Last week, I talked about postpartum depression and put forth some ideas that I believe will help prevent it. Depression can endanger the well-being of children as well as that of parents.
This week, I want to talk about other reasons parents become depressed and discouraged. There are a lot of parents, not just new parents, but parents in general, who feel that they’re failures as parents! Why would this be so?
Sleep deprivation is one of the main causes of depression. When parents don’t get their good, deep sleep, they go through their days feeling tired, out of sorts, with low energy and lack of patience. They feel that they lack the skills to be good parents and often do things that they regret, such as yelling at their children, or even swatting them on their bottoms.
How can parents ensure better sleep for themselves? Above all, they can sleep in their own beds with their partners, not with their children. They can make sure that their kids sleep in their own beds, in their own rooms.
Children do not belong in the marital bed. From the time they are babies, they need to sleep in their own space, away from their parents. Baby monitors can tell new parents if their children need them. Having a baby in their bedroom, or worse yet, in their bed, robs parents of their needed deepest level of sleep. Every time the child makes a sound, a parent will awaken and, often, will give attention that isn’t even necessary to a baby who is simply turning over or stretching or yawning. Married couples often end up sleeping in separate rooms, rather than putting the children in another room. The seeds of marriage breakdown are often sown from this.
Another reason for depression and guilt lies with social media. On Facebook and other sites, constant posting of the perfect homes and children of other people have a detrimental effect on the parent who may be struggling with issues in her marriage or parenting. Everyone needs to realize that the perfection seen on blog sites and Facebook may not be the norm for the people posting. They also have messy highchairs to clean up, runny noses to wipe and laundry that needs to be washed and folded. They just don’t post pictures of the low moments of their days. So comparing yourself with these “perfect parents” should be avoided completely! In fact, comparing you or your child with anyone else isn’t helpful. Your child reaches milestones at his own pace. He could be a “late” walker or talker, compared with your neighbor’s child. Just love him as he is. Don’t pressure him to read, just because someone on Facebook has posted that their 18-month old knows his alphabet.
Talk with friends and family who are supportive. Avoid people who are critical and opinionated. Find a couple of blog sites that “speak” to you and stick with them, especially if you can get questions answered by people you trust. Constantly surfing the web for answers, and trying out and discarding different methods, sometimes will make you more discouraged than ever. Develop a relationship online with a parenting coach you respect and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
You deserve to enjoy your life and your kids. Don’t let lack of sleep rob you of the pleasure of parenting. And don’t let competition with other parents take your self-confidence away. Savor this time of your life, and delight in those special beings who are your children.
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