In a world where the average age of first time parents has increased to 30, there are still many who choose to start a family of their own at a considerably younger age. Regardless of whether it is planned or otherwise, starting a family is an exciting and scary time is your life — at this time, you will do well to take in all of the advice that you can get.
You will receive a lot of advice as you go through pregnancy, as well as the early years of your child's life — some more helpful than others. Ultimately, it is up to you as the parent to decide on what you feel is best. From pregnancy to childbirth to picking the best school for your son and/or daughter, we have put together a survival guide for the young parent.
1. Pregnancy — Stay clean and don't stress
If you have recently found out that you are expecting, then congratulations! At this point, you will be feeling equal amounts of excitement and fear, but that's perfectly normal. This most important thing is not to become too stressed, especially in the first trimester as the baby is at its most vulnerable stage of development. Miscarriages are most common in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, so remember to eat and drink clean (no alcohol) and try to cut back on heavy lifting as soon as possible.
Pregnancy, however, doesn't mean you cannot do anything and you should try to keep as active as possible. Remember that a healthy mother equals a healthy baby. Take your vitamins (folic acid is recommended, especially in the early weeks of pregnancy) and get lots of rest.
2. Birth and early years
For a long time it can feel as though giving birth is a long way off and, before you know it, the baby is on its way. It is normal for mothers (not just first-time mothers) to be very nervous ahead of childbirth, but rest assured that you will be given all of the help and support you need. You will be in the care of professionals that are trained for this exact scenario and have delivered hundreds, if not thousands, of healthy babies.
After birth, you are left with your beautiful, new-born baby that you will love and take care of. In baby's early years it's true, your sleeping patterns will be wrecked with cries at 4 a.m. You did the same to your parents, now it's your turn to get up in the middle of the night.
Do not be afraid of asking for help from friends and family, even if it is just to look after the baby for an hour here or there. They will be there for you and, if they have kids of their own, will completely understand your position. The worst thing you can do is to feel as though you have to take everything on yourself. Also, pay no attention to the sizes of baby clothes — a top for a three-month-old likely isn't going to fit a three-month-old. Always buy bigger, because even if the baby doesn't fit in it right now, it will only be a matter of time until they do. This way, you can save yourself a lot of money in the long-run.
3. Nursery and school age
It can feel as though you have only blinked before your baby is no longer baby and is ready to move up to school! That means it's time to properly assess the establishment you are entrusting with your precious child.
Familiarise yourself with the nursery/school's policies and ask as to what they have to offer children in the way of extracurricular activities, welfare and support and exercise. You would much rather your son or daughter is given the opportunity to play outside on playground equipment (see here for an example of what a school should offer) rather than kept indoors.
When it comes to letting them go, rather than sitting at home worrying about them until it's time to pick them up, make yourself busy. Detachment can be difficult for parents when they have been accustom to spending every hour of every day with their child, but this is normal. Use this time to be productive or to take time for yourself because, as a parent, you need to take every chance that you can get!
The best piece of advice that can be given to any new parent is to not be afraid to make mistakes because they are unavoidable. Learn from those mistakes and, ultimately, just enjoy the beautiful gift of parenthood. It will be over before you know it as your once tiny little baby becomes a fully-fledged member of society.