How to Congratulate New Parents
For many people, having a baby is one of the most amazing, daunting, wonderful and frankly terrifying experiences of their lives. It’s a time of great change, of learning, of rediscovery, and of very little sleep. It can be difficult for new parents to stay connected with friends and stay active in social activities, and sometimes friends aren’t sure how to adjust to these changing conditions.
If your friend or a family member has recently become a parent, your role really depends on how they choose to handle the first few months of their child’s life. Take cues from them as to how you can be involved and helpful, but regardless of your role make sure to let them know you’re there for support along the way. There are things you can keep in mind however, to assist new parents in this beautiful and life altering transition.
1. Reassure the Expectant Parents
Anyone who has had children knows the feeling of apprehension before the first baby comes, as all of the unknowns go through your mind and you try to work out what to expect. If you have children already, don’t sugarcoat the truth, but show the soon to be parents how worthwhile the experience is. Even if you don’t have children, you can still reassure them that billions of people have done gone through this before them, and that they have a strong network of friends to help along the way.
2. Congratulate them
These days it’s easy to use social media to wish someone a happy birthday, send condolences or say congratulations, but when it comes to celebrating the announcement of a pregnancy, reaching out directly with a phone call or a visit is a much better option. Let the expectant parents know you wish them all the best with a personal message in a card, or some heartfelt words spoken over a celebratory lunch.
3. Offer to help with arrangements
In the months leading up to the birth of a child there is a lot to be done. Not only do parents need to buy things for the baby and child-proof their house (or even move into a new one!), the emotional and mental preparation also requires adjustment. Offer to help with the preparations, like buying some needed baby accessories, planning the baby shower or helping to decorate the nursery. Sometimes even just lending your ear can make a huge difference.
4. Manage your own expectations
When people have children, as is to be expected, their lives totally change and their focus shifts entirely to their new baby. If you don’t have many friends or family members with children, you may not be prepared for the way your relationship may change and might have unrealistic expectations for how much time the new parents will have. Of course, all parents are different and have varying levels of help, but it’s important not to take any unreturned phone calls or skipped dinners personally. Once the baby is born and particularly whilst it is still young, instead of suggesting dinner and a movie at your usual spot, offer to go to them with takeaway food and a Netflix recommendation. If you’re really eager to help, offer to babysit while the new parents have a long overdue date night, or even take a nap!
5. Take cues from the parents
As important as it is to wish new parents congratulations, the days right after the birth are usually reserved only for close family. It can be so overwhelming for a new mother to have a hospital room full of visitors while she is sleep deprived, adjusting to bodily changes and trying to bond with her baby.
Sending a gift is a beautiful way to let your friends know you’re thinking of them, but be sure to ask when suits them for a visit. If the couple have other children at home, don’t forget to buy them a little something too so they don’t feel left out or jealous of all the attention their new sibling is receiving.
6. Think before you speak
Although you may have the best of intentions, right after becoming a new parent there are hormones and emotions impacting how the parents, particularly the mother who has just given birth, react to particular things. Make sure to keep things positive, and keep the following things in mind:
- Do not say anything about a new mother’s weight, even if you think you’re offering a compliment.
- Avoid telling the new parents how to best raise their child, outside of genuine, helpful suggestions. Unless you think the baby is in danger, wait for them to come to you with questions.
- Do not ask if the couple have been intimate since the birth. This one seems obvious but it does happen!
- Particularly right after the birth, don’t tell the new parents that you’re so glad you don’t have children.
- Do not remind them of how much fun they used to be.
In the months following the birth of a child, it’s so important to be patient, loving, supportive and helpful to the new parents, as they navigate these unchartered waters. If they have other children at home, they are probably going to be exhausted, extremely busy and perhaps a little short, so it’s vital to know when to offer help, when to share your parental insights and when to give them space. If it’s you who has just had the baby, make sure you cherish the time!
Cherish This Time by Joanna Fuchs