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Family Milestones

How to know if you're ready.



Parenting is an epic adventure. The day you find out you are bringing another person into your family is the beginning of a wild ride that includes many firsts. From deciding when to start potty training to figuring out when to let your teen work or drive, there is an endless number of important decisions to be made.

So how do you know when your family is ready to move forward with a first? The following are some common firsts that most families are faced with, and things to consider when making decisions.

Family Firsts

Potty Training

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Changing diapers is hard, but potty training can feel even harder when done too early (or too late). So how does a family know when their toddler is ready to start learning the "Pee Pee in the Potty" song? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) initiating toilet training too early can create stress for the child and ultimately prolong the toilet training process.

Most pediatricians agree that a child is typically ready to begin the process of potty training around 18 to 24 months old. But rather than going by age, the AAP suggests asking the following questions:

1. Does your child show signs of interest in potty training?

2. Is your toddler able to indicate wants and needs verbally?

3. Do they have the motor skills to sit on and rise from the potty chair?

4. Is your child able to dress and undress themself?

5. Is the stress level in your home low?

In general, parents are encouraged to wait to potty train until their child is physically, mentally and emotionally ready, instead of going by age. Additionally, the whole family should have both time and patience in abundance before getting started.

First Family Pet

At some point, your child is going to want a family pet. Adding another living being to your crew is no small deal. It means a whole new set of caregiving tasks that need to be done. While a pet can bring tons of joy into a family's life, it can also increase the stress and workload. The following are some things to consider before you decide to bring that puppy or kitten into the household.

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First, has your child shown genuine and consistent interest in having a pet, or is it a fleeting thing?

Is your child physically able to help care for the pet?

Have they been able to follow through with other household responsibilities like weekly chores?

Are you able to pick up the slack when your child dips out of his doggy or kitty care duties?

Before you bring a pet into the home, confirming your child is mature enough to help care for a new furry family member is key. The entire household should be prepared to designate time and space for this momentous event.

First Sleep Over

Letting your child leave home for an entire night is no easy task. If your kiddo has been dying to go on their first sleepover, some things you'll want to be sure of are that they are physically able to do things like putting their PJs on and brush their teeth without help. Before spending a night away from home, your child should have spent some time away from you first. It's also important to make sure they clearly understand that a sleepover means they will spend an entire night away from home. Parents should be ready for the late-night call to come pick up a child who may unexpectedly become homesick.

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Driver's License

Different states have different rules about when teens can get their driver's permits and eventual licenses. However, it's really up to parents to decide when they feel their kid is ready to get behind the wheel. The following are some indicators your child is ready to get their license.

1. They follow rules without complaint.

2. They are responsible with home and schoolwork.

3. They are mature enough to ignore peer pressure.

4. They demonstrate the ability to make good decisions and problem solve.

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Different but the Same

While all these firsts are very different and take place at a variety of ages and stages of life (and parenting), the approach to determining the best timing for each is similar. Instead of going by age, make sure your child is physically, mentally and emotionally developed enough to handle the first. Additionally, all firsts affect the whole family. Make sure your household is prepared with available time, space and the emotional bandwidth to handle a new experience.

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