By Rebecca Parlakian
My mother used to talk about “BK” and “AK”—what life was like “before kids” and “after kids.” And she was right. When you stare into your baby’s eyes for the first time, it’s a milestone moment—the ultimate “after” to your life “before.” Becoming a parent, and understanding how to support your baby’s healthy development, is a long (and mostly lovely) learning curve. But when you have questions and need answers, where can you go? In a sea of Google searches, parenting apps, and magazine articles, ZERO TO THREE cuts through the noise and gives new parents the research-based information they need.
ZERO TO THREE
ZERO TO THREE is a national nonprofit organization with the mission to ensure that all babies and toddlers have a strong start in life. In the early years, research tells us that babies are making as many as one million brain connections per second. And it’s the quality of a baby’s relationships—with parents, grandparents and others—that influence which brain connections are made and which are sustained over time. So what does this mean? It means that for babies and toddlers, early experiences matter.
PREPARING FOR PARENTHOOD
Bringing a new baby into the family means a lot of changes for everyone, including for new parents themselves. Study after study shows that new parents are the least satisfied when it comes to how happy they are in their marriage or partnership. When a newborn joins your party of two, all of a sudden you’re on duty 24 hours a day, so it’s not hard to see why adult relationships can feel rocky for a while. But finding ways to nurture yourselves as a couple can benefit the whole family. ZERO TO THREE also provides guidance on ‘sharing the care’ with the other adults in your child’s life, including grandparents.
LEARNING AND GROWING
Once baby arrives, it’s normal for parents to wonder how their little one is growing and developing, and what they can do to support their baby’s early learning. ZERO TO THREE has developed a series of resources designed to help parents track their young child’s development and to offer suggestions for everyday play that nurtures new skills and abilities.
WHAT KIND OF PARENT WILL I BE?
The other question that often emerges after a new baby is born is: What kind of parent will I be? Caring for young children often makes us reflect on our own childhood experiences and personal history, and can elicit strong emotions in us as parents. Making sense of these feelings and learning how to calm ourselves (even during the most intense moments) is a big part of parenting, and something most new parents struggle with at times.
THE TOUGHEST JOB YOU’LL EVER LOVE
Tuning In, ZERO TO THREE’s national parent survey, found that 91% of surveyed parents said that parenting is their greatest joy. In fact, 70% of parents told us they felt as though “their life started” when they became a parent. But all moms and dads have questions: 54% of our respondents said they “wish they had more information about how to be a better parent.” That’s why ZERO TO THREE is here. Parents are the experts on their children. ZERO TO THREE brings the expertise in child development. We’re in this together.
About the Author
Rebecca Parlakian is ZERO TO THREE's Senior Director of Programs and develops resources for parents, alongside training of parents and early childhood professionals. She holds a Master’s degree in Education and Human Development, with a concentration in infant-toddler special education, from the George Washington University, where she is currently serving as adjunct faculty. Her most important and most satisfying lab work in child development, however, is her two children, Ella (age 13) and Bennett (age 10). They help her remember that parenting is hard, but also lots of fun, and – most importantly – that the best-thought-out, well-planned, and research-based parenting approach almost never works on your own children.