Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Parenting According to Your Budget

 Bringing a new child into a family comes with it’s share of responsibilities and pressures. This is because, naturally, parents will want to be able to provide their child with the very best of everything. From what to feed a child, to which toys to provide them to where they should sleep and play, parents face a myriad of confusing decisions even when it comes to meeting the most basic needs. One of the main factors that influence these decisions is the family’s economic means. On one hand there is a family living in poverty or with a much more limited budget who may worry that they simply cannot afford to give their child everything the need, on the other hand families with much more economic possibilities may be exposed to so much information that the challenge for them becomes making the right choices, and filtering through all the information that is readily available.

When taking into account what to feed a child, breastfeeding is the main food for a child during the first months of their lives. When the time comes to introduce solid foods, it is important for parents to keep in mind that simple, natural food, such as steamed veggies and fresh fruit provide the best nutrition for a child. This is one of the first opportunities for a child to explore and interact with different tastes and textures, the simplicity of these foods allows for this best and is also considerably more cost effective than other “specialty” baby food. Though the parent themselves, might prefer the taste of saltier or spicier foods, a child deserves a chance to figure out what it means to eat, before taking a full course in condiments. (A previous post on the subject of mealtime. http://magdalenaspalencia.blogspot.com/2011/06/respect-during-meal-time.html)

Many parents equate giving a child joy with being able to provide them with the newest, latest, most exciting toy. Others may have heard that a certain toy, or electronic device will in some way help the child get a “head start.” In both cases parents are trying to provide the child with something stimulating to play with. It should come as a relief to many parents that at a very young age, the best kind of toys are simple ones, made of cloth or soft blocks. These allow children to safely explore different textures and exercise their fine motor skills. There is also no need to overcrowd a child with different toys. With a few simple toys a child is not overwhelmed with decisions of which to play with and is instead allowed to focus on their interaction and figuring their body out.

It is also important to acknowledge that many different specialty stores, based on different methods of childcare exist and offer a wide variety of different toys, furniture and products for children. Parents who may have informed themselves in a certain method, may feel discouraged if it is unreasonable for their budget to buy a particular toy for their child, such as a cloth doll, or specifically designed pillow to hold the baby. In this case, it is important for a parent to be reminded of the function and reasoning behind the toys, for example, a cloth doll may be easily and affordably replaced by an embroidered napkin made by a caring relative. Objects for children look very beautiful in a brochure and certainly they are, but real life requires that a parent look for the way to satisfy the child's needs considering the scope of their reality. Though, it may be impressive to always have brand name toys and products for the child, little of their development is affected by the acquisition of brand name merchandise. The same care should be exercised with the furniture and surroundings in the child’s bedroom or sleeping area. This needs to be an area where a child feels comfortable and relaxed so that they can rest. There is no need to over stimulate them with bright colors and exotic mobiles. 

Becoming a parent comes with it’s share of scrutiny from the outside. Knowing how to handle all the different advice on how to better educate a child can be a challenge to most parents. Pressure from others about the way that they educate their child has a big influence on their decisions. Interacting with other parents could lead to uncomfortable situations, especially when they discover that they have different approaches at educating children. Parents can sometimes find themselves committing their children to different activities, such as ballet, soccer etc. at a very early age, more out of the pressure of their community than because they are fully convinced this is the best for their child. There could be some families that are not able to afford the classes or schedule and may feel like they are depriving their child of what their peers have. Focusing on the best interest of the child, as an individual with their own personality, will allow parents to act as advocates for their child’s needs instead of using their child as a tool for enhancing their own social life.

Many parents will turn to experts through books and courses to try to find the best way to educate their child. Fortunately, there is an endless amount of information, different methods and traditions that can guide parents through the education processes. Many parents can get lost in all this information and search for the most specific how-to guide they can find, reading book after book page after page to know exactly what a particular expert would do in every single situation. Though specific information is very valuable, it is important to consider the complexities of each child and family, and realize that there is no universal script or law on childhood education. When parents become too dependant on applying a certain method strictly to their family, then the parent is adapting the child to a method instead of applying the method in a way that is best to the child.

It may seem like a child with less resources does not have a fair chance compared to a more privileged one. While a parent in a difficult financial situation will do the impossible to fulfill the child's needs even if it alters their budget, a more financially comfortable parent will educate their child in the best way possible so that they can appreciate all of their advantages. In either case both children will come out ahead because when they are the main focus, financial obstacles begin to loose their power.

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