By Alyssa Sieg, Program Coordinator

Preparing for the birth of a new baby is a wonderful time filled with anticipation, excitement, and joy. For first-time parents, the preparation can also be a time for anxiety and uncertainty.

There are so many unknowns for parents when bringing a new baby into the world. The thought of sleep deprivation, financial concerns, and finding the right childcare for the baby can definitely be a source of major stress. This stress can most definitely affect the parents’ relationship and their mental health, and it can often lead to more arguments.

It is essential for partners to work together and be on the same page when it comes to raising a child. Studies show that conflict between parents can negatively impact children. However, when children witness parents come together for a resolution to arguments, they will feel less threatened. In other words, children will see that despite the conflict, the parents are still there for their needs.

When conflict becomes hostile, children may feel distressed and threatened, leading them to “act out” or become aggressive toward others. Understanding how to manage conflict before the baby is born will help parents feel better equipped when they have a disagreement.

When we’re upset with our partner it’s easy to become emotional and make accusations. Instead of focusing on a specific problem, we tend to generalize. For example, we may say things like “You’re careless, You’re never helpful, You’re lazy, etc.” Research on relationships has found that making a point to address specific behaviors that upset you (rather than generalizing) can be highly beneficial to mental health and overall happiness within the relationship.

Replacing the negative thoughts with helpful thoughts is a great first approach. For example, instead of saying, “My partner is selfish,” replace that with, “She has to take care of herself first, but she cares about me too.” These positive replacement thoughts should be true and believable.

Write down these constructive messages and thoughts and strategically place them on the refrigerator, next to the light switch in the bedroom, or on the bathroom mirror so you will see them daily. By practicing and making an effort to use them now, it will be easier to use this technique once the baby arrives.

While it is impossible to truly prepare for all of the challenges parenthood can bring, using these techniques to help strengthen communication will be a tremendous help. Parenthood is exhausting, challenging, and can take a toll on relationships. Being on the same page as your partner when it comes to conflict and communication can help lighten challenges and stress once the baby arrives. Happy parents will lead to a happy child, which we can all agree is the most important factor in parenthood. 

If you are expecting a child, Youth First invites you to participate in Family First Foundations. This free virtual program is designed to help parents maintain strong family bonds, reduce stress, and raise healthy, well-adjusted children. There is a session starting soon. Groups meet once a week for 4 prenatal sessions and 4 postnatal sessions. For more information and to register, email Grace Wilson at gwilson@youthfirstinc.org.