5 Ways to Follow Your Intuition as a Parent of Young Children

When we have young kids, we are flooded with conflicting advice on our decisions. We are bombarded with opinions about our kids’ feeding, sleeping, childcare, daily activities, and medical care. Every choice seems so important. It’s not just us anymore. Now we have an all-encompassing responsibility for our innocent little ones. Just when we choose a path on the fork in the road, it seems that someone pops up reminding us that the other path might have been better. As we hear opinions from family, friends, parenting books, “experts,” and the latest research study, we second-guess ourselves. Although cultural wisdom, mentors, books, and research can be helpful, it is our own intuition that will guide our parenting decisions down the path that’s right for us. The more we can tap into our own “inner knowing,” the happier we can be. Here are five ways to tap into our intuition as parents:

  1. Go after the things that make you (and your family) the happiest

To follow our gut, we often need to follow our joy. If we let our family’s happiness act as a beacon for our decisions, we can make them from the right place. If your child lights up and seems carefree and lighthearted at music class, then sign up again. If your child loves swimming and seems calmed by it, then take her to the beach. If your most treasured moments with your kids are at the park, then make time to go there each weekend, and forget about ballet and hockey. By thinking about the moments where our kids’ eyes our twinkling, where we’re enjoying them completely, where things feel “easy,” we can fill our time wisely.

  1. Have your scissors ready

One way to truly listen to your intuition as a parent is to be willing to cut out the things that energy-sapping, not-a-good-fit, just “okay,” or no longer needed for your family. Despite our best intentions, we will sign our kids up for a few things that will be terrible or just mediocre. We might pick the wrong preschool or bring our kids to an art class where the teacher screams at them for not copying her design the right way. A basketball coach might mercilessly tease the kids or snap at them when they miss the shot. We might have a babysitter who is “just okay but not great.” We might have thought that we could still bike while pulling our kids in the trailer behind us, but their screaming will be heard the next town over. We might think our pediatrician is “fine,” but he or she isn’t at all thorough. We might have said it was okay for our kids to watch a T.V. show, but then realized that it was violent and kind of mean. Part of listening to our intuition is cutting things from our family’s lives as soon as we realize they are less than good, (even if we have paid good money for them). Just as we prune our bushes to make sure they grow right, we need to cut things out of our family lives to help them thrive.

  1. Take a moment to reflect on your life

When we have young kids, it’s easy to go on autopilot. We’re stressed, exhausted, and super-busy, and we don’t have extra time. However, it’s important to step back for a second to reflect on the things that you and your children love or hate, are good at or struggle with, are growth-filled or just blah. You can close your eyes and think about how certain activities, such as library story time, car washing, aquababies, or apple picking, make you feel. If you feel a certain way, your child probably does too. If you had one word to describe an experience, (such as playgroup or the kiddie t-ball league), what would it be? If the experience, (such as taking your kids grocery shopping or going to the water park), had a color, what would it be?

  1. Keep your priorities at the forefront

Be aware of your priorities, and use them to inform your decisions. If it’s important to you to exercise as a family, but you find hiking or sledding time sidelined by attendance at more than one birthday party a weekend, you might say no to the next celebration. If it’s important to you to have family dinner, but the kids’ afternoon music classes get in the way, you can switch your routine. If you want time to read to your children at night, but you get home too late from work, you can tweak your schedule.

  1. Listen to the signs and your “sixth sense”

When we have children, we often develop a “sixth sense.” We are so intimately connected to our little ones that we can distinguish their hunger cries from their I’m-bored cries, their lack-of-sleep meltdowns from their I’m-two-and-I’m-my-own-person meltdowns. We often know when something is wrong with our children, like when they don’t have a fever but they have a double ear infection. We can sense when there is just not a good fit between our child and a teacher or coach. We know when our crabby child needs to crawl under a blanket and listen to a book on our lap. We can sense when a road trip will be too long for our toddler. There are little, subtle signs that only we as parents notice and large, in-your-face signs that we just can’t ignore.

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