In the last column I wrote of the importance of being healthy in all ways before you consider having children; in this column I am taking for granted that you have followed that advice, and you are emotionally, financially, mentally, and physically ready to have a child. Once you and your spouse have made this decision there are a great many things to think about and do in addition to gathering all the “baby things” such as a crib, stroller, car seat, etc.
Before you and your spouse become pregnant, take a basic First Aid class and a CPR class from our local Red Cross. These classes are good to have for any number of emergencies big and small, and will provide a small piece of mind during those nervous first few months of parenthood. Obviously you will take child birthing classes either doctor’s office will recommend or through the hospital you will deliver in.
Either while still trying to become pregnant, or right after, take a parenting class. Not because you will be a bad parent on your own, but because you will be a better parent for having done so. There are a number of parenting classes offered in Coeur D’ Alene such as the classes provided by the Region II Family Resource Center (800) 393-7290. There are now even classes just for Dads, such as the “Idaho Dads Matter” program.
There are a number of Internet sites to provide help as well: www.parenthood.com, www.parenting.org, www.familyeducation.com, www.christianitytoday.com/parenting, are just a few that a Google search will provide. These websites give detailed parenting advice on everything from conception to college. You can also dial 1-800-448-3000 for parenting help 24/7 from the Girls and Boys Town National Hotline.
Make sure you eat well, do not drink alcohol or smoke, get plenty of rest, and do as the doctor suggests. I realize for many people this seems as though my advice is common sense and therefore does not bear repeating, but I assure you far too many parents ignore this simple, basic advice, and in doing so fail to give their child the best start possible.
Contact with your child; hugging, holding, kissing, talking to, reading with, playing with and just plain spending time with, cannot be done too much. Early childhood research shows it is impossible to “spoil” a baby with too much attention. In fact, children who are given more attention have lower stress levels, better dispositions and less separation anxiety than children who receive less. Take it from someone about to send his oldest off to college; childhood goes by in a blink, do not take one minute of it for granted.
Ensure you go to the doctor for well baby checks and all childhood immunizations. Childhood diseases have largely been eradicated in this country, let’s all do our part to keep them that way and our children healthy.
If you are attending to your parenting duties correctly you will find it more work than you could possibly have imagined (and no, from my experience it never gets easier, just different); however if you have prepared properly, not only will you find your job easier, you will be rewarded with incredible joy. For additional help or advice do not hesitate to email me or any of the resources I have listed here.