If you are a new(er) parent, this can be a scary time. With coronavirus news, you may be nervous and wondering what world did I bring my kid into? Your home may be chaotic with all the different things going on. Your mind may not be as clear as normal.
My daughter was born a few days before 911. We took her home from the hospital, and I remember holding her and sobbing, watching the twin towers collapse.
Years later, my son had a rare disease as a 1 year old, and had a 50% survival rate. Overwhelmed doesn’t begin to describe that feeling.
However, fast forward to today and both of my kids are okay. We averted the world catastrophes I had in my head, physical ailments beyond explanation - and there are lots of great memories to enjoy, and moments to laugh at.
While it might not seem possible to you right now, know that this too will pass. Keep loving on your kids.
And, if you are reading this, you already are a stellar parent. Parents who invest in bettering their skills and care about their kid’s outcomes are already doing an amazing job. Thank you for this contribution.
So, from one parent to another, here are eleven key things I learned parenting. Your mileage may vary.
Sure, I could sugar coat this and yes there are strategies to make this not as bad. However, being honest – you will never get the same amount or quality of sleep again, ever.
Your kids will do and say things that make you stop in your tracks, and realize it’s all worth it. Often these are small things they’ll say in the car, or a kind gesture they do, or often something funny. Be ready, they will come at all times and are one of the best parts of being a parent.
Similar to weddings, everyone else’s issues will come up. You’ll get advice from everyone on everything. It’s overwhelming. Ultimately, you decide your own path based on the information sources you value. Certainly, do your research and do your best to have an open mind – new great ideas are coming all the time. Then decide and do what’s right for you. If it doesn’t work out the way you wanted, decide again. You’ll be doing the right thing for your family, and you will do great.
The ability of kids to forgive your mistakes is amazing. They understand you are doing your best and idolize you more than you realize. You’ll make mistakes, and sometimes big ones. The best thing you can do is own up to them, and ask for forgiveness. This shows a model to your kids of how they should act when they make mistakes.
This took me a lot to totally understand and learn. On the surface, it seemed like a nice to have and one should “just get over it.” But, what if they can’t? There is 50+ years of brain science studies that show empathy has a major impact on physical health and mental health (Think:Kids). There are also studies that show, unchecked, stressors on kids have lifelong effects (CDC - ACES). Even if (or especially if) you don’t agree with your kids, hear them and let them know they are heard. This alone has worked miracles in my family.
The use of predictable structures and schedules makes a huge difference. Having wake-up routines, bedtime routines, and things happen near the same time give predictability to your family. While it may not be as fun and spontaneous as single life, you have other goals now. This helps with setting expectations, life skills, and family relationships more than you may expect. While it may seem controlling and freedom-crushing at first, it’s actually the exact opposite for a family.
Whatever it is, you’ll get through it. There will be some big things that you would never imagine yourself in. You’ll have awkward situations that you’ll later laugh it. Just know you will get through it. In the moment, it may not seem that way. Trust me, I’ve been in the Emergency Room, ICU, Principal’s Office, and so much more with my kids – and we all ended up okay. Do your best to remember that the event will pass, and you may even laugh at parts of it later.
One of my biggest mistakes was not receiving or asking for help. In my head, I had this invincible, I can do everything mindset. After a few months, it was obvious that there weren’t enough hours in the day for this. Think about where you may need help most – cleaning, yard work, sitting to get another extra hour of sleep, transport to/from activities – and strategize how you can make this happen.
Whether you are washing cars, doing yardwork, or cleaning house – include your kids with you. Yes, it will be slower at first and maybe even frustrating. However, before you know it, they will be capable of helping around the house with you, and it can even be fun. There are a ton of logistics to running a household, and having everyone help out makes a big difference. When it comes time for them to leave (it will happen, sorry), they will have life skills to manage their own household.
Put whatever you can into a college (or vocational school) fund now. Yes, money is tight and this is challenging. Make use of 529 plans that have tax advantages. The sooner you can put money into these, the better outcome for your kids 18 years later. Even if college is not their path, these plans support vocational schools and other paths.
For most of us, money management was not something we learned in school or from our parents. However, it’s a very important life skill. Teaching kids to set aside money for savings, donating, and purchases can start very early. There are lots of great models for this. I happened to use the Dave Ramsey plan that sets aside thirds from their allowance for savings, donating, and purchases. My son decided at an early age to set aside some of his birthday money for school. Yes, he still had fun with toys with some of it. He also was very proud that he put money into his bank account. My hope is he has a better head start, and avoids going into debt early.
You will have your own top eleven- and some of these might seem obvious or come natural for you. That’s totally fine and normal. Please make sure that you enjoy every moment with them – it goes way too fast. We’ll keep posting ideas and motivation on Rad Dad Rules to keep you encouraged.
Also know that if you come from love, and seek the best for your kids, they have phenomenal outcomes ahead of them.
You do too!
Chris has worked in tech for 30 years, and healthcare tech for 8 of those. He's on the advisory board of Harvard-Based Think:Kids, and runs Rad Dad Rules. He is the proud Dad of two awesome kids, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
Please log in again. The login page will open in a new tab. After logging in you can close it and return to this page.