Last updated on Jun 17th, 2021 at 04:25 pm

You’ve spent months setting up your baby’s nursery and you feel physically ready to face childbirth, but are you and your partner emotionally prepared for what could arguably be the most important role in your lives – to be the best parents you can be, and set a good example for your little one?  As you enter into the realm of parenthood, “your self-esteem and how you see yourself as a human being will affect how you parent and relate to your partner and new baby, especially in the first 1 000 days”, says Johannesburg-based self-esteem facilitator Sally Thorp. “In fact, it’s from this primary relationship with yourself that all other connections are made, so it’s important to start your parenting journey by building your own self-esteem.”

ALSO READ: 5 steps to boost your child’s self-esteem

Not sure where to begin? Here are 10 practical ways to improve your self-esteem from the get-go:

  1. Let go of perfection! Your child will make many mistakes that require your forgiveness, encouragement and guidance. The truth is, if she sees you expecting perfection from yourself and never feeling good enough, why should it be different for her? The key is to keep a positive self-esteem intact, regardless of what life throws at you.
  2. Don’t berate yourself. Your voice will become her voice.
  3. Allow yourself to receive unconditional love. Life may have tricked you into believing that you have to behave in a certain way to gain others’ love and approval. But this isn’t true, says Sally. From the day you were born, right up to now, you are valuable and worthwhile. Learn to see yourself as your child sees you. This will have a profound effect on your self-esteem, because she loves you and your best as a parent is good enough.
  4. Be kind to yourself. Hormonal fluctuations in the first few months of becoming a parent may cause you to feel physically and emotionally unwell. When you feel like this, be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to take time out to regroup. What happens to you, affects your baby. She’ll sense when you’re feeling anxious. So let go of the guilt and know that you’re taking the time you need for both of you.
  5. Make yourself a priority. Putting everything and everyone else first won’t be sustainable – eventually you’ll start to feel resentful. Your needs and dreams are important and yes, you may have to put some of them on hold for a while, but you had them before you fell pregnant and you will have them after you’ve had your baby too. Hold onto them!
  6. Put support structures in place. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. When you and your partner need a break or some quality time together, it’s important to take it before you feel desperate and overwhelmed. In the long-run, this will be best for both of you, as well as your baby.
  7. Lead by example. Your child is going to rely on you to teach and show her how to live life as a caring, compassionate, generous and responsible person, but she can only do that if you acknowledge and celebrate that this is who you are.
  8. Do what you say. Even from a young age, your baby will take cues from what you do far more than from what you say. At first she won’t understand your affectionate words but will respond to your affectionate expressions, tone of voice and physical touch. This process is crucial for your child’s brain to “build connections that are the foundations of intelligence, people skills and being a decent and wonderful human being”, says parenting author Steve Biddulph in the book Why Love Matters by Sue Gerhardt.
  9. Express yourself… when you are happy, sad, angry, afraid and everything else in between. Your feelings are OK and they are real. Your baby will need you to be able to reflect these emotions calmly, so that she can learn to deal with her own feelings effectively later on.
  10. Practise happiness. Don’t allow yourself to feel trapped by all the things you feel you have to do for your baby’s arrival. These things won’t make her feel as content as when you are happy. She’ll learn to love and accept herself based on your interactions with her. You can’t do this effectively if you don’t feel happy.

ALSO SEE: How to handle feelings of shame and guilt

 Practical ways to achieve all this and more is covered in Sally Thorp’s unique four-week pregnant parenting programme, Committed@Conception.  To find out more, visit www.sallythorp.com.

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