Our parental skills begin with pregnancy (or afterwards in case of adoption) and go on until the the adulthood of our kid, supporting its emotional, intellectual, physical and financial development.
Being and becoming a parent is not an easy task, as no one really prepares us for it and usually we try to do our best using the example we experienced with our own parents.
All the phases of becoming a parent imply different psychological factors, that sometimes may be source of stress and anxiety, and can be difficult to deal with. As our role as parent is very delicate it is important to recognise if we have difficulties in achieving this role and ask for help when needed.
Pregnancy implies 9 months of many intense changes and thoughts.
The body of the woman keeps on changing and growing in order to host the new little creature, and for a limitate amount of time is not under her control.
Pregnancy is the moment of waiting and preparing mentally for the changes the the new born will bring and it can be associated with physical and psychological stress.
Sometimes contradictory emotions and worries can be present. Some worries may be related to the changing body and fear of the moment of the delivery; worries and expectations can invest as well the baby and his health, the couple and our ability of being a good mom.
Especially during pregnancy women fantasise about how the baby could be, about his physical features and about his temper. These nine months are very important for the couple to prepare mentally and also practically to the arrival of the baby.
If you want to know more about the effect of stress in pregnancy click here.
Giving birth and Post-partum
From the moment of the delivery, all the changes imagined and fantasised during pregnancy effectively come true. The new parents finally meet the fantasised baby who is often different from who they imagined.
They find themselves in the new role of being parents, of taking care of a little creature and trying to understand its signals and needs. Furthermore, a significant reorganisation of time-management and the couple habits are needed.
Western cultures often idealise becoming a parent as a moment connoted only by great joy and happiness.
But sometimes this image is very different from the feelings of the new mom, who may feel shaken and overwhelmed by these changes, these new responsibilities and the expectancies of others.
Post-partum, because of these psychological changes and of hormones fluctuations, is a moment of high risk for experiencing depression. Over 70% of women experience depressive but transient symptoms (the so-called baby blues), but around 20% of them develops a real post-partum depression, a severe condition that must be treated as soon as possible as it has severe consequences on the cognitive and emotional development of the kid and on the life of the woman.
Indeed risk factors are having already suffered from psychiatric problems, genetic predisposition, an unwanted pregnancy, relational problems with the partner, lack of social support, stressful life events.
If you want to know more about women and depression click here.
The arrival of the new born can be a source of stress for the new father as well. Lately researches have focused also on paternal postpartum depression, that interestingly seems as frequent as the maternal one; indeed the paternal role has become more and more active and important in the caring of the new kid.
The first years of the kid
The first years of the toddler are crucial for his cognitive and affective development, as these are the years where attachment gets established.
Attachment is that special bond that links the new mum and her kid and that allows the newborn to have its needs satisfied in order to survive and be protected from dangers.
Sure enough, the role of parents in their kids’ growth is teaching their kids to protect themselves, recognise dangers and apply self-defensive strategies. This means allowing their kids to experiment “dangers”, guiding them through and explaining them what is happening. For dangers I mean also little frustrations and the first limits.
Not exposing kids to little frustrations (appropriate for age and development abilities) may create children who will believe that the world is always a safe place, that they will always see their desires satisfied and that other people will always protect them; and this kind of belief will not help them to adapt to the real world.
Parents have the delicate role of finding a balance between protection and exposure to “dangers”, balance that must be continuously adjusted with the growth of the kid, its new-learned skills and its growing independence. Little by little the kid start exploring the world and the first separations can be difficult to deal with. If you want to know more about the guilt of being a working mother click here.
In finding this balance they should consider their kids’ “proximal zone of development”, that means that particular set of skills that can be trained and learned in a particular moment of the developmental stage of the kid. Parents should protect and confort their kid when he is not able to do it by himself and teach him how to self-confort, in order to become independently able to deal with his own emotions.
It is not an easy task understanding the toddlers abilities and skills; they are easily misinterpreted so it can happen to provide excessive unnecessary help or not providing it at all.
Repeated experiences of failing in interpreting the toddler needs and requests can influence the establishment of the attachment style.
If you want to know more about the types of attachment style click here.
Usually our parenting style is influenced by many factors, e.g. the attachment with the kid itself, social and familiar factors, and the parental style we experienced with our parents.
Knowing the impact of our early experiences in the way we relate to our kid is very important, as it can allow us to understand if a negative influence is present and change it through to an appropriate specialistic support.