A Fresh Start

When I meet with parents before their baby is born, I like to take a moment to reflect with them about this momentous time. I often ask them to consider what habits they now have that they wish they had avoided. What would they change in their lives if they had known earlier what they know now?

The answers I hear often mirror the topics you see on magazine covers in supermarket check-out lines. People wish they ate better, weighed less, exercised more, and managed their finances more wisely. Given a fresh start, some would go out for football or learn to play the piano or speak Spanish. Some focus on credit cards and how easy it is to get in too deep. Others’ greatest wish is that they had learned how to have mutually satisfying relationships without so many painful missteps.

Having a child is one of life’s great fresh starts. It can give smokers the extra umph they need to stop and spenders the extra thought for the future they need to start investing for their children.

This is a powerful time for parents; it can also make a huge difference for children. They are masters of observation and imitation–even before they are born. They will learn about how their parents really live (not what they say they believe, but what they believe in practice). If you want to teach your baby about things you are not yet doing, this is a great time to start doing them! Even the attempt will teach her that these things matter to you.

For instance, parents often identify overspending as a problem they would like their children to avoid. How might they address this? Children have a legitimate need for new experiences. In order for play to be fun, it has to involve some degree of novelty. Kids can satisfy this deep thirst for newness by always getting new stuff, but this can lead to costly habits down the road (financially and emotionally). It can lead to the oft-repeated refrain, “I’m bored!” However, kids can also satisfy this strong drive by learning to discover new ways to enjoy the things they already have. This can lead to growing creativity and imagination, as well as fun that satisfies more deeply, relationships that last, and credit card balances that can be paid off. We’ll talk about how parents and kids can learn this fun skill together, by both curtailing overspending and enjoying the adventure of creative alternatives, in a later chapter.

Once parents have identified one or two things they would most like to change, I like to talk with them about strategies for teaching these things to their kids. I’d be happy to brainstorm ideas for your specific areas with you at www.DrGreene.com during my chats.

Teaching your children is a core part of parenting. This will get increasingly multidimensional as pregnancy progresses and even more so as your child grows after birth. For now, teaching starts with what you eat.

This is an excerpt from: From First Kicks to First Steps: Nurturing Your Babys Development from Pregnancy Through the First Year of Life, McGraw-Hill, 2004, pp. 46-48

Published on: January 25, 2006
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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