3 Tips for Navigating Major Parenting Milestones—and Staying True to Yourself

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When you're a new mama (or happily raising your second/third/fourth kiddo), there are about a thousand moments you wish for a guidebook with answers to pressing questions like “How do I emotionally prep my kid and myself for kindergarten?” or “How do I stop my toddler from tossing toys into the toilet?”

Most advice will tell you to rely on your intuition. But what do you do when a new change brings on a barrage of uncertainty—and your spidey sense just won't kick in?

“The changes that come with growing up can be exciting and wonderful but can also bring uncertainty and stress.”

To answer that, we teamed up with Total Wireless—the wireless service provider that hooks you up with the newest devices, nationwide service, and great rate plans (with no contracts!) so you can stay in touch with your support squad 24/7—to get the scoop from three parenting experts.

"Just as parents have gotten the hang of one stage of development, along comes the next with a whole new set of experiences and challenges," says Jean Kunhardt, LMHC, co-director of Soho Parenting, which offers therapy and consultation services to parents. "The changes that come with growing up can be exciting and wonderful but can also bring uncertainty and stress."

With a new life in the picture, there's a non-stop series of big changes—in addition to, you know, rearranging your home and kid-proofing your life. Here's how to reach Zen-mama status and build up your resiliency for change.

Keep reading for 3 essential strategies for tackling milestone moments that *every* mom and dad should know.

Coping with potty training
Photo: Unsplash/ Shelby Deeter

Check in with yourself first

"First steps, first words, moving from diapers to toilets, cribs to beds, preschool, sleepovers, summer camp, puberty, romantic relationships, and college are all important milestones in the lives of your children," says Kunhardt. "The only absolute about raising children is that nothing stays the same."

But despite the (often joyous, sometimes frustrating) rollercoaster, it's important to remember that managing your own stress is a key part of the equation.

"One of the most important things a parent can do is to check in with themselves to see what’s going on inside before responding to their child," says Diane Spear, MA, LCSW, who specializes in easing parents through life transitions. "If your child senses that you’re angry, own up to it. Explain that [...] you’re going to take a minute to calm down, just like they sometimes need a minute to calm down."

That can take the form of talking things out with your partner, sitting down for a quick sesh with your meditation app, or hitting speed dial to your mom or bestie—whether they're a few states away or just down the block.

Photo: Unsplash/ pan xiaozhen

Focus on the positive

One common emotional situation for parents? Graduation, whether your kid is graduating to kindergarten or college. It's no surprise that watching your once-baby take steps toward more independence can induce major feels—and can make it feel like time is flying by way too fast.

For little ones, free your mind from stress by mentally prepping yourself and your kid in the months ahead by reading books about the first day of school before bed, showing your child pictures of their new school on your phone, and trying out the playground (complete with big-kid swings), Spear says.

Overall, put things in perspective. "Try to focus on the positive, progressive nature of milestones, instead of loss and separation," says Spears. "It will be better for you and better for your child."

Disciplining kids
Photo: Unsplash/ Vanessa Serpas

Set an example

Once your babe is old enough to walk around independently, she's also capable of, ahem, pushing boundaries. It's one of the most common dilemmas that bring parents into Soho Parenting, says its co-director Lisa Spiegel, MA, LMHC.

And modeling good behavior starts sooner than you'd expect. "Your job is to try and grow a good citizen," Spiegel says. "Though this takes almost 20 years, you will need to start as your baby heads into the second year of life."

Form a united front on consequences with your partner, and check in with each other as specific situations arise. If you're hesitant about saying no, remember setting limits is totally beneficial to keeping them safe. "There is nothing wrong with saying no, children with clear discipline will understand their own limits better," Spiegel says.

When you hit a roadblock, ask for help—and remember it's always just a phone call away. "Reach out for guidance from a veteran parent, your child’s preschool, a parent counselor, or therapist," says Kunhardt. "This job is just too big and too important to try and master on your own!" With a little support, you got this.

Want to make the parenting ride even easier? Stay connected with your network with no-contract plans from Total Wireless (like the Total Wireless Shared* Family Plan, at $25/line per month with unlimited talk and text, and 4G LTE† data on America’s largest, most dependable network), discover them at Walmart, Best Buy, Target, and other authorized dealers or at TotalWireless.com.

In partnership with Total Wireless

Top photo: Stocksy/Maahoo Studio

*The 30-Day cycle for Shared Data Family Plans begins on the day the first line/device is activated. Any line(s)/device(s) activated later in the first 30-Day cycle will receive only the number of days remaining in that cycle. A month equals 30 days. Prices do not include fees or taxes.

†To get 4G LTE speed where available you must have a 4G LTE capable device and a 4G LTE SIM card. Actual availability, coverage and speed may vary. LTE is a trademark of ETSI. Please always refer to the latest terms and conditions of service at TotalWireless.com

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