The birth or adoption of a baby is usually seen as a time of joy. But it can also be a stressful period as the new parents adjust to change and discover that other people have strong views about how they should care for their baby.
We are constantly having to adjust to changes in our lives and relationships. The birth or adoption of a child is usually a welcome change but it can involve losses as well as the obvious gains. Preparing ourselves ahead of a birth or adoption can make it less frightening and confusing.
It helps to obtain plenty of information, knowledge and understanding of what to expect once the baby arrives. Try talking to people who have had their first child recently to find out about their experiences and how they have adapted to their new life. Magazines like Little Treasures and Kiwi Parent, which is published by Parents Centres New Zealand, are also good places to learn about other people's experiences.
Sometimes the stresses of adapting to the arrival of a new baby are added to by well-meaning family members. For instance, grandparents can have different views about how a baby should be cared for -- how it should be fed, where and how long it should sleep, whether it should be left to cry for a time, and so on.
In some families people might hold views that are rooted in the values of a different ethnic community. These might dictate how a new mother should behave -- what she should eat and drink, whether she should take the baby outdoors or whether she should return to work.
However genuine these beliefs, they can lead to added stress for new parents whose views and life experience are different. Negotiating our way through this sort of conflict will only work if we start with the assumption that there is no right or wrong point of view. There is just a difference that needs to be worked through.
It's important for new parents to be clear about the values and beliefs they hold around raising their children. However, it helps if we can respect the other person's viewpoint as well as our own, make sure we understand how we are feeling and express it appropriately, listen to the other person, make sure we understand what they are saying, and remain flexible and willing to give way on some things that aren't so important to us.
It can also be difficult for older family members to understand and accept that their adult children's approach to life is different from their own. If you are in this position you might find it easier to maintain positive relationships with them if you listen to them without judging or criticising, respect and support their lifestyles, and try and keep up with what's happening in their world.
If you would like help with your family relationships, contact Relationships Aotearoa on 0800 735 283 or telephone your local office.