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Family Life Cycle - Parenting: Babies Through Adolescents

Making the decision to have a baby

At some point in your relationship, you and your partner will decide if you want to have a baby. Some couples know going into a relationship that they do not want children. Parenting is one of the most challenging phases of the family life cycle.

The decision to have children is one that affects your individual development, the identity of your family, and your relationship. Children are so time-consuming that skills not learned in previous stages will be difficult to pick up at this stage. Your ability to communicate well, maintain your relationships, and solve problems is often tested during this stage.

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Introducing a child into your family results in a major change in roles for you and your partner. Each parent has three distinct and demanding roles: as an individual, a partner, and a parent. As new parents, your individual identities shift along with how you relate to each other and to others. The skills that you learned in the Independence and Coupling stages, such as compromise and commitment, will help you move to the Parenting stage.

Along with the joy that comes from having a child, you may feel a great deal of stress and fear about these changes. A woman might have concerns about being pregnant and going through childbirth. Fathers tend to keep their fears and stress to themselves, which can cause health problems.

Talking about your emotional or physical concerns with your family physician, obstetrician, or counselor can help you deal with these and future challenges.

Parenting young children

Adapting children into other relationships is a key emotional process of this stage. You will take on the parenting role and transition from being a member of a couple to being a parent. While you are still evolving as individuals, you and your partner are also becoming decision-makers for your family. Continuing to express your individuality while working well together as a couple results in a strong marriage.

Your child's healthy development depends on your ability to provide a safe, loving, and organized environment. Children benefit when their parents have a strong relationship.

Caring for young children cuts into the amount of time you might otherwise spend alone or with your partner. If you did not fully develop some skills in previous phases, such as compromise for the good of the family, your relationship may be strained. For example, divorce or affairs may be more likely to occur during the years of raising young children if parents have not developed strong skills from earlier life stages.

But for those who have the proper tools, this can be a very rewarding, happy time, even with all of its challenges. Optimally, you develop as an individual, as a member of a couple, and as a member of a family.

Specific goals when young children join your family are:

  • Adjusting your marital system to make space for children.
  • Taking on parenting roles.
  • Realigning your relationships with your extended family to include parenting and grandparenting roles.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 03, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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