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What Really Keeps New Parents from Sleeping




by Anh Vazquez, courtesy of www.littlegrad.com

As if the new nocturnal feedings weren’t enough to keep them from out of a REM state, new parents have a host of other concerns on their minds. A recent survey released by Little Grad revealed how various scary thoughts affect parents. Here are the results, with the average ranking in parentheses:

1. Job Security
The most worrisome, on a 1-10 scale, was job security (3.48), followed by

2. Saving for retirement (3.75) and

3. Dying before their children grow up (4.30).

4. Education Costs
The ability to afford their children’s educational needs (4.48) rounded out the top four.

5. Crime (5.05)

6. The Environment (5.20)

7. Rising gas prices (6.73)

8. TV/Video Games
The amount of time their kids spend watching TV or playing video games was a strong concern for parents (6.84).

9. Terrorism (7.27), and lastly,

10. Traffic (7.64).
 
In looking at this list, it is interesting to note that there are two categories of worry: things parents have little control over and those that are mostly within their influence. By looking at the worries in these two categories, it helps to map out a plan for alleviating them, and finding more restful peace of mind.

Frightening, but ‘out there’
Terrorism, crime, environment, gas prices, traffic, violent video games … though these things undoubtedly affect our lives, and could impact our children’s futures, they are largely beyond any family’s ability to control. Nevertheless, there are things that individuals and families can and should do to address these causes of stress.

Discuss responsible citizenship. Schools encourage students to discuss issues like terrorism, environmental concerns, and crime. Parents should actively consider and discuss these items as well, so that a family has a jointly developed sense of identity and values.

Find ways to support your ideals. If the family is stressed by high gas prices or traffic, this can be a call to make a change – whether that means buying a hybrid vehicle, finding carpool partners, arranging to telecommute, or changing jobs. Even if you don’t take any actions immediately, considering your options is good for mental health.

Practice healthy escapism. A lot of worries come from the TV set or sitting in traffic. Finding family time in nature, or at someplace where you can connect and relax, can put the world back in perspective.
 
Financial planning
Among parental worries, there are some upon which it is possible to exert a measure of control. The top two – job security, saving for retirement – and education costs and rising gas prices – are all essentially financial worries, and sound financial planning, practiced by too few American families, is the best defense you can have against these worries.

Whether it is sitting down with the monthly bills and checking account, or visiting a financial planner, taking a level headed look at expenses, and comparing them with how they are aligned with your aspirations, can help to keep nagging doubts at bay. This should be done at least once a year to keep pace with the changes of a growing family. Part of this exercise should include a discussion of wills and guardianship of children. Mortality is of concern to parents, as noted above, and discussing it can take away its mental power over your dreams.

Saving More
When they look at their income and spending, most families would agree that they could and should be directing more money towards savings. This would help alleviate the stresses related to job security, retirement, saving for college, and to some extent, even those related to inflation in energy costs.

Focus on family health
Proper eating and exercise, making time for checkups, scheduling ‘mental health time’ – all these things can remarkably lower stress, and set a great example of a healthy lifestyles that kids will adopt as their own.

Enjoy your sleep
A full night’s sleep is one of those things that you cannot fully appreciate until you have had it interrupted. To care for a new baby (or even a sick child) is tiring, but worth the exertion. Losing sleep over worries is perhaps unavoidable, but steps can be taken to reduce it. To figure out why you are losing sleep, many experts recommend keeping a notebook and pen by your bed. This will help to find any issues that are hidden in the new-parent haze, as well as helping you back to sleep once you’ve written the “must remember to do” item on it, that is, assuming you can read your own handwriting in the morning!

About the Author

Anh Vazquez, CEO of LittleGrad.com, earned a Master’s degree from Stanford University and a Bachelor’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University. After spending over ten years working for leading companies such as Intel, Netscape, and Wal-Mart, Anh’s career interests shifted when she became the mother of two children. Anh drew on her experience as a senior executive at Wal-Mart’s fastest growing division (Walmart.com) when she decided to start LittleGrad.com, a free service that helps parents save for their children’s college education. LittleGrad.com has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, San Francisco Chronicle, and Money magazine. For more information please visit www.littlegrad.com

Article by Anh Vazquez
Education World®
Copyright© 2007 Education World

05/10/2007

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