How to cope with bad news as a parent

Photography:Kantha Bae

By Dr. Dawn Kingston

The news can be stressful, so it’s normal for mums to wonder, how can I bring my baby into a world like this? Here’s how to cope with bad news as a parent. 

It seems like every time we turn on the news there is another terrible story unfolding – in our current times, this would be the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by a recession. With some hospitals limiting birth support partners and all of us sheltering-in-place, it is normal for a pregnant woman to wonder – how will this affect my delivery? How can I bring my baby into a world like this? 

It’s hard to avoid watching the numbers of infection rates go up. The ongoing cycle of bad news is enough to keep even a well-grounded individual up at night.

How are you holding up? If you have a history of, or live with anxiety and depression, the news can feel completely overwhelming.

However, there is a lot that you can do to protect your emotional health during hard times, including some techniques that may be new to you. We’ve rounded up some ways to show you how to cope with bad news as a parent: 

1. Some stress is good for you

While there is no doubt that a pandemic and a global recession is stressful, studies show that some stress is good for you. When you work through difficult situations, your capacity to cope with bad news and manage challenges increases. Your confidence for being able to deal with future trials also goes up. So, instead of being trapped in a cycle of doom and gloom, take a deep breath and challenge yourself to increase your toolkit of coping strategies to help you both now and in the future. Here are some coping strategies you can tap into to lower your stress and anxiety during pregnancy. We have also created an eBook called ‘A Guide to Coping with Stress, Anxiety and Depression While Pregnant During COVID-19’ that can help you through these times at the bottom of this post. 

To find out more about your emotional strengths, click here: Emotional Strengths: Lifelong Goals for Pregnancy and Beyond 

2. Check your internal dialogue 

No matter how bad the news cycle may be, don’t make things worse with ‘What if’ scenarios in your mind. A good habit is to identify when you are focusing on a worry and flip it around to a point of gratitude. The way you talk to yourself-and others-about events will colour your perception. Use concrete descriptions and don’t dwell on the particularly awful aspects. The fact is that your brain is incapable of focusing on worry AND gratitude at the same time. When you focus your mind on a thought of gratitude, your feelings will follow. 

Find out more about how you can flip your thoughts from a negative reaction to a positive one to change the outcome – from tearing yourself down to treating yourself with kindness through this free eBook on perfectionism: One Powerful Way to Tackle Perfectionism 

The same is also true about the information you take in. Try to stick with quality sources of information, at a set time each day.

If the social media platforms you are on (such as your Facebook feed) are full of sensationalised, emotionally-charged headlines, consider taking a break from it.

Tell friends they can keep in touch through messenger apps instead, such as this Facebook messenger app that can be used on your phone without the full Facebook app itself. 

As practised as I am about managing my emotional health, I still find that I need to limit my news exposure to trusted sources (e.g. the Minister of Health updates) and to only a few times per week. Learning how to focus your attention is a terrific skill, and one that will serve you well long after the pandemic. 

Click here to visit our library of resources for pregnant women and new mums 

3. Don’t neglect self-care 

If feelings of guilt for feeling good about yourself right now are preventing you from self-care activities that make you happy, consider this the permission you’re looking for to go ahead and do those things that make you smile, as long as it is safe for you and your baby. Doing the things that make you feel good and relieve stress can help you cope with bad news and is especially important during hard times for your mental health both now and post-pandemic, to the point of even keeping postpartum depression at bay. There is good evidence that when it comes to stress, aerobic exercise, taking walks in nature, relaxation exercises, yoga and meditation can help you get through hard times like these. Here are some ideas for managing stress in pregnancy while social distancing. 

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