A baby is a bundle of joy. Parents are excited and filled with love for this new journey and want it to be perfect. They feel protective and possessive about their newborn.
A child comes into this world with a family, well-wishers, and lots of advice!
Amma says, “We cannot allow a baby to cry to sleep. They need to be carried and soothed”., An aunt says, “Children will not eat properly, we need to distract and feed them”.
Appa says, “A child should be obedient, so a whack is sometimes needed.”
Young parents get advice from family, their doctor and information from apps and links. This leaves them confused. They wonder which way to go and what is right. Whose advice do they trust?
These different views lead to the situation we described in last week’s article where there are clashes between parents and grandparents. Should young parents follow what the elders say or look for advice based on the information around them? There is no one right path. Fortunately for us, now there is so much research done on child and brain development which was not available to the earlier generations. It can help us decide the way forward.
How can we take decisions?
Amma said a baby needs to be attended to when she cries. Today there are some who suggest that we need to allow babies to sleep by themselves. and not soothe them even if they cry. Many parents may follow this thinking it the right way. Yet if we look at scientific research there is evidence that a baby who is left to cry for long will feel insecure and his brain will go into alarm mode which is detrimental to the child’s development.
In the same vein, research has shown that hitting children is harmful as toxic stress hormones are released. Hitting affects the self-esteem of the child as well as the relationship between a parent and child.
Family members may say, it's best to distract and feed the child but experts tell us how this does not help a child build a healthy attitude to food. The age-old practice of sitting together and eating as a family is a better way to encourage the child to eat. So, we can see through these examples that it is neither the older generation nor information going around which is always right. Some traditions may be helpful and some not. Decisions need to be taken based on scientific facts.
We tend to forget that both grandparents and parents love and want what's best for the baby. The child would benefit most when the knowledge and experiences of both the generations are used.
A way forward
First, a parent, can become aware of their own fears, desires, and needs. This self-work along with the knowledge of reading up on the subject, can lead to having frank discussions with elders. These discussions can be done with a sense of curiosity, of wanting to learn from the older generation and having an open exchange of ideas. Let us not get into a clash of egos about who knows best but choose what to do based on solid information about what benefits the child. It's also important for parents to tune in to their own child and follow their instincts which will help them figure out what is right for their child.
Children thrive when they grow up under the influence of a wide circle of people. An involved grandparent is helpful to the child. And the parent too gets support in this important task of parenting. Our lifestyles are changing, and although we may be moving away from joint families still a grandparent’s heart beats for their grandchildren. There is a saying “It takes a village to raise a child”. Grandparents are an integral part of that village for our precious child and let’s keep in mind that our children are ours and theirs too.
Author: Sunitha.R, is a certified parent educator with Parenting Matters, an organization which empowers parents to build deeper connection in families.