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January 28

How To Handle Information Overload When Parenting Your Children

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I would stay up late researching every little thing to make sure I was doing the best I could to keep her healthy and safe. Would drinking coffee hurt her? Would too much exercise be bad? Were the cleaning supplies I used harmful? Was I eating too much sugar? This would lead to a spiral that would keep me up all night. Of course, the best thing to do was probably to read nothing, listen to my midwife's advice, and relax as best as possible. 

When I confessed my late-night Googling, my midwife suggested that I choose one or two websites where I was allowed to get information, and that was it. That advice still allowed me to do my research, but at least gave me some guidelines. By the time I was pregnant with my son, I found I was much better able to manage what I consumed despite the endless stream of information. 

I'll share some more tips and strategies on how to manage information overload as a parent.

Key Takeaways

  • Trust your instincts.
  • Establish boundaries with technology.
  • Identify your values.
  • Set up a system for making decisions.

Understanding Information Overload in Parenting

The impact of technology and the constant pressure to seek information can lead to overwhelming parenting advice, often resulting in conflicting guidance.

The impact of technology and the pressure to constantly seek information

Technology has completely changed the game in parenting, for better or worse. My Instagram feed is filled with "parent hacks" that will supposedly make my 4 and 2-year-olds sleep. Spoiler alert: none work. From trending parenting advice to scientific studies on child development – digital resources are just a click away.

Not only has technology reshaped our daily lives, but it's also intensified the push to stay informed as parents. It feels like every day a new study or article is telling us how to raise happy, healthy kids.

The flood of parenting information can be overwhelming and sets up an expectation that we must scour the internet for every answer, tip, and trick to ensure we aren't failing our children.

Sometimes I find myself worried I've missed some crucial piece of advice that could make all the difference. This constant quest for information often leads us down a rabbit hole where one click leads to another until you're overwhelmed with conflicting information. 

The dangers of conflicting advice

Even though I specialized in child and teen psychology in graduate school, I still find myself wondering which advice is best for my own kids. All guidance is not created equal. Different experts tout opposing strategies on everything from sleep training to discipline, leaving me confused about the right path for my family.

I find this often gets in the way of my parental instincts and causes unnecessary stress as I grapple with which recommendations to trust. 

Recognizing triggers of information overload

Feeling overwhelmed by parenting advice and information is common in today's digital age. Here are some triggers to watch out for:

  1. Struggling to make decisions because you are being bombarded with conflicting advice from different sources.
  2. Constantly feeling the need to seek out more information due to fears of not being well-informed enough.
  3. Feeling pressured by social media and online forums where parents often compare themselves to others and feel inadequate.
  4. Experiencing anxiety from the flood of contradictory health and safety information available online.
  5. Struggling with guilt or fear of missing out if not keeping up with the latest parenting trends or tips.

Practical Ways to Avoid Information Overload

Acknowledging that there's no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting allows me to embrace a style that resonates with us rather than chasing after every new trend or theory. This allows me to trust my instincts, sift through relevant information, and create a framework for making decisions.

Trust your instincts

I have many stories of my own and families I have worked with where we knew something just wasn't right with our child. I'll never forget being at a birthday party and my son was fussy and was holding his arm. None of these things are actually unusual for him. When he gets tired, he gets fussy (of course) and he will cross his arms and almost hug himself. At first, I figured it was the excitement of the party and the missed naptime that explained his behavior but there was just something about his fussiness that seemed off. I then began to wonder if he had "Nursemaid's Elbow," a common injury in toddlers where their elbow gets out of the joint, but everything I read online indicated that he would be in a lot more pain and his arm would just be hanging by his side. But, my instincts told me that was what was wrong. We went to the hospital where they were also skeptical that it was the elbow, but the doctor went ahead and adjusted my son's arm and the Nursemaid's Elbow was immediately fixed. 

No one knows your child like you do. You know what's normal and what's not and it can be good to lean into those instincts. If you happen to be a mom, you might have learned to suppress some of those instincts because, unfortunately, women are often told either directly or indirectly that they are being "hysterical." 

Take time to notice if you feel your instincts are being shut down and practice being aware so that you can work on leaning into your intuition more. 

Trusting your intuition can provide a sense of confidence and clarity in decision-making.

Establish boundaries with technology and information

To limit internet searches, I set clear boundaries on when and how often I go online for parenting information. Implementing designated times to research helps me avoid getting overwhelmed with conflicting advice. Late-night Googling is not allowed, I know my brain does not work well at 2 am.

Also, as my midwife suggested, I only use certain websites to get my information from. By doing this, I ensure that the information I do find is from reliable sources and aligns with my family's values.

I also find ways to limit what I see on social media. I only follow parenting experts who have actual expertise that aligns with the way I tend to parent. I regularly hide or block advice that doesn't align so that the algorithm gets better at showing me relevant information. I love Big Little Feelings, Feeding Littles, and Good Inside for information. 

Set up a values framework

I learned quickly with my first that I would not be able to handle "cry it out" (it's okay if you did!) and so if someone was telling me that I needed to go that route with my kids, I would make the decision that they would not be someone I would take advice from, they just didn't align with my values. And just because someone doesn't align with my family, doesn't mean they don't work for someone else!

To establish a values framework, I start by reflecting on the core principles and beliefs that are important to our family. I also take each of my children's personalities into account. My daughter is very physical and needs to move her body a lot. My son tends to be a little more reserved. They have to be parented a little differently and although the general values I use are the same, the way I parent them might be a little different.

It's crucial for me as a parent to create a solid foundation based on our family's core beliefs so we can confidently navigate through the abundance of parenting advice with clarity. 

Set up a system for decision-making

Setting up a system could look like only allowing yourself to check two websites and then call your doctor if you need more help. Or, allowing a partner to make certain decisions that feel particularly hard for you. My husband is the official "it's time to take them to the doctor" decision maker. I often don't trust my instincts on this and worry I'm "bothering" the doctor. My husband on the other hand, has no problem with bothering the doctor.

If you know your own parent or in-law is not going to give you the advice you want, don't reach out when trying to make a decision. 

Identify what feels good and stick with it!

Conclusion

Handling information overload when parenting requires trusting your instincts, limiting internet searches, and setting up a values framework.

By practicing these ways to avoid overload, you can navigate through the sea of parenting advice more effectively.

And most importantly, know that you're doing a great job!

If you need more support for your child, learn more about our brand new play therapist, Wendy Fritz, here.

Anne Rice, LPC, LMHC, CPCS

About the author

Anne is a licensed therapist in both New York and Georgia. She is the owner of Firefly Wellness Counseling located in the Atlanta area. Her team works with all members of the family struggling with anxiety, depression, and big life changes. Anne loves helping adults and teens navigate life's difficulties by creating a comfortable and safe place to share anything and everything that is on their minds. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology at Princeton University and her graduate degree in Counseling Psychology from Boston College.


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