You know your baby needs love, affection, nourishment, clothing, and a sense of security. However, you must also sort through all the other important things you can give your child to help him navigate life. How and what to provide your child with, (beyond the basics) is largely a personal choice. These five important things to do for your baby will help you get started on your parenting journey.
1. Model Appropriate Behaviors
According to the experts at PBS, modeling behavior is one of the best ways to help your child develop socially. Young children learn by watching other people, parents included.
Prior to the new millennium, research in this area was not specific to infants and toddlers. Researchers such as Andrew Meltzoff sought to give parents of infants and young children insight into how learning occurs in babies from a few hours old through toddlerhood. His results indicate that infants learn much the same way young children and even adults do, through imitation. Imitation is the ability to learn a behavior by observing the actions of others and is the foundation of the learning process in infants.
Examples of Behaviors to Model
A few actions recommended by healthychildren.org, along with some imitation games, will help you show your baby how to be a great person. Reciprocal imitative games, where parent and baby imitate each other, have been shown as effective with babies as early as two weeks old. These experiences teach babies how they are like others and how others are like them.
- Give 50-100 brief, loving touches each day
- Show them how to express emotions by exaggerating facial expressions when you are happy/sad and mirroring their actions in times of happiness or frustration
- Set aside five minutes each day to let your child choose a toy and follow his lead on how to play with it. For younger babies, focus on a favorite toy and mimic how they interact with it
Benefits of Modeling
Human beings have the distinct benefit of being born immature and helpless. This allows babies to learn and adapt to the specific environment into which they are born. Research in the field of modeling desired behaviors for children is extensive. Early studies on parental involvement have shown children to benefit from modeling both socially and cognitively in numerous ways.
- Parental modeling can help baby feel secure and confident.
- Modeling provides a framework that allows baby to be able to make sense of new ideas and information.
- Loving attention helps new brain cells connect in a way that will grow a healthy body.
- Young children learn through parent-child interactions such as reading books, singing songs, and creative arts.
2. Get Involved in the Parenting Community
Many parents feel alone when caring for very young children. Ignoring your need for adult interaction can lead to exhaustion, stress, and a sense of being overwhelmed. Building a network of parents can help you relieve these stresses by giving you the chance to take a break and encouraging a camaraderie with those who truly understand your situation. As the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration points out, breaks are not a luxury but rather a necessity.
Ways to Get Involved
- Join a local group, such as MOPS or the International Moms Club which have hundreds of local chapters.
- Start a club for parents just like you in your area.
- Plan regular mom's nights out.
- Invite a friend and her baby to the park or your home.
- Join an online community.
- Meet other parents in everyday places, like the library or toy store.
- Look for children's classes and activities in your area. Music classes and story times are often held at local libraries for children of all ages, and they provide a great place for you to meet other parents.
- Talk regularly with your doctor or your child's pediatrician. Hospitals are also a great resource for parents even after the baby is born.
3. Prepare for Emergencies
Most people realize that an emergency can happen to anyone, anywhere. Too often, these thoughts don't materialize into a plan until after an emergency hits close to home. Even if you had pre-baby emergency plans in place, you may need to re-think them in light of the new addition to your home. Four quick and easy steps any parent can take toward preparing their family for an emergency at home or elsewhere include:
Install and Test Smoke Alarms
According to Kidshealth.org, having a smoke alarm cuts the risk of dying in a home fire in half. The National Fire Protection Association recommends having smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of your home. Smoke alarms that are interconnected, meaning when one sounds - they all do, are best.
Keep Escape Ladders and Fire Extinguishers Handy
These items can be instrumental in limiting home and family damage during a fire, but should only be used by adults. If a fire were to break out and you are on the second floor of the home with your baby, an escape ladder could be your only way out.
Develop an Emergency Plan
Experts at Babycenter.com suggest creating a list of emergency numbers, including one out-of-area contact. This list should be kept in sight. Parents should work together to create a plan of who is responsible for each emergency action, such as getting the baby out of the crib or setting up the escape ladder. Part of the emergency plan includes checking baby's room for any potential hazards and rectifying issues in the best way possible. The National Fire Protection Association has a great downloadable escape planning grid flyer to guide you through the process of creating an emergency plan.
Provide Pertinent Information on the Car Seat
Babies spend most of their time at home or in the car, so these are the best places to start preparing for emergencies. Organizations like WHALE offer sticker programs that alert emergency responders to the location of important information about your child. This particular program issues an informational label, including vital child information, for the back of the car seat to ensure privacy on everyday outings. Additional stickers, without the child's information, are placed on rear windows and sides of the car seat to alert responders of participation in the program.
4. Plan for the Worst
Any person who has assets, particularly people with children, should create a will. A will can not only designate who takes ownership of your assets in the event of your death, but also who will take care of your child. You can also appoint a legal guardian without having a will. The main points for parents to remember when planning for the worst are:
Create a Will
- Assign an executor for your will to ensure appropriate division of assets. LiveStrong Foundation recommends that wills be legally executed to ensure they are valid.
- Funeral costs can be astronomical and some debts carry on after death. Be sure to designate funds to cover these expenses.
Appoint a Legal Guardian
- Appoint a Testamentary Guardian for your children in the event of both parents' deaths. This person will need to be specified in your will.
- In the event both parents pass away and no will exists, all friends and family members can nominate themselves to become your child's guardian. The courts would then decide who is most fit, even if you would have disagreed.
5. Plan for the Future
When parents consider planning for the future, their efforts are typically focused on the child's future. However, it's important for parents to plan for their future as well. All financial decisions could affect the entire family years down the road.
- Set aside an emergency fund. General recommendations average saving at least six months worth of expenses. Emergency fund calculators, such as this one from PNC bank, can help you plan for your specific circumstances.
- Enroll in a life insurance policy. Keep the whole family covered in the event that one or both parents die.
- Save for retirement. When baby is all grown up and you are no longer working, living comfortably will be important to you and him. Even though your job is to take care of your children, they'll want you to take care of you too.
- Provide health insurance. If you can, enroll in a family insurance plan through your employer. If not, visit Healthcare.gov to see what options are available.
- Start saving for college. According to Educationplanner.org, over 99% of college students end up paying for some college costs. International and local banks alike offer savings programs geared specifically toward children. Section 529 plans are available through individual states. Establish a savings goal and choose a college savings plan that works for your family.
Going Beyond the Basics of Care
Parents can easily be overwhelmed by the day-to-day care of a baby. With a clear sense of direction and established goals, parents can find time to provide important resources for children of any age.