably not ready for the intensity of involvement that parenting would demand of you. This is an experience that truly cannot be fully appreciated until felt first hand. It is an awesome responsibility that stretches you in ways you would not have imagined. So where and how do you seek parenting advice and what should you look for? Here are the categories I would recommend.
#1 One-on-One Parenting Advice
One-on-one parenting advice is best when you have specific questions or problems that you need help resolving. There are any number of resources you can use for this including pediatricians, counselors, teachers, family members, and friends. Start by making a list of all the possible one-on-one resources that are available to you and identify what kinds of problems they can address. If there are particular issues you cannot link to a mentor or resource, list these also as you will want to come back to these and do some research to fill in the gaps. Here are a few of the obvious resources you can tap for parenting advice along with kinds of issues they can address.
Your pediatrician is the person you can turn to for issues related to wellness, child development, illness and disease, and preventative measures that will ensure your child's health and physical well-being. Pediatricians can also be helpful when your child begins to ask questions about sex. Most have a great little booklet that provides education about sex and pregnancy that is fairly easy to understand, factual, and devoid of any particular value system. The value aspect is left up to you as a parent as it should be. Your pediatrician should be fairly accessible. Many pediatricians have a nurse practitioner on staff who is an invaluable resource to help you with questions and problems. If you find that you don't have enough access to your pediatrician to answer questions that are of concern to you, then you might consider finding one that better suits your needs.
A teacher can help you with educational and learning issues. Problems with learning style, processing, speech, and academic success are all issues you can discuss with teachers or other school staff such as the guidance counselor or specialists assigned to deal with particular problems. I highly recommend that you keep in touch with your child's teachers beginning in preschool all the way through high school. Some teachers are not as accessible as others, but make the effort to meet all of them and establish relationships with those that will work with you. This is important even if you child protests. In reality, children do much better academically (and overall) if parents are very involved in their lives. School is where our children spend a good deal of their waking hours. You should know what goes on there, what problems occur, what is learned both academically and socially, and how your child is doing in all of those areas. Sometimes a guidance counselor can be of great help, especially for problems that are more social in nature. Do not hesitate to ask to meet all school personnel including principals. You have that right and need to be and stay involved. Most teachers will welcome your involvement.
This group of mental health professionals can help you with problems related to behavior and mood as well as issues around attention, social functioning, relationships, and overall psychological well-being. You can also access one-on-one guidance with specific parenting problems. Psychologists can provide a battery of tests that can tell you where your child excels, where they are having some difficulties, how they are functioning intellectually, and what emotional issues are of concern. Counselors and Psychotherapists can also help with assessing emotional problems, as well as help work toward their resolution. There is sometimes a negative stigma attached to the idea of seeking counseling or psychotherapy. Although there has been a great deal of improvement in that regard today, still many people feel that counseling is for "crazy people" or people who are "weak." Actually, the opposite is true. It takes strength and insight to seek out help for mental health issues, so make sure to take advantage of this if need be. Counseling is good for everyone, even those who feel they have it all together. One last note, make use of counseling for yourself if you find that you are overwhelmed or having emotional problems. Friends and family can be a good ear, but a counselor is a third party who won't judge you and who has experience in solving these kinds of problems. If your marriage is in trouble, by all means seek counseling. A stable marriage is important for your children as well as for yourself.
Friends and Family
Friends and family can give you the benefit of their own experience in solving problems that you find yourself faced with on a day to day basis. If you liked the parenting styles of your parents, then they can be a great resource to give you parenting advice on specific issues. Friends also may have already worked through a problem you are facing and can both give advice and lead you in the right direction to get additional help.
One-on-one parenting advice is extremely important and the sooner a parent begins to put together a group of possible mentors and helpers, the better. We are not meant to raise our children alone contrary to the expectations we often feel coming from our culture.
#2 Parent Support
Parent support overlaps some with one-one-one parenting advice as there is a large element of support in the advice we receive from others. At the same time, parent support is a much broader category that encompasses both practical and emotional support. Parent support includes all those activities that aid us in the day to day care of our children. Parent support comes to us from family, friends, babysitters, daycare workers, neighbors, play date groups, parent support groups and anyone who gives us help with basic caretaking responsibilities.
Having a good babysitter that you can rely on when you need to do something or go somewhere without the kids is invaluable. It's good to have several that you and your kids both like. Make sure to do your research ahead of time as to the qualifications of the babysitters you use. If you are choosing teens, you should meet their parents, know a good deal about them personally, and make sure they are responsible and know what to do in case of an emergency. Many teens take a babysitting course today which is good preparation. Just knowing that you have someone you can call on when you need to do something without the kids or just get away for awhile is emotionally soothing.
A good daycare worker who is attached to your child and watches out for his best interests when you're not around is very reassuring. If you use daycare of any kind, again do your research and seek out a center with good credentials, licensing, and recommendations from other parents. Find a teacher at the center who is involved regularly with your child and establish a communicative relationship with her. Check in with her at least several times a week to see how your child is doing. You want a single person your child can attach to who is her security when you are not there. By communicating regularly with that person, you will help to foster that relationship for your child.
Parent Support Group
A parent support group gives you a venue where you can talk about specific problems you may be having with your children or teens, while also receiving emotional support. This support element is invaluable to us as parents. All of us need someone or some way to share the stresses involved in being a parent. Parenting advice is important, but support for the parent is equally important. Parent support groups really do offer both. You are in the presence of other parents who understand what you are talking about and who have similar feelings and experiences.
A family member such as a parent or sibling who is willing to spend time with your child can be very helpful and has the added bonus of widening your child or teen's sense of family and belonging. Kids know when they are with a family member. It broadens and strengthens the sense of connection while also providing a sense of individual heritage and history. Family members tell stories. They paint emotional pictures with their words that kids internalize as part of themselves. When a family member helps with babysitting, or goes on outings with you, or simply comes to the house to give you some adult conversation or a brief respite, you get some relief while your child extends his sense of who is. It is a double-good whammy!
Parent support is in my mind a necessary ingredient in the parenting equation and many parents struggle with not having enough of it. In my home community, there is an organization called GainesvilleMoms.com that is by and large a community parent support organization that provides parents with some of the support outlets I have mentioned. Look for something like this in your community if you are struggling with not having enough support. Do not feel that you should go it alone. You may have to reach out a bit, but it will be worth it to you to establish some supportive connections.
#3 Parenting Books
"Parenting books" really belongs under the larger category of parenting education. I emphasize books because I believe all parents should read and keep handy favorite books that can provide information on a variety of parenting related subjects, as well as on-the-spot parenting advice for specific problems. I kept a small library handy as my son was growing up so that I could read, reread, and refer to particular books as needed.I also like to write in books and underline parts I want to read again which comes in handy when you go to look something up you know you've read before.
I especially advise you to get books on child development all the way from infancy through adolescence. You will find yourself referring to these books time and time again as your children move through the different phases of development. Sometimes just knowing something is in the range of normalcy or is to be expected is quite relieving when trying to assess a behavior. For suggestions, take a look at the resource section on our website. We have recommended books by category.
At the very least, you should read a book in each of the following areas:
- Child and/or Adolescent Development
- Parent-Child Relationship/Communication
- Behavior and Discipline
- Moral Development
- Diet and Nutrition
Other books are useful for specialized interests such as ADHD, stepfamilies, sleep issues, play, activities and so forth.
In addition to parenting books, I also recommend that you make use of parenting websites, newsletters, classes, seminars, lectures and any other type of educational offering that will help you learn and assimilate information that will aid you in your parenting endeavors. Contrary to the notion that parents know instinctively how to parent, the truth is that there is a great deal we do not know. Experience is the way we learn, however, informed experience through the use of parenting education, support and advice is necessary and optimal.