Offering Support to New Parents (Without Going Overboard)
By Breanna Callahan, Southwest Health Marketing Coordinator
I have many friends and relatives welcoming their little ones into the world. This got me thinking, what can I do if I want to help and offer support? What is helpful for new parents…and what is not helpful?
First and foremost, be very considerate of the parents and their wishes. This should go without saying, but sometimes when you think about babies (and baby cuddles) you just want to jump in. You might think “who wouldn’t want visitors at the hospital?” or “of course they want me over at their house every waking minute so I can help them.” But ask first. And respect what they have to say. They could just want time at home to get settled as a family or they could welcome the help when they are first home. Everyone is different.
If you do visit, make sure they know you are coming! There’s nothing worse than when the baby has just fallen asleep and you think, “Ahh a little time for myself” and someone rings the doorbell. Now baby is awake and parents are not happy. Don’t visit if you or anyone else is ill and wash your hands when you arrive. They don’t need germs. If you have children and are going to visit, check with the parents to see if they want the children there or not. They could just want to see you. They might think, for the time being, one little one is enough. They might be scared of how the kids will treat their little one or if the germ factories will get them sick. Just check first.
Food. The last thing on their mind is self-care and preparing meals, but they will probably welcome it if they don’t have to make it! Whether this comes in the form of gift cards for places that deliver or fast food or freezer meals that you make for them. Ask them what kind of food they would like and make sure you know about food allergies or dietary restrictions (no need to cause an allergic reaction to add to their exhaustion).
So, we all are experts at our own kids, right? When it comes to parenting, people have very strong opinions. I will admit, I am one of these. But usually I preface it with, “Well this is what worked for me…” rather than “My way is the best and only way.” You never know how new parents are going to react to advice. They might welcome it or they might think you are offering it because you think they aren’t doing a good job. And we are all just doing the best we can, right? If they seem questioning or frustrated, simply ask them if they want your advice. If not, stop right there. If so, offer it.
If you have children, do you remember how coveted a shower is when you have a baby? A nice, hot, uninterrupted, long shower? No constantly listening for them crying. No peeking out to see if they somehow unlatched their own buckle on their bouncy sit and are sprawled on the floor. Offer to keep watch while they take a little time for themselves, even if it’s just for a shower.
Help them around the house. Do the dishes, shovel the walk, even those small tasks can build up and seem like a lot when you are just trying to figure out this whole parenting thing. Maybe they are ready to venture out to the grocery store. Offer to go with. It takes an hour just to get ready to go and then you’re exhausted. Having an extra body there will be a big help, whether it’s to stroll around with the little one or help grab items off the list.
Most importantly be there. Not in any particular way. Just be available. Whether it’s a text when they are wondering if “this is normal??” or they ran out of toilet paper, or maybe they want you to watch their bundle of joy so they can just walk around the block. Be someone they can vent their frustrations to and bring them that coveted amazing cup of coffee. And don’t forget to ask if they need anything—they might be hesitant to reach out. Just let them know you are there for them.
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