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Bottle or breast? Cloth or disposable? Colic or teething? Feel like you can’t take one more well-intentioned piece of advice?

Relax. You’re not the only parent chafing under all the advice and suggestions. We asked Suzanne Siman, a licensed professional counselor with Carolina Center for Counseling, to help sort through the maze of parenting advice.

Although it is important for parents to make informed decisions, Siman stressed that the most important thing is to make a decision that’s right for your family.

“Figure out what is the right way to do ‘x’ for this child,” Siman said. “That might be different from your friend’s kid or even from your other children.”

Her advice for unsolicited advice is to listen for the grain of truth that might work for your family, and then smile and let the rest go.

“Respond well to the person in the moment, but know and be able to communicate your own values,” she said.

That’s sometimes hard to do for new parents or during those first sleep-deprived months. Siman encourages parents to take care of themselves.

“Make sure that you are actively making decisions about your time rather than rebounding from obligation to obligation,” she said. “Admit the need for down time and be OK with saying no.”

The first four years are packed with milestones and it can be hard to know how to respond to new behavior. Don’t be consumed with doing everything the right way.

“You’re rarely going to have the perfect plan or response,” Siman said. “Deal with the child in front of you.”

What about older siblings competing for attention?

“Bursts of attention can be very valuable for older children,” she said. “Mark off calendar time for each child. It can still feel impromptu to them and it’s quality versus quantity at this point.”

Bottom line: do your research, take care of yourself and take one day at a time. ]

It is important to trust your parenting. And, parents usually know when something isn’t quite right.

Be a good advocate for your child by knowing and watching for key milestones and knowing how to get help if you need it. It’s normal to compare your child with other children the same age, but remember: Only compare within the same gender. Girls and boys develop differently. If something just doesn’t seem right, early intervention is the key.  A lot of resources and services are available.

Here are a few:

  • Help Me Grow South Carolina is a free information line connecting families with children birth to age eight to community resources and child development information. Services are available in both English and Spanish. Call 1-855-476-9211 or 211 or check out the website at HelpMeGrowSC.org.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a great set of milestone charts for ages 2 months through 5 years. They are available free. Type “CDC Milestones” in any search engine.
  • BabyNet is South Carolina’s interagency early intervention system for infants and toddlers under 3 years of age with developmental delays, or who have conditions associated with developmental delays. Anyone (a parent, doctor, caregiver, teacher or friend) can make a referral by calling 1-877-621-0865. Visit. www.scfirststeps.org/babynet.
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