There’s no shortage of advice and to-do lists for parents-to-be. There are articles on do’s and don’ts; information about things you should and shouldn’t buy; and books you must read right away. The sheer overload of information can be dizzying.
Pausing can help. In fact, one of the best things parents-to-be can do is to look within and reflect together. Not surprisingly, communication between partners is key when you start expanding your family.
Carrie Contey, Ph.D, a nationally recognized early parenting coach, speaker and educator, shared the key questions couples might want to discuss.
Questions about Baby
It’s common to think you’re welcoming a “baby.” However, according to Contey, this perspective makes it seem like “there’s some creature called a baby…[which] puts them in another category than a person.”
Instead, she encourages parents-to-be to consider you’re “welcoming a whole new person.” As such, she suggested asking these questions:
- Who are you?
- What are you here for?
- What do you need from us?
- How can we help you on that journey?
Asking these types of questions creates a curious state of mind. It keeps you curious about your baby’s quirks, preferences and habits, Contey said. It keeps you “open to the fact that you don’t know who this person is.”
“It takes the pressure off being a ‘good parent,’ and [focuses parents on] having a healthy relationship with this person.”
In fact, it’s less about parenting a child and more about how you’re helping this human being along their journey in life. It’s about how you’re interacting with them, yourself and your partner, she said.
Other questions you might consider: How am I communicating my thoughts, energy and behavior to this person? How can I be a great role model for living this human experience in a way that feels good to me?
Questions about Yourself
Before your baby arrives, it’s also important to consider your coping strategies. According to Contey, infants are sensitive to their parents’ emotional states.
No matter what words you use — such as “everything is OK” — your child will pick up on your stress and anxiety. Plus, “you can’t calm someone down without first being calm yourself.” She suggested asking these questions:
- How do we handle stress?
- How do we cope when we’re not getting enough sleep?
- How do I want to feel supported?
- What are my fears?
- What am I excited about?
- How do we manage our own nervous system?
- When we’re feeling “wobbly,” what do we need to do for ourselves to get back to balance?
Questions about Your Childhood
“You can only do what was done to you until you become conscious of what that was, and you can make different choices,” Contey said. In other words, becoming aware of your own childhood can help you make deliberate decisions about your relationship with your child. Contey suggested exploring these questions:
- How was I parented?
- How did my parents handle stress?
- How did they handle it when I was crying?
Questions about Your Relationship
“When we’re in stressful situations, we can slip into [the primitive] parts of our brain,” Contey said. This makes us more reactive, resentful and angry toward each other. So it’s important for partners to continuously communicate and explore how they want to connect. Contey suggested these questions:
- How do we stay relatively connected and balanced with each other while helping this little person manage their early development?
- How are we going to support each other?
- How will we connect?
It’s also important for parents to recognize when you’re feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, and remind each other that you’re on the same team.
Ask these questions regularly, both before and after your baby arrives, Contey said. Take a walk and pull out a question, such as “let’s think about what it means to be parents to a tiny new human [and] what do we want for ourselves for this experience.”