The Difficult Years of Parenting: Tips & Suggestions To Succeed

Anitha | November 01, 2022

man in white shirt carrying boy

A few parenting difficulties are pervasive in both time and place; the ability to provide food, shelter and protection is, for example, a fundamental challenge to all parents, irrespective of the time in which children are being raised, or the geographic location.  Other challenges depend upon the society in which the child is being raised, and the age of the child.   The modern age of digitization and global connectivity, brings with it a whole gamut of new challenges to parenting. The argument of Louise Hart, a famous community psychologist, of “doing unto your children as you wish your parents had done unto you” may not be valid anymore because our children are being raised in an era very different from the one in which we ourselves were raised.  

So, what is a parent to do in these challenging times?  

As with any query we raise in life, the search engine overloads us from information from a multitude of perspectives – from parents, teachers, doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and religious groups. We have distilled some of the best tips from all around and given them below for quick reference. 

Infants and Toddlers – 0 to 3 years

The first three years of life are full of developmental milestones in terms of both physical and mental growth. The physical growth of the baby is obvious at a daily level, but what’s
more subtle, but incredibly rapid is the growth of the child’s brain functions; 90% of the brain growth in human beings happens in the first five years of life. While it is indeed fascinating to see a baby grow, caring for infants and toddlers can also be exhausting.

Some common challenges that new parents face in raising infants and toddlers are:

  • Exhaustion from labor, delivery, and breastfeeding

  • Sleep deprivation due to round-the-clock tending to the baby

  • Anxiety about the baby’s safety; this is particularly intense for first-born babies.

  • Tackling feeding issues in the baby

  • Absence of time and energy for intimacy with the significant other

  • Absence of social life

  • Challenges in managing career while caring for the baby

  • Issues with body image

  • Hormonal fluctuations that can lead to psychiatric issues

  • Possible sibling rivalries

  • Possible developmental problems in the baby

Some simple tips to face and overcome the challenges of infanthood and toddler hood include: 

  • Availing of help from partner, extended families, friends, or even paid domestic help can help prevent over work and resulting overwhelm. It takes a village to raise a child, and there’s nothing wrong in asking for help.

  • It helps to sleep when the baby sleeps, but in many cases, especially when the parents must work inside or outside of home, such spaced sleep may not be possible. In such cases, duty sharing between partners and even assigning child care duties like diaper changes to older siblings can help the new parents get enough sleep.

  • It helps to remember that the humankind has always procreated and taken care of babies, and to a large extent, babies turn out fine. Being careful is different frombeing paranoid and catastrophizing helps no one. Talk to a partner, family member or friend to get perspective. Get professional help if the anxiety is unmanageable.

  • If the baby can’t breastfeed, ask your pediatrician to recommend a good formula. If the toddler is a picky eater, try feeding her a variety of food items to see whichclicks. Try a variety of fruits, vegetables and unprocessed food items. It takes enormous patience to feed a picky eater (as this author knows from experience).Again, avail of help – ask someone else to feed the child once a while to give you a break from the frustration of feeding the reluctant child.

  • Physical intimacy may be the furthest from your mind when there is so much to do for and around the baby, but it’s important to allocate time for your romantic partner, if present. Find someone to take care of the baby for a few hours as you go out on a date. The first time is always the hardest, with you wondering if the baby is alright. But this is the age of communication, and if there is a problem the caretaker would contact you. So, just enjoy the time with your significant (or even insignificant) other for a couple of hours without worrying.

  • Body image problems can be overcome by simply being kind to yourself. Having a child either biologically or through adoption can be intensely draining both physically and emotionally. Take time to care for yourself. Eat healthy food. Try to get some form of exercise – even a walk in the park with the baby in the perambulator can give you some fresh air, sunshine, and movement.

  • In case of psychiatric problems such as postpartum depression, consult a psychiatrist for therapy and treatment. Mental health issues are exactly like physical health issues and must be treated by a competent health professional.
  • WHO recommends that Infants under one should interact in floor-based play — or;tummy time; — for at least an hour each day, toddlers should spend at least three hours in a variety of physical activities spread across the day, and that children shouldn’t be restrained in a pram or highchair, or strapped to someone's back, for more than an hour at a time.

Tips for the digital era: Digital exposure is certainly the most important in this era of rampant digitization. Many parents plonk the child in front of a television, or a computer show to distract them when they eat. Computers, tablets, and smart phones have become the nannies and babysitters in many households. This can be catastrophic in that it reduces the attention span of children as they grow and prevent the child from learning to control impulses and have empathy. WHO recommends that babies under 2 don’t have any screen time at all and those in the ages of 2-4 do not have more than one hour of screen time a day. 

Preschool – 3-5 years

The sleep is better now, and most children are weened of breast feed by now. However, this phase brings with it new challenges as the child attends pre/play school:

  • Separation anxiety

  • Aggression/tantrums

  • Eating problems

  • Toilet training problems

  • Learning problems

  • Boredom

  • Social interaction issues

Some tips to handle these challenges are:

  • Practice short-term separation before launching on a full-scale pre-school separation to get the child used to the fact that it’s ok for mom and dad to not be around all the time.

  • Introduce a caregiver gradually so that the child gets comfortable with them.

  • Talk about plans of activities you’ll do together so that the child does not feel abandoned.

  • Stay calm and don’t give in to tantrums and aggressive behaviour. This is easier said than done because pre-schoolers can certainly know how to press your buttons. Identify triggers that lead to tantrums or aggressive behaviour and help the child learn to tackle them. For example, if leaving the house leads to tantrums, start early, and tell the child that you are going out much ahead of actually leaving so that the child is used to the idea. This is hard, and if needed avail of counselling to help you deal with the situation.

  • Different children respond to toilet training at different times. You being ready to potty train does not mean that the child is to. It’s best to ease into potty training and not force the child into it. It helps to remember that there has not been an adult yet who has not been toilet trained – she’ll learn at her own time.

  • There are many resources available both online and offline (e.g. The No-Cry Potty Training Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Child Say Good-bye to Diapers) that can help you with potty training your child.

  • Develop a disciplining routine such as time-outs and reward systems so that the child is aware that she is accountable for her behavior.

Tips for the digital era: As with toddlers, excess screen use in early childhood is unadvisable as it has been linked to language delays, trouble in school, obesity, and sleep problems. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that preschoolers use screens for not more than 1 to 2 hours a day. It is also important for parents to monitor the type of
programs that the child watches or interacts with on her digital device and to set time and content limits because this is the time that the child can understand and learn from what
she sees. Applications like Mobicip can help parents set screen time and monitor what the preschooler engages with in her digital devices.

Elementary School – 5-11 years

Middle childhood is focused on school and most of the challenges of this age group arise from school life and peer pressure. The main challenges of this age are:

  • Academic setbacks and difficulties
  • Defiance
  • Bullying behavior
  • Being bullied in school
  • Relationship issues in school
  • Addiction to devices and screens

This phase of your child’s life is perhaps the most rewarding because this the stage that they interact most and respond to your interactions before teenage hits along with its own sets of issues.

Some tips to make the most out of your child’s middle childhood are:

  • Help the child with her lessons and homework or if possible, get external tutoring help.

  • Meet teachers and staff of the school to assess her progress.

  • Talk with the child about bullying and untoward advances by strangers or even people they know and let them know that they can approach you with anyduncomfortable situation.

  • Give the child a few responsibilities around the house, like folding her own clothes, cleaning her room, or even letting her help with the laundry or the kitchen.

  • Maintain open communication about school, friends, and other aspects of her life.

  • Teach children to respect others and their opinions.

  • Show by example, the joys of helping others.

  • Engage in family activities, which may include playing indoor or outdoor games, reading, and going to community events together as family.

  • Continue to use disciplining methods such as time outs rather than corporeal punishment. Children of this age are open to communication, so talking to them about the transgressions is effective at this stage.

Tips for the digital era: Middle childhood is the age when digital addiction can take over. It is extremely important to limit screen time for the child. It may not be possible to eliminate screen time because many of the child’s activities and classes have moved to online domains since the pandemic. But it is good to be able to monitor the child’s screen
activities. Mobicip can help with this. Encouraging the child to engage in physical activity, preferably outdoors, like sports, games, swimming, etc., can break device engagement into smaller chunks.

Preteens and Teens (11-18)

The adolescent period is probably the age group that poses as much parenting challenge as infants and toddlers, if not more. This is a period when the body grows towards adulthood, but the brain development is still short of the adult function.

Some common challenges during this period include

  • Defiance

  • Self-absorption

  • Laziness and carelessness – this is due to the underdevelopment of the prefrontal cortex.

  • Emotional problems and mood swingsdue to hormonal imbalances

  • Bursts of anger that sometimes come from nowhere

  • Lack of motivation that could be motivated by academic stress, social isolation, or low self esteem.

  • Neglect of home chores and responsibilities and detatchment from family

  • Deceiving behavior

  • Substance abuse

  • Device abuse

  • Sexual activity, both experimental and emotional.

Parenting a tween and teen is an excruciatingly painful and exceedingly rewarding experience.

Here are some tips to parent a preteen and teenager.

  • A parent must be both a friend to a tween/teen and a caretaker. This entails open communication on all matters that interest the two of you.

  • Spend quality time with your tween/teenager and draw them out of their isolation. It is a good idea to have family meal times together sans devices.

  • Enforce that with independence comes responsibility, and one without the other is useless.

  • Set rules and boundaries along with your teenager so that she does not feel controlled.

  • Do not talk down to a teenager but have discussions and explanations on why somethings need to be a certain way.

  • Do not react with anger or annoyance (very difficult, but you are the adult in the interaction) because your impassioned reaction would escalate any disagreement to a fight. It’s ok to disagree on things, as long as it is safe.

  • Choose your battles. Not every argument needs to be won, even if you are right.

  • Help her develop time management skills. This is probably the area that the teenager needs most help with.

  • Talk to your teenager about safety in sex and relationships. Talk about respecting the romantic partner.

  • Trust your teenager. Let them know that you trust them.

Tips for the digital era: While parental control over device time will naturally reduce as the child grows older, a certain amount of control and oversight is necessary to ensure that the child is not engaging in dangerous behavior online. Applications like Mobicip can alter the level of parental involvement in the child’s device usage as she grows older.

The above challenges and possible solution approaches are for parents with children without special needs. When the child has special needs, the challenges are different, and
require a different set of solutions, depending on the challenge that the child faces. From the Victorian practice of detached treatment of children as objects that are to be
strictly shaped and molded to become tools of society, the idea of parenting has expanded enough to be variously categorized and named by psychologists and social scientists all over the world. Beyond these pedantic and theoretical classifications and nomenclatures, parenting straddles that fine line between instinct and intellect, and is influenced by time
and place, leading to its constant evolution. There is no one size fits all, and it takes enormous effort to arrive at a parenting style that fits your family, mindset, and child.

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