Parenting is a lifetime commitment. It’s also considered the toughest job in the world as it’s not something you get to learn in school or train at an internship. You only learn and develop your skills as you go through different experiences. But for new parents, the start of their journey can be overwhelming. During the early stage, they’ll have plenty of sleepless nights, have little time to cater to their needs, and get no time to socialize and connect.
That’s why many new parents often experience this mental health issue called postpartum depression. Parents dealing with PPD often feel intense frustration, hopelessness, and anxiety. They’ll also begin to isolate themselves, change their appetite, and encounter sleep issues. As it gets worst, untreated PPD could lead the new parents to become paranoid and have thoughts of hurting the baby or themselves.
Thus, if you have new parents in your life dealing with mental health issues, offering support will help them overcome these challenges, get their mental health back in shape, and reinforce positive parenting. Here are some steps to support new parents facing mental health challenges:
Listen To Their Feelings
For new parents with PPD or other mental health issues, they’re probably bottling up some intense feelings to themselves like guilt, sadness, anger, and the feeling of not being a good mother. One of the best things you can do for them, which they also need, is to listen to their feelings without judgment. Avoid telling them things that’d invalidate her feelings like:
- It’s going to be okay.
- It’s all going to pass.
- Everyone feels that way.
- Just get on with it.
- Don’t overthink.
Instead, sit down with them, listen attentively, and try to understand what they’re going through without any judgment. When they feel understood and supported, they’ll feel safer, which will remind them that they’re not alone.
One common mistake most people make around new parents is comparing. Comparing may sound like:
- When I had a baby, I did this.
- When she had a baby, she did this.
- You should do it just like how she did it.
These may sound like you’re helping or giving suggestions. In reality, these things will only make them feel worse about themselves, especially if they already feel like they’re not good parents. So, never compare as this will only worsen their feelings of shame or guilt.
Offer To Help
New parents who often feel self-doubts and think they’re not good enough will never speak up or reach out if they need help. Unfortunately, doing this can only worsen things for them. So, rather than waiting for them to reach out to you for help, you can initiate to offer specific bits of help.
You can offer them help by:
- Bringing warm homemade meals
- Volunteering to take care of the baby for a few hours
- Helping them clean the house
- Helping prepare the baby’s food
- Printing baby pictures and sending them to their far-away relatives
- Shopping groceries for them
- Watering their garden
Offering assistance to these tasks will make them feel that they’re not alone on this parenting journey.
Whenever they start feeling worthless or tell you they have difficulty bonding with their baby, the best thing you can do is reassure them. Remind them that they’re good parents even if they don’t feel like it. You can also praise them for every effort and progress they make every day. This type of reassurance will make them feel better about themselves.
Visit For The Parents, Not For The Baby
Most of the time, when people know you recently had a baby, they’d automatically schedule regular visits into your house to see and hang out with the baby. But despite their good intentions, sometimes, seeing that people have fun with the baby can make them feel alone. This is true, especially if visitors would constantly pop questions about the baby or their parenting skills instead of asking how they are and how they feel.
So, if you schedule a visit, make sure that your visitation is more for the parents than for the baby. You can still have fun with their baby, but make sure to pay attention to the parents and ask them how they’re doing and offer to help them around the house. Once they feel safe and comfortable about your visitation, it’ll be easier for them to open up their struggles to you.
Support Their Decisions
If the new mother decides to seek treatment and attend a doctor’s appointment for their mental health, the best thing you can do is to go with her. This isn’t about keeping her company, but it’s about making her feel supported about her decisions. Again, while you’re with her on their treatment journey, never raise any subjects about comparison as every parent has unique challenges and experiences.
Whether you’re a friend, a partner, or a family member, your support can mean so much for the new parents and help them overcome these mental health challenges. So, take the steps above or figure out your own ways to help them during this challenging time in their lives.