It all begins with love—that powerful bond between you and your baby. A healthy attachment sets the stage for your baby’s healthy development. Such an attachment helps to shape your baby’s brain pathways. And the confidence he gains from this loving connection gives him the confidence he needs to try new things and acquire new skills. (He knows that he can return to the safety of your arms at any time, so he is willing to give in to his hard-wired curiosity and explore the world around him.) Just as it takes two to tango, it takes two to become attached. And, once that process begins, it takes on a life of its own.
Your baby becomes more and more attached to you as you become more and more attached to her.
Your baby learns to trust you, to communicate her feelings, and to trust in the world around her. She begins to learn about herself and to make sense of the give-and-take of relationships as a result of her interactions with you.
Bonding with your baby gives you a biological boost, too, triggering the release of energizing, feel-good endorphins that make it easier for you to cope with the sleep deprivation of the early weeks and months.
The Secrets of Less-Stressed-Out Parents
- Find your new village. Becoming a parent changes the entire landscape of your life. You’re going to need to be able to reach out to an entirely new set of people who speak your new language (the language of parenting) and who understand the joys and challenges that you are living with right now. These people will become your support network for at least the foreseeable future—say, the next 15 to 20 years.
- Continue to nurture your other relationships while you’re busy raising your kids. You may have to keep in touch with pre-kid friends and far-flung relatives by phone or Internet, or during once-a-year visits, but don’t let the priority relationships fall off your radar screen.
- Participate in the life of your community. Shop at your local farmers’ market. Purchase tickets to your community children’s theatre. Take advantage of family resource programs and “Y” programs in your community. Make friends with other families with young children and eat dinner at one another’s houses. You will feel so much more rooted and so much less alone. (Isolation breeds stress. Isolation is the enemy.)
- Rethink the way you use the space in your home. Is it family-friendly? How could you use each room differently so that the space supports your family’s needs at this stage of child rearing? (It is so stressful to feel like you are constantly at war with your own living environment.)
- Be clear about what matters most to your family and be a family that lives by what it believes (giving back to the community, spending time together, making your home a welcoming space for family and friends). Living in sync with your values brings you a sense of peace.
- Have realistic expectations of your children as they move through each age and stage. If you know what types of behaviour are age-appropriate, you’ll be a more empathetic and less stressed-out parent.
- Recognize that parenting is an ongoing opportunity for personal growth. That way, you won’t expect yourself to have all the answers upfront. (No parent does.) Learn what you can about a particular parenting challenge, talk to your friends about how they handled similar situations, and make the best possible decision, given what you know about your child. And forgive yourself if Plan A doesn’t quite work out the way you had hoped. (That’s why Plan B was invented.)
- Nurture yourself—mind, body and soul—as often as you can. And don’t forget that there is more to you than your parenting self. Make a date to reconnect with that part of yourself that was passionate about such- and-such before you had kids. Spend some time doing that thing. Have a picture in your head about your hopes and dreams for your child, your family and yourself; and think about what it will take to create that kind of life. You’re in a wonderful place to be musing over these possibilities. You’re at the very beginning of this journey.