Welcoming a new child into the family is exciting, especially if you have experienced a lot of frustration and disappointment in the process of becoming a parent. However, parenthood also involves significant new responsibilities to preserve the child’s health and well-being. While it may seem counterintuitive, one of the best things you can do to promote the health of your children is to take sufficient care of yourself. Exhaustion, stress, and illness can take their toll on your ability to parent effectively. Here are some tips for taking care of yourself before and after the child arrives.
1. Make Use of the Time You Have
You may be pregnant and expecting to give birth to your child or you may have received adoption help to find a child who was initially born into another family. In either case, the process usually takes some time. This is to your advantage because it gives you a chance to make a plan for dealing with all the changes that are about to take place in your life.
It would be impossible to anticipate all the changes that becoming a parent will bring about, and it would probably be unwise to try. While your plan should be flexible on the little variables, there are big changes that come to almost every family. For example, how will you manage work-life balance? How will you and your partner divide up household chores? What will you do to prepare financially? These are things you should take into consideration during the period before the new child arrives.
2. Maintain Hand Hygiene
If you are already washing your hands often, this is a habit you should continue after your child arrives. If not, this is a habit you should adopt before the arrival. Washing your hands or using hand sanitizer before handling a newborn or playing with an older child not only helps prevent you from getting sick, it also helps to prevent the spread of germs to your child. The younger your child, the more important this is because a baby’s immune system is not yet fully developed.
3. Practice Good Sleep Habits
Exhaustion due to lack of sleep can negatively affect many aspects of your life that are important to effective parenting, including alertness, judgment, and mood. Nevertheless, getting enough sleep as a parent can be a challenge, especially if your child is a newborn who requires attention every few hours. Developing good sleep habits helps everyone, not only parents, get the rest they need to be able to function in their daily lives. If your sleep habits aren’t healthy now, the time prior to your child’s arrival gives you an opportunity to improve.
General sleep hygiene tips include avoiding electronics, such as computers and phones, right before bed and avoiding stimulants like caffeine that tend to keep your body alert. As the parent of a newborn, you should take additional measures, such as sleeping while the baby sleeps and deferring housework until your baby’s sleep schedule balances out. If you don’t feel that you can stand a dirty house, you can always ask friends and family members to help out.
4. Don’t Neglect Your Relationship With Your Partner
Becoming a parent means new roles for yourself and your partner. Changes such as these can put stress on a relationship. Conflict between parents can be extremely detrimental to children’s emotional and psychological health. Before the child arrives, you and your partner should talk about the changes you are about to go through and how you are going to adapt. After the child’s arrival, you should also continue to carve out time for you and your spouse to spend quality time alone together and keep the lines of communication open.
Remember that there is no such thing as a perfect parent, so don’t expect too much of either yourself or your partner. Be patient and learn to forgive the mistakes you will undoubtedly make once your child arrives and as he or she grows up. Your children do not need perfection from you, only your wholehearted love and absolute commitment.