What not to ask a new parent....
RU OK - What not to ask a new parent....
It’s RU OK day. And whether someone has had a first baby or third baby, becoming a mum/dad/parent is bloody hard. There are good days, bad days, I didn’t get a chance to eat or shower days and everything in between. But when it comes to catching up with a new parent there are definitely some things that can make the meeting enjoyable or triggering. When you have a baby you are flooded with hormones, changes to your body and sleep deprivation so it's really important to check in with friends when they have their baby and ask, R U OK?
But it’s also important to avoid asking some questions… So here are a few things to avoid when seeing a new parent….
Is she a good baby?
Personally, I find this question ridiculous…. What is a bad baby? Babies eat, sleep, soil nappies and cry. There is no such thing as good or bad. I mean they are a baby!
Are they a good sleeper?
Trust me if the answer is yes, they will offer this info up without you having to ask. Sleep is not a competition and if you’re not getting a whole heap of sleep you definitely don’t need to be reminded about it.
Oh are you really sleeping with them/feeding them to sleep/ baby wearing?
The condescending tone is right up there with “you are holding them too much”, “You should let them cry it out” or any other statement that sounds like you’re questioning their parenting decision. If they didn’t ask, then they probably don’t want your advice.
Don’t you feel bad having to go back to work?
For some people this isn’t a choice. Bills are still there to be paid and at some point a lot of parents have to return to work. Very few do it without experiencing some form of guilt and they don’t need to be reminded about it.
You seem tired, anxious, stressed….
Not a question but also not something people want to hear. Yes, they are probably feeling all of those things. But there are ways to start conversations to see how they are feeling. Highlighting it this way probably won't help.
Instead we can support new parents by asking other things instead….
What’s your favourite meal? Coffee order etc
Sending over meals, groceries or even just a coffee can be a huge help. When you are in the trenches of becoming a new parent any little help can make life that much more manageable. Even an offer of doing a grocery shop for them can go a long way.
It can be hard transitioning to motherhood, how is it going for you?
This gives them the chance to open up and tell you how they are feeling. But be empathetic when you are listening, it's not the time to flood them with advice and instructions unless they specifically ask for it. If you get a dismissive “I’m fine”, then you might need to rephrase and ask again if you have concerns.
Some of their tips include:
- Asking more than once
- Showing a new parent you care by asking about them, not just about the baby.
- Be empathetic – usually parents feel shame or guilt if they are finding it tough but hearing without judgement will encourage them to open up.
- Instead of saying “It will get better” help them feel heard e.g. “That sounds really hard”.
- Let them know how they’re feeling is OK.
“ WHEN TO GET HELP Being pregnant or becoming a new parent can be both exciting and challenging. Having some trouble adjusting to the changes is natural. However, when general ups and downs develop into something more serious, and last for two weeks or more, it’s time to get help”. PANDA offers phone and online support – for more information go to https://www.panda.org.au/
What is PANDA?
Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia supports women, men and families across Australia affected by anxiety and depression during pregnancy and in the first year of parenthood. PANDA operates Australia’s only National Helpline for individuals and their families to recover from perinatal anxiety and depression, a serious illness that affects up to one in five expecting or new mums and one in ten expecting or new dads.