The numbers are clear. If you know a few parents, you know someone who’s had postnatal depression, whether they blogged about it or not.
So going on the twin assumptions that a) there’s a good chance your friends with a newborn are struggling and b) there’s a good chance they won’t volunteer that they’re struggling, here are seven helpful things to say to new parents if you want to offer tangible support.
The mum is more likely to have the depression itself, but her partner has to carry a whopping burden if she does, so these are things to say to all caregivers involved in the life of a new baby. And anyone else you want to show your friendship to.
- ‘I really enjoy doing dishes/playing with toddlers/mowing lawns. Can I please do these/take her to the playground/come around on Wednesday to do yours?’
Be specific in your offers of help. If you just say, ‘What can I do?’ you’re more likely to be turned down out of misguided politeness.
- ‘Can I take the baby out for a walk for an hour or two while you catch up on sleep?’
Sleep deprivation is a huge component of depression and is tough for any parent, however well they are feeling.
- If you know you are a good listener and are ready to hear whatever comes:
‘If you’d ever like to talk about how things are going, I’m here to listen.’
‘Is motherhood/fatherhood turning out how you expected?’
- ‘I’d like to bring a meal around so you don’t have to cook. Should it be for the freezer, or for tonight?’
- If you have the capacity to make this offer:
‘A new baby can be hard work. You can call me anytime of the day or night. You are not alone in this.’
- ‘You guys are used to being pretty on top of things. You don’t have to be, though, with us. You can always come to us on a bad day.’
Arohanui to the real-life people who said versions of these to us in the early weeks, and to the many other people who offered their kindnesses.
If you’ve ever had periods of illness, grief or vulnerability, you’ll probably have ideas too. What are the most helpful things people said to you, or you wish they’d said?
If you’ve found this post helpful, please feel free to share it around.
You might also be interested in these related posts:
A post on living in the gap between our expectations and the reality of parenthood