How to support new parents
Family and friends can make a real difference to the health and wellbeing of new parents who may be under increased pressure due to the social and economic impacts of COVID-19. Here’s how to provide support.
Becoming a parent is an exciting time, but it comes with plenty of challenges. Add coronavirus and social isolation into the mix, and for some people, new parenthood may increase their risk of experiencing postnatal anxiety and/or depression.
Parents may, understandably, feel concerned about their baby’s health and wellbeing during the pandemic. They might also be feeling a sense of grief and loss as a result of not being able to share their baby with loved ones due to isolation measures. Some new parents may also be facing job insecurity, financial stress and increased pressure on family relationships as a result of COVID-19.
If you’re a friend or relative of a new parent struggling to cope, there are many things you can do to support them.
- Stay in touch. As coronavirus continues to affect how we get together, keeping in touch with new parents is key. If you can’t physically see a friend who has a new baby, give them a call or catch up via video. Consider messaging them beforehand to find out the best time for them.
- Offer emotional support. Listen without trying to make suggestions or offer advice. When your loved one expresses any difficult feelings or thoughts, resist the urge to try and fix things. Instead, offer words of encouragement to help build their confidence. For example, you might say, “I understand how strange it must be not being able to have lots of visitors to meet your little one, but you are giving your baby everything they need right now,” or simply, “I think you’re doing a great job”.
- Provide practical help. Offer to take on things like cooking, housework or looking after the new baby (or other children) – provided it doesn’t impact your self-isolation and physical distancing measures. Some new parents find it hard to accept support, so if they turn you down initially, don’t be put off from offering again. Try asking what type of help they’d find useful. Offering practical help can provide a new parent some much-needed time to look after themselves. Encourage them to eat well and to sleep when they can. And, in keeping with social distancing rules, suggest they head outside for a walk every day, and if you can – and it’s safe to – join them.
- Be aware of the signs. One in six women experience postnatal depression in the first year after having a baby. Postnatal anxiety is just as prevalent in the first few months too. Depression and anxiety in new dads is also common. There are many signs that someone may be struggling, including having a sense of hopelessness about the future, feeling inadequate or a failure as a parent, and worrying excessively about the baby. Remember, too, that new parenthood combined with social isolation during the pandemic may increase their risk of experiencing postnatal anxiety and/or depression.
- Talk to them if you’re worried. If you are concerned about a new parent, share this with them and offer your support in a gentle manner. New parents can sometimes be so focused on caring for the baby that they may not realise that they’re struggling – often it’s a friend or family member who notices they’re not coping. Just knowing you’re there for them will make a real difference. To help new mums and dads get a sense of how they are feeling, you could suggest they do these mental-health checklists for mums and dads.
- Encourage them to seek help. If you feel like your loved one needs professional support, encourage them to reach out to their GP. You could also point them in the direction of these support services:
- Look after you, too. If you’re providing support to someone with postnatal anxiety or depression, it’s important you look after yourself and acknowledge that this is a difficult time for you as well.
This content is proudly funded by one of Beyond Blue’s Major Partners, Future Generation Global Investment Company.