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Moms and Dads: Celebrating the Continued Expanding Roles as Parents

By Dr. Jay Greenfeld

It has come to that time where I gracefully take the reins from my esteemed partner, Dr. Cathy Moser and begin my contributions to the Winnipeg Parent. As Dr. Cathy had indicated in her farewell article, my wife and I are welcoming a new baby into this world. As our family grows it leads me to expand on my line of thinking when speaking with parents of all ages and how much is involved when parenting children of different ages and abilities. Regardless of how easy or hard it may have been with the first child, no two children are alike and responding to them in the same way can often create many challenges. For me, it is an interesting experience to truly start from the beginning and transition to an expanding family. Although I applaud my wife for her extraordinary child baring abilities over the last nine months, now the real test for me, begins during labor and delivery... and every single day after that. There are feelings of excitement wrapped with nerves and uncertainties as to how I will respond to the new role on the team. The new role of parenting and taking on an infant begins even before the arrival. I want to protect this child like any other parent and would make every effort to do what is best, right out of the starting gates. Of course we want to protect our children from as much as we can while also creating opportunity within our means. As my role evolves, I have learned and will continue to learn many valuable aspects of modifying that role. I have learned that establishing important boundaries and setting appropriate limits in helping my children transition through the world is constantly evolving.

I have learned and often shared with other parents the value of making sure your children are not given everything regardless of what their classmates and friends may receive. If we provide them with everything they will quickly forget how to earn something, how to work for something they want, and how to appreciate what they have. Giving them everything without hesitating, takes away their hunger to strive for more and put forth that extra effort. Without creating the space for children to work for that extra step it can diminish their desire to spend that extra 10 minutes finishing the homework assignment, running that extra lap, reading that extra chapter, or dare I even say it, unload the dishwasher without complaining. To help empower our children from birth is to let them know the importance of earning what they want by working for it and in a scary way, it starts during infancy. It is important that as parents, firm boundaries and guidelines are not just set but more so followed consistently. Without the consistency the children will take advantage of anyone they can, even when you might question, their ability to do so at a very young age. Children are negotiating from the moment they come home from the hospital and I have found that as parents it is important to see that early and make sure anyone involved in raising the children aware of that pattern.

Although negotiating firm boundaries starts early, ensuring you are and continue to be the parent remains a constant. As much as we want to instill a strong work ethic in our children throughout their lives, that often emerges with knowing what they can get away with and what they cannot. So, although it may be difficult to hear an infant crying and screaming, there is an appropriate time and place to set those limits as they learn to transition through each early stage of life. If your infant is having a hard time sleeping, the impact on the rest of the house will be tenfold. I would encourage soft ear plugs if needed for one partner so at least one of you is able to have energy the next day to function. Moreover, if sleep training is an option, I would explore that, so the infant learns very quickly what the routine is. Because even though we may think they are tiny infants they are not retaining much, their patterns learned from an early age often stay with them for years to come.

So, similarly it would be ideal to give our children everything they want when they want it, the key is to pay attention right from the beginning and establish the limits you want to provide, knowing that it may be slightly different for each child. Create that loving, consistent environment that you decide on which includes having them remain hungry to succeed and go after what they want; their first efforts to crawl, their first steps, their first words, their first book, or their first bike ride. Whatever it may be, playing the role of a parent, especially a new parent, be it mother or father-there are no instructions regardless of the thousands of books on Amazon. Even if we read all the books, we will still not know everything in between. The everything comes from lived experience, how we pay attention to what others do or do not do, what we learn from the parents around us (directly and indirectly), how often we check in with ourselves, and how often we remember to take time for ourselves as our roles continue to change. Unfortunately there are no sick days from parenting; no days off. As hard as that may be to digest, I know with the nerves and excitement each child will bring into my life, it can easier to embrace when the influence is apparent. As you celebrate Mother's Day and Father's Day, enjoy every lasting moment and try not to see their world through your phone but rather through shared experience. As this new experience begins for me and our family expands, I applaud the mothers and fathers out there who hang their capes up at the end of each day. I hope that you can celebrate your role in the lives of the people you are helping prepare for the future... while living in the present moment every single day.

Dr.Jay Greenfeld is a Clinical Psychologist with an extensive background working with children, adolescents, college students and adults with a variety of presenting concerns. He is a lecturer on Stress Management and Well-Being, with research primarily focusing on integrating exercise and other health-related behaviors into everyday life. He can be reached at Mind Matters Clinic at 204-477-8555

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