05 April 2021

What Is The Best Gift For New Parents In 2021?

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I know you probably found this article because you are most likely in a hurry and wondering what the best gifts for new parents are. I’ll tell you what the best gift is upfront, but you should read on to see why it is the best gift. At face value you may think I’m crazy. I promise that not only is this the perfect gift for new parents who have everything, but it doubles as a unique baby gift!


At a Glance



The Best Gift For New Parents is…


A blank journal.


A simple blank journal that you can pick up from any local store. It can have lines or be completely empty. The only important part is that it is a high enough quality to endure the next 18-22 years of use. A “high quality” journal will have thicker pages (you’ll know what I mean after you look at several in person), a durable cover (think more along the lines of genuine leather instead of plastic), and the binding method should look sturdy. 


After finding a journal that will last for decades, the next and most enjoyable part is finding a unique design. Be careful not to select a design that is too strong because this journal is not for the new parent. This journal is ultimately a gift for the new child! Choose a design that will please the parent and is mild enough to appeal to most people. It’s going to be a long time until the child reveals their lasting preferences and personality!




Why a journal is the best gift for a new parent

graphic about benefits of journaling for new parentsBaikie, K., & Wilhelm, K. (2005). Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 11(5), 338-346. doi:10.1192/apt.11.5.338



This journal isn’t so much of a journal as it is an extended letter from parent to child. Stay with me for a moment. I’m going to approach this from four perspectives. One of the reasons this is one of the most awesome baby gifts for new parents is how beneficial it is to the parent and how the meaning of this journal changes during the child’s life. I’ll start with the parent’s perspective and then illustrate how the journal changes in the child’s eyes as time presses on.




The Parent’s Perspective

graphic hands holding pen and writing in leather journal

I’m struggling to craft a great opener for this section because there is nothing I can say to fully encompass the journey you will go on as a new parent. I think Themistocles from 300: Rise of an Empire said it best. I’m going to make some slight editorial enhancements to fit our scenario. 


“My brothers [and sisters]. Steady your heart. Look deep into your souls. For your mettle is to be tested this day [each day from this moment forward]. If in the heat of battle [parenting] you need a reason to fight on, you need only to look at the man who fights at your side [your beautiful child’s face as they sleep]. This is the why of battle [parenting]. This is the brotherhood [league] of men [parenthood] in arms. An unbreakable bond made stronger by the crucible of combat [raising children]. You will never be closer than with those who you shed your blood with [spend each day molding and teaching]. For there is no nobler cause than to fight for those who will lay down their life for you [carry our species into the future]. So you fight strong today. You fight for your brothers [children]. Fight for your families. Most of all you fight for Greece [Humanity].”


A bit dramatic, I know. For those that have had children, you recognize the truth of it. For those that have not had children, trust that while dramatic, it is not exaggerated. As new parents you will constantly feel unsure of what to do, how to say it, question if you are making the best decision for your child, whether you were too hard on them, or struggle to express how much you care. 


This journal can act as a therapeutic tool where you can explain your rationale for what you did or layout your feelings about something that happened. This journal should be viewed as an opportunity to explain to your child why you raised them the way you did. You should capture the moments that fill your heart with joy, left you speechless with shock or confusion, and when you know you should have done something differently. It’s easy to get lost in all of the challenges you will face with, and alongside of, your child.


You can explain why you made that difficult decision to relocate that took your child away from their friends. You can talk about the struggles you faced when your child was seriously hurt or battled a disease. If you have the courage, you can write how you felt when your child mimicked your bad behavior for the first time. (This was a complex entry for me to write!) The subjects on what you include are limited only by your life experiences.


You should record the extraordinary and the mundane. You should record your favorites and your child’s favorites. When you have moments when you are struggling, you will be able to look back through the journal and recognize all that you have overcome and how much your child has grown. By reviewing this journal, you can continually refine your parenting style until you are the parent you want to be.




Child's Perspective As A Young Adult

graphic young adult sitting surrounded by moving boxes

Reflect back to when you left home. Whether you left for college or a career. You are now an adult, whether you are ready or not. The weight of lifelong consequences now hovers over every choice that you make. You are getting advice from professors, friends, YouTubers, bosses, and of course family. Life is moving so fast you don’t have time to really think about what you are doing. You just do it. (Nike, don’t sue me!) 


You have moved away from home to pursue an incredible opportunity. In the absence of the only support network you have ever known, your family, you start to feel the overwhelming pressure of the mountain you are about to climb. Then you remember you have your journal! The journal that your parents gave you on your 18th birthday!


The journal that your parents have been writing in since the day you were born. The journal that contains stories about all of the greatest achievements of your life. The journal that has your favorite memories. The journal that has your life story.


As you reflect on the stories through the journal and see your parents’ handwriting, you feel a sense of strength and warmth growing in you. You are now ready to eat that elephant in front of you, and the fire in your belly is now big enough to dive into your challenge! At this stage in the child’s life, the journal serves as a tool to invoke strength, stave off homesickness, and a source of happiness.




Child's Perspective As A New Parent

graphic new parents holding infant

Imagine you just found out you and your spouse are expecting your first child. You have been planning this pregnancy for several years. You have read every book, from healthy baby sleeping habits to peaceful parenting and “elimination communication.” Or this pregnancy is a surprise gift in your life that you have had zero time to prepare for. In either scenario, the fear of the unknown continues to grow as the pregnancy progresses. It doesn’t matter what book you read, what videos you watch, or who you talk to. You can’t find a relief valve for the mounting pressure. All of this information you have found is great, but it is abstract, idealized, and difficult to relate to if you haven’t done it before. 


Then you remember the journal that your parents gave you! This journal not only reminds you of the weird quirks of when you were a kid, but it also contains your parents’ thoughts about each of those weird stories. The journal has the reflections of your parents on what they wish they had done differently in some of your challenging moments growing up. The book also has their proudest moments of you. As you read through this journal, you realize it is the single best parenting book in the world, and it was explicitly personalized for you! 


The best part of this parenting book is that you can relate to every situation inside. You know that these parenting strategies work out pretty well because they are the reason you are the amazing person you are! You couldn’t understand why your parents said or did things as you were living through it, but now you can look at the situation with a new set of eyes.


Not only does this journal contain parenting advice, but it also contains your favorite activities and foods as you were growing up. You remember that you loved your mom’s special goulash and think your child might like it as well. Luckily, your mom wrote the exact recipe in your journal! You and your dad made up a game that only the two of you knew about. You both would spend hours every week playing the game, but you can’t remember what the rules were or even what the game was about. Now you can share your favorite childhood experiences with your children!




Child's Perspective After A Parent Passes Away

graphic woman holding flowers and putting hand on casket

I know this isn’t a topic that is comfortable to think about, let alone talk about. The nature of this website is about helping people process the grief related to losing a loved one. In my opinion, the single greatest tool to move through grief is recording positive memories. Losing a loved one is challenging for many reasons, but the threat of losing the memories of the deceased is one of the biggest. 


Imagine after losing your parent, when the funeral is done, and as people transition away from group mourning, you are left alone at night struggling to envision a future without your parent. The experience will be harrowing, and your pain is based on the unique relationship that you shared together. Maybe you can talk to your siblings, your other parent, your other family members, your spouse, friends, therapist, or support group. However, they still won’t be able to appreciate the connection you shared with your parent. Then you remember the journal!


As you open the cover to the journal, you are overwhelmed by recognizing your parent’s handwriting. It’s almost as if they are sitting there with you as you read over the words. You read through the pages and come across an entry where your parent explains how much they love you, how proud they are of you, and how excited they are for your future.


Each page inside this journal is a precious treasure. 


The entire journal is filled with the spirit of your parent. This journal now allows you to connect directly with your parent whenever you want to. You can now keep your relationship alive in a healthy way. In my post about the New Model of Grief, I point out that Dr. Tony Walter mentions that the purpose of grief isn’t to move on without the deceased but to find a secure place for them. I would argue that there is no more secure place than in this personalized journal.




Examples of what I include in my children’s Life Journals

Sometimes it can be challenging to know what to write in your journal. I thought it might be helpful to see how I structure them and what kind of content I include in the journals I am making for my kids


My wife and I each have our own journals for the kids.

My wife is Taiwanese, and we believe it is important for the kids to participate in my wife’s culture as much as possible. This is beneficial for a couple of reasons. 


My wife’s mother language is Mandarin, and she best expresses herself in that language and using traditional Chinese characters. My wife can express herself using all of the nuance and wordplay that accurately reflects her personality without being bogged down by English. The kids are also forced to learn to read traditional Chinese characters and participate in my wife’s culture to fully appreciate their mother’s writings.


My wife and I are different people. We share morals but still view the world differently. We can each offer our dissenting perspectives on the events of our children’s lives in a way that the kids can appreciate when they are older. They can gain insight into how the same scenario affected their parents differently.


Examples of Entries


Each of my children’s journals opens and closes with a poem that I chose for them.


My Daughter’s Journal (oldest child) 

My wife was recovering during one of the first days that we were home from the hospital. I took my crying daughter into the next room to comfort her. After she calmed down, I turned her so I could look at her beautiful little face. As I reflected on this child’s incredibleness and daydreaming about all of the great memories we will create as a family, something assaulted my nose.


I didn’t recognize the smell. Before I had time to even consider what the smell could be, I felt the warm waterfall that was pouring down all over me. I looked down and realized that my daughter was having her first significant bowel movement. It was more than the diaper and I could handle. I yelled for my wife to come save us both. 


Because my daughter is my firstborn, she has the unlucky privilege of being the experimental child. I often find myself writing about the mistakes I think I made with her, the reason why I did those things, and what I wish I had done differently. I still talk to her about my mistakes in person after they happen, but I think she will absorb my apologies better when she isn’t stuck in a 3-year-old mind.


My Middle Son’s Journal  

From the moment my son could walk, he has always had a craving first thing in the morning. The craving is so intense that he will break down crying like something you’d expect in a Korean drama sitcom. When the clocks in my kids’ rooms turn green, my daughter (3 years old) opens her door and then opens my middle son’s (16 months) door, and they both come racing out. My daughter looks for my wife and me to get morning hugs and kisses. My son runs straight to the kitchen to ask for Dad’s Famous Blueberry Muffins.


He won’t even let us change his poopy diaper until he gets to eat a little muffin. If the muffins aren’t ready, then he puts his hands to his mouth, his eyes start watering, he collapses to the floor, and then the acoustics kick in. Before you jump to conclusions, my wife and I don’t model this behavior, and he has never seen it on TV. This is just who my son is. I include the recipe for the Blueberry Muffins that he loves so much just behind the journal entry explaining his morning routine.


In My Daughter and Middle Son’s Journals 

I included a story about when they started to share the same room. My daughter was 3.5, and my son was around 20 months. Like every other parent, we invade our toddler’s privacy by having a camera in their room. One of the first few nights they were together, my son started crying. He had a fresh diaper, they had their nighttime milk, we read our books for the night, and everyone got hugs and kisses.


For some reason, he simply felt the need to cry. I turned on the camera to see if he was hurt. He was lying in his bed in the same position I left him in, except his blanket was off. I watched my daughter lean over the rail. I almost ran into the room to catch her from falling but decided to wait and see what happens. She was trying to look at her brother. She noticed that his blanket was off. She climbed down off the top bunk, walked over to her brother, put his blanket on, gave him a kiss on the forehead, and laid next to him. I turned on the microphone, and I could hear her gently saying, “It’s okay. It’s okay. I here with you. You are safe. It’s okay. I love you,” as she was rubbing his back. After my son was comforted, she climbed back into the top bunk and went to sleep.  


After the story in my daughter’s journal, I wrote about how proud I was that she took care of her brother. I admire the young woman she is growing into. I talked about how her actions are so similar to her mother and part of the reason I love her mother so much. 


After the story in my son’s journal, I wrote about how he may have fights with his sister in the future, but she is on his team and has loved him since he was born. I explained his relationship with his sister is extremely valuable. It is one of the only relationships that will be with him for his entire life. The last thought I wrote was that today his sister is bigger than he is, and she took care of and protected him. One day when he is bigger than her, he needs to take care of and protect her as well.


My Youngest Son’s Journal 

My youngest son has been battling jaundice for, up to the time I am writing this, over 2 months. He has had multiple heel pricks each week to monitor his bilirubin levels and check for organ issues. Just yesterday, I had to take him to the hospital for an intravenous blood draw. The same kind of blood draws that we get as adults. The needle goes into the arm, and the blood goes into the vacuum tubes. Up until yesterday, it was just heel pricks and shots. My youngest son didn’t like the heel pricks and shots. He HATED the blood draw.


Holding him down during the draw was extremely difficult to do as a parent. He won’t ever remember this experience, but I want him to see some of the struggles of being a parent. One day he may need to go through a similar experience. Because this story is so personal, he may take more away from it than from an anonymous post on the internet. (I’m assuming books by the time he has a family will be relics that decay with any amount of sunlight.





Personally, I don’t think there is a single more meaningful gift for the new parent or for their child than a handwritten journal. With the speed that technology is driving our lives, taking a step backward and using handwriting is unusual. That’s the key that makes this a unique and unusual gift. There is something so satisfying about holding something handwritten. You know how much love and care went into the writing just by the sheer amount of time required to produce it. This gift idea doesn’t have to be limited to just parents and children. This would be an incredible gift for grandparents as well! As a grandparent, you can record your family origins, history and share precious memories that will be passed on for generations to come.


What do you think of my recommendation for the best newborn baby gift idea for parents? How would you have felt if your parents gave you a journal filled with a director’s cut of your childhood? Have you started making a journal, and if so, what has your experience been like so far?

Dustin Schneider

     Dustin is the founder of Living Observance. After experiencing 5 deaths of family members and one pet in a short 3.5 years, he found a way to make the grieving process less painful. The loss of a loved one is a physically and emotionally draining experience. Often times a death in the family can cause rifts between family members that aren't prepared for the experience. Dustin has been working to find a way to package the methodology he developed so more people can grieve in a healthy and positive manner. He believes that through knowledge, patience, and a little guidance anyone can learn how to work through the sea of challenging emotions that follow a death in a way that respects the deceased and doesn't harm existing relationships.

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