How to Cope With Bad News as a Parent

It’s normal for moms to wonder: How can I bring my baby into a world like this?

Posted Jun 04, 2020

It seems like every time we turn on the news, another terrible story is unfolding. 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. Know that 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 in 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 e-book 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.

What 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 employ is when you are focusing on a worry, 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 e-book on perfectionismOne Powerful Way to Tackle Perfectionism.

Unsplash
Source: Unsplash

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) is full of sensationalized, 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 practiced 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.

Visit our library of resources for pregnant women and new moms.

3. Don’t neglect self-care.

If feelings of guilt for feeling good about yourself right now is 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.

Unsplash/Dr Dawn Kingston
Source: Unsplash/Dr Dawn Kingston

4. Look for the helpers.

Here is a great way to cope with bad news. There’s a reason the video of the host of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood discussing his mother’s advice to “look for the helpers” when a bad thing happens has over two million views. Looking for the best of humanity and turning to community to give and receive comfort are two powerful antidotes to fear and helplessness in the midst of community disasters.

There are in fact, many positive and worthy events and projects happening daily, most of which don’t get reported in mainstream news stations. Balance out your bad news cycle with good news. The non-profit Reasons to be Cheerful, "an editorial project that is a tonic for tumultuous times" is a good place to start, as is this fantastic YouTube series by John Krasinski (Jim Halpert from The Office) and his Facebook page, Some Good News.

5. Look for a way to connect with your community, friends, and family.

Doing things for others can return a sense of control and reduce feelings of helplessness. There are numerous reliable charities set up to help the most vulnerable among us, such as food banks and hospital foundations. If money is a little tight right now (as it is for many), look for ways to be a source of positivity by encouraging other new moms or pregnant friends. Chances are they are experiencing similar struggles.

Help alleviate loneliness by calling them to check-in, have virtual coffee dates. Or make gifts. If you are knitting a sweater as a way to relieve stress and look forward to your baby’s arrival, knit something simple for another pregnant friend or new mom. The side benefit is that you can also help your friends cope with bad news while helping yourself! If you have a garden, start with something simple like herbs, beans, or even flowers and plan to give some away to neighbours or the elderly by doing driveway drop-offs. The added benefit is that gardening has been proven over and over to have therapeutic benefits.

Here’s the bottom line when it comes to how you can cope with bad news as a mom:

There’s a powerful instinct when bad things happen to shield ourselves and our children from them, but we can grow through hard times. However, if you are finding that recent events are more than you can handle, please speak to your healthcare provider and get a referral. Only you know when the stress is more than you can handle.

Even in challenging times, pregnant women can remain emotionally healthy by recognizing that some degree of strong feelings is normal and appropriate and working to reduce the effects of extreme stress. If feelings become overwhelming, be sure to discuss this with your doctor right away.

Not sure where to turn to for help? Find out Where to Get Help If You’re Pregnant and Depressed as well as our Resources section.