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February 20, 2024

January 3, 2024

How Parents Can Avoid Information Overload: Maintaining Confidence in Our Decision-Making

E:
206
with
Cara Goodwin
Licensed Clinical Psychologist

What You'll Learn

  • What Information Overload Is (and How it Impacts Moms)
  • The Role of Quality Sources
  • Why Our Values Are Vital to Avoiding Information Overload
  • Sensationalized Journalism and Information Overload
  • How Setting Boundaries Can Reduce Information Overload
  • How to Build Confidence in Our Parenting

It can seem like we’re fortunate to be mothering in a time with more information at hand than ever. After all, we have more answers, research, and best practices right at our fingertips than past generations of moms could even imagine. 

But that information is often a double-edged sword. While it’s great that we have access to data, we are also bombarded with conflicting reports, inflammatory headlines, and simply more info than we know what to do with. 

Many of us end up experiencing information overload—the sensation that occurs when too much information actually leaves us feeling overwhelmed and unsure of how to make a decision. 

This is something that so many of my clients have expressed. They fall into a pattern of searching desperately for the “right” or “best” answers, winding up in the research rabbit hole over every parenting decision. 

What starts with good intentions—finding the best choices for their child—ends up eroding their confidence to make decisions. 

So when I saw Dr. Cara Goodwin, founder of Parenting Translator, put out a post about a recent study on information overload, I knew I had to invite her to the podcast to talk about it. 

Today, she joins me to discuss how to cut through the online noise, avoid information overload, and build confidence and trust in yourself. 

What Information Overload Is (and How it Impacts Moms)

When it comes to information, more isn’t always better. Our level of collective knowledge is greater than ever before—but with that also comes misinformation and sensationalized journalism.

So not only are parents sifting through information seeking the “best” choices (which might or might not work for their family), but they are also having to determine which sources they can trust. 

This creates a lot of mental work and pressure. And, while we typically seek out information to help us feel confident about parenting decisions, emerging research shows that it could actually do the opposite. 

A study published in August of 2023 showed that parents who felt less confident sought out more information online, but that this didn’t increase their confidence. In fact, parents who searched more for answers online were more likely to still feel unconfident and continue looking for information online a year later. 

Dr. Cara said this study indicates that online information isn’t helping parents as much as we might think. Instead, it’s creating a vicious cycle. 

Online information isn’t helping parents as much as we think. Instead, it’s creating a vicious cycle.

As new parents, we often feel uncertain, so we seek out information. But in doing so, we aren’t solving the big problem of a lack of confidence—we’re only making it worse. Instead of working our way through it and building our confidence, we’re turning outside of ourselves for answers. 

This is a cycle that so many new moms find themselves in—especially if they struggle with postpartum anxiety

It becomes especially difficult when we encounter conflicting information. Dr. Cara pointed out sleep training as an example. About half of parenting books suggest that you should absolutely sleep train, while the other half says that it will harm your children. 

What are parents supposed to do when facing so much conflicting information? Dr. Cara said that it’s impossible to not feel confused. 

The Role of Quality Sources

One particularly interesting finding from the study Dr. Cara referenced provides a promising way for parents to break out of information overload. The study found that when parents only sought out high-quality sources, they were less likely to experience that overwhelm and lack of confidence. 

Dr. Cara explained that many sources in the parenting space online are created to make you feel shame or fear, ultimately to sell you something. 

She said that it’s helpful for parents to both look closely at the source of information to determine whether it’s evidence-based, and to pay attention to how it’s making you feel. If it makes you feel ashamed or as if you are failing, it’s probably not a good source of information for you. 

When choosing sources, we might need to go to the original source of information to verify the accuracy of studies or research, or stick to a few reliable sources that we know and trust rather than just searching on Google. 

It’s valuable to have sources we can lean on. There are things that we don’t know and challenges we need help with—and there should be no shame in that. But the real goal is to work on building confidence in our own decision-making

When we can do that, we can take in quality information and use the data, guidelines, or best practices as factors—but ultimately make the decisions that are right for us, our individual children, and our families. 

Why Our Values Are Vital to Avoiding Information Overload

When we are presented with hard-and-fast rules or across-the-board advice and told that it should work, we often feel shame when we try something and it doesn’t work for us.

For example, if we hear “If you just do X, Y, and Z, your child won’t have tantrums,” then we wonder if we’re doing something wrong when our child exhibits normal developmental behavior. 

Dr. Cara said that there are so many individual differences in children, from neurodivergence to temperament, and just because experts say one thing doesn’t mean it’s necessarily what’s right for your child. You have to truly believe in your heart that you know what’s best for your child and what’s right for your family. 

Just because experts say one thing doesn’t mean it’s necessarily what’s right for your child.

So how can we build that confidence and make decisions that feel right to us? One powerful way is by tuning into our values, or the core principles that matter most to us. 

When we know and understand our values, they become a compass that guide us in our decision-making. For example, if we value connection and quality family time, but feel pressured to sign up for multiple extracurricular activities, we might stay strong in our values and opt to spend time at home together instead. 

Without understanding our values, we might wonder if we’re making the wrong decision. It might feel like our child needs more structure or teamwork or that specific type of physical activity. But when we let our values guide us, we can make our own decisions and understand that not every family needs to live the same way. 

Our values can keep us from getting pulled in different directions or led astray by conflicting opinions, different parenting philosophies, or online advice. 

Sensationalized Journalism and Information Overload

Another way that parents often encounter misinformation is through inflammatory headlines or sensationalized articles, often which cite research but misconstrue it. 

For example, a recent study about screen time resulted in many headlines such as “Screen time causes developmental delays.” 

But Dr. Cara pointed out that all the study really showed was that in families who gave their infant more than four hours of screen time, there was a correlation with developmental delays. It didn’t take into account anything else, such as the family situation that might be leading to those four hours of screen time in the first place. There was no evidence that screen time itself caused developmental delays. 

These sensationalized articles likely led many moms to feel guilt or shame for using even small amounts of screen time for a much-needed break or reset during the day. But they weren’t presenting the full picture of the data. 

And while play, interaction, and engagement outside of screens are very important for our children, we shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for incorporating some screen time as well. 

The truth often lies somewhere in between extremes.

Dr. Cara said that often the truth lies somewhere in between extremes. In the social media world, extreme is often what gets attention. But if something or someone is telling us that certain parenting decisions are all right or all wrong, in most cases it’s not a reliable source. 

It’s often better to have a balanced approach than falling into polarizing extremes. 

How Setting Boundaries Can Reduce Information Overload

One of the ways we can start limiting information overload and building trust in ourselves is to set boundaries around our research. The more we fall into the research rabbit hole, the more paralyzing it can become. 

The more we fall into the research rabbit hole, the more paralyzing it can become. 

Setting boundaries might look like only visiting a select few trusted sources on a specific topic or choosing not to Google medical or development questions. 

Dr. Cara shared that her newborn was experiencing sleepiness that was interfering with breastfeeding. She considered Googling but decided not to let herself fall into that hole that would likely leave her more anxious or lead her to worst-possible scenarios. Instead, she booked an appointment with the pediatrician. And when her pediatrician confirmed that some babies are just sleepier but grow out of it, she was glad she hadn’t allowed herself to slip into the online spiral. 

Another way of setting boundaries with research is using a timer and giving ourselves a set amount of time to read reviews and make a decision based on the information we have. 

It’s also important to remember that very few parenting decisions are permanent. In most cases, we can make a choice, try it out, gather more information, see if it’s working for us, and adjust based on what we discover. 

Viewing our decisions as less all-or-nothing and more of an ebb-and-flow can help us understand that we’re always pivoting and adjusting. This can make our choices feel more flexible and less high-stakes. 

It can be very uncomfortable to sit with uncertainty as a parent—especially if we’re dealing with anxiety or coping with intrusive thoughts. But the more we seek certainty and reassurance, the stronger worry or anxiety can take hold. Building tolerance for that discomfort can help. 

How to Build Confidence in Our Parenting

It can be helpful to talk with someone else, such as a therapist or a medical professional, or even a friend or family member who isn’t in the throes of new parenthood, when we experience extreme worries, anxiety, or intrusive thoughts. This can help us gather perspective and stay centered in realism. 

Creating a list of trusted sources and sticking to those when searching for important information can also help us avoid information overload and continue to build confidence. 

It’s important to remember that worries and uncertainty are part of parenting.

But it’s also important to remember that worries and uncertainty are part of parenting. We are going to make mistakes. We are going to struggle along the way. And sometimes, we’re going to wonder if we’re doing it right. 

Dr. Cara said that keeping a list of what we’re doing well or things that we are proud of as parents can help us build that confidence and grow as parents. 

We should also surround ourselves with people who lift us up and help us stay confident and assured. 

If you’re struggling with making decisions or need help tuning out the noise and discovering your values, working with a mom therapist can help! Book a FREE 15 minute virtual consult today. 

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Tags:

Decision making, Values, Anxiety

Stage:

Pregnancy, Postpartum, Motherhood

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OUR GUEST

Cara Goodwin
Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Cara Goodwin, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and mother to four children. She specializes in child development and has spent years researching child psychology and neuroscience and providing therapy for children of all ages and parent training. She is the founder of the nonprofit organization Parenting Translator, which translates recent scientific research into information that is helpful, relevant, and accurate for parents and caregivers through an Instagram account, a newsletter on Substack, and a blog on Psychology Today. Dr. Goodwin is also a bestselling author of the children's book, What To Do When You Feel Like Hitting.

Erica Djossa
Erica Djossa
PMH-C | Founder of Momwell
Erica is the founder of Momwell, providing educational resources and virtual therapy for moms. She is a mom of three boys and a registered psychotherapist. Erica’s work has been featured in the Toronto Star, Breakfast Television, Scary Mommy, Medium, Pop Sugar, and Romper. how they want it.

RESOURCES MENTIONED

Cara’s Podcast

Postpartum Anxiety Course

Episode 155: Understanding Baby Temperament

Episode 106: Discover Your Personal Core Values

Episode 182: Making the “Right” Parenting Decisions

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