As expecting, or new, parents there is a vast amount of information that you can access about how to help your beautiful baby grow into a thriving successful adult. Opinions vary wildly about what does (or doesn’t) help you navigate this crucial time laying the foundations for their years to come.
Well-meaning friends will often tell you not to listen to any advice as each child is different with their own unique personalities and traits. So, most parents muddle their way through this period on their own. The majority of parenting books focus on assuring parents that they are doing a good job, what they are experiencing is perfectly normal and that everything is going to be ok; or they provide you with a list as long as your arm about what could possibly go wrong and how these things can be avoided.
What if everything seems to be going well: you have a close and loving relationship, your pregnancy is going well, your birthing experience had relatively few complications and you’re enjoying the time with your newborn, how can you make it even better? The science of positive psychology can provide useful tools that can help both parents and babies thrive. Parents I have spoken to have found the following four practices have been found to be very useful throughout pregnancy.
As new parents you spend a lot of time thinking about and planning for the future, and sometimes forget to enjoy the present moment. There is so much to prepare, plan and do to help children grow into healthy, happy humans that you do not take the time to stop, savour and celebrate the amazing moments during pregnancy and birth. Mindfulness training and exercises can also help parents to ease the anxiety they may feel during pregnancy and when they aren’t getting a lot of sleep with a newborn in the house.
- Realistic optimism
Pregnancy, labor and giving birth can be difficult and painful. If one was inclined to have a pessimistic outlook it’s easy to focus on and worry about all the things that could go wrong. This will increase the expectant parents stress levels and make anxiety even worse. This is not to say you stick your heads in the sand and naively believe that labor it going to go exactly as planned or be easy, as this can lead to increased frustration and disappointment. Instead it’s better to develop realistic optimism that clearly acknowledges reality but also provides hope for example thinking or saying something like – “this is going to be challenging but I know we are going to get through it and that the entire experience is going to be so very well worth it in the end”.
- Social connection
In all of the literature focussed on psychological wellbeing the thing that stands out the most is our need for connection. Other people matter in our lives and new parents need to be able to reach out and ask for help is they need it. Connect with family or other friends who are having, or already have children. They will be a source of both social and emotional support on those tough days. If you don’t have family to connect with look for new parents’ groups online and connect with them so that you have a support network.
During pregnancy, childbirth and having a newborn at home there are countless things to worry about. However, if these remain your focus it can be easy to spiral downwards into increased levels of anxiety. Instead turn your attention to the things you appreciate and develop a practice that allows you to express what you appreciate most from each day. Stopping to express your gratitude allows you to savour those moments and will also help keep your mind focused on all of the positive things in your life.
Hopefully these ideas from the field of positive psychology can reduce expectant, and new, parents’ anxiety levels, buffer the effects of negative feelings and enhance parental and infant wellbeing. Enjoy this journey and use these strategies to move through pregnancy positively.
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