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Identity and awareness
Pregnancy and birth are obviously enormous lifestyle changes. Emotions run high and it can be difficult for a young parent to understand and process the ups and downs.
With a new baby suddenly demanding all their attention, a young parent can easily feel swallowed by their new responsibility.
For this reason, in dealings with your client post-birth, it’s important to validate their identity and individuality, and through doing so help them feel seen, heard and understood.
The automatic response for many greeting a new baby is to fawn and fuss over it. While such attention is usually harmless and always meant as complimentary, young people in your client group are particularly susceptible to feeling isolated or ignored as many are emotionally and developmentally unprepared to handle the amount of attention directed at their child.
Meetings with your client do not always have to focus on the child’s progress and development. Instead, prioritise questions that centre around your client’s feelings. Outreach is particularly useful during these times to ensure clients aren’t placed under additional stress while they attempt to attend appointments and juggle the demands of a new baby.
To preserve (or revive) a young parent’s feelings of individuality and connectedness to their social circle, it’s important they see friends and enjoy time out occasionally. For many, this will involve substance use and so holding discussions that acknowledge the need for time away from the child must also address safety planning and harm minimisation. Again, this is where the list of safe people comes into play as the child will need to be looked after by someone comfortable with the circumstances.
Feelings of connectedness and interactions with others don’t necessarily need to exclude the child; rather, a young parent could benefit enormously from interacting with others in young mothers’ groups.
It’s common for young mothers to feel apprehensive about engaging these kinds of groups for fear of judgement.
Accompanying your client on the first few visits can relieve nerves and anxiety.
If the idea of mothers’ group is simply too confronting for a client, suggest activities such as their local library’s story-time sessions. Here, interaction can be minimal until your client feels comfortable and confident enough to initiate conversation with other parents and children. The interaction can also offer valuable stimulation and social interaction for the child.