So you've been scrolling online, and you've seen a lovely article all about the latest thing that would be marvellous for your kids to be doing/not doing/eating/not eating/watching/not watching...
What's the first thing that often happens when we read stuff like this?
Sometimes we give ourselves a virtual high five because it's something we already do or care about....parenting win! Feeling like a totally amazing and successful parent right now...
But often it's something that we've heard about before, and maybe think might be a good thing, and maybe we ought to be doing it...but we just don't have the time or the energy!
There are so many developmental activities that we MUST be doing, foods that we MUST be feeding them and ways that we MUST play with them. We can't possibly do them all AND survive at work/get the housework done/walk the dog/have the occasional quiet cup of tea (the stuff of dreams!).
So how do we know what to prioritise, what is actually beneficial and worth making the effort for, and what we might like to do if we had a housekeeper/cook/chauffeur/therapist on our payroll to sort all the other stuff out...
At Welly and Bloom, we have two very simple principles that you can apply to any info you read online before you decide if it's worth trying it at home. Note that this applies to advice and ideas rather than medical facts you already know are right(!)
Principle 1: Beware of negativity
By negativity, I don't mean that everything should be positive and encouraging, although that does feel nice!
It means that it's important to ask yourself:
Does this information major on what you should NOT be doing at all costs?
Does it make claims to be the only solution or the whole solution, looking negatively at all others?
We all know that parents and children have different needs in different circumstances. Anything that makes these kinds of claims then, whilst they may have worked for some people (and may indeed work for you) are clearly not providing essential principles to live by. Many 'solutions' are downright unattainable. Think 'never give them a bottle', or 'never feed them with a spoon'.
These ideas may be well-intentioned, but can often be a sure-fire recipe for the dreaded parent guilt, especially if you feel you can't meet the 'standard'!
Principle 2: Fact-checking
The second principle is all about embracing fact-checking.
Is there any proof - over and above opinion - that this IS a good idea to implement in MY family?
Is there any good quality research or science to back this up?
Are experienced professionals giving this advice, or is this merely someone's idea that I could adopt if I like and leave if I don't? Does the person giving this advice stand to benefit from my guilt - by making me sign up to a website or pay for products?
These are really important questions to ask, as opinions and advice are great when you need them, but can be a real burden when you don't. It can put pressure on us parents to be something that we are not, and make us feel like our best is not enough.
I have previously subscribed to a daily activity site for ideas of things to do with my kids each day. It was great when I wanted it, and I did some lovely activities with them. But when I was too busy, or it wasn't working for me anymore I felt happy to unsubscribe, as I knew it was a nice thing, but not necessary. Reading with your kids? Yes, that's really important for their development, but a full craft activity for them every day? Lovely but not essential.
Sometimes it's hard to do this kind of fact checking yourself, or you just don't have time. That's where we come in.
At Welly and Bloom, we make sure that everything we write is based on medical fact and checked by practising professionals before we publish it.
And if we haven't written it ourselves, we will point you in the direction of someone who knows what they are talking about. Either in real life(!) like your GP, school teacher, midwife, or dentist. Or to carefully vetted online resources, like the NHS website, patient.info or the vaccine knowledge project. For more general fact-checking, this charity does an amazing job of holding the internet to account! It's great for memes and stats that go around on social media.
So if you see a lovely looking article about educational activities or lunchbox hacks that you could/should do with your child, then ask the health visitor, or preschool teacher, or school teacher if it's a good thing, a nice thing, or a really important thing.
And do it if you want to!
But don't feel like you have to.