It is a well-known fact that words can hurt or words can help. We all have a moment in each day where we need to choose our words carefully. This is especially true with fragile, new parents who are at the end of their rope as they cope with an infant who they feel is challenging. And, as the incidence of postpartum depression and anxiety is rising, a conversation with a new parent may be of great importance.
As lead home visitor with Fussy Baby Network Colorado, (fussybabynetworkcolorado.org), I have worked with hundreds of families that live with a baby that is difficult to soothe, feed or help sleep. Quickly, tears can come to the new mom when I ask the question, “What has it been like for YOU to care for this baby?”
Asking the parent about their personal experience can be hugely helpful in this world of instant advice and information. Here are other suggestions on how to use your words wisely when speaking with new parents.
- Say NOTHING, simply be present during a difficult time.
- Acknowledge and affirm how challenging (and always exhausting) it can be to parent an infant. Validate, validate, validate.
- Offer advice or share your own experiences ONLY when invited and say it in one simple sentence.
- In a calm, caring way, ask if the parent is feeling depressed or anxious.
- Use words that help the parent feel like the expert in the care of their own child.
Believe me when I say, the right words and sensitive responses to a new parent can be a lot more helpful than a casserole. Please, watch your mouth and support a brand, new relationship.