Interview: Dr. Colleen Cira, Psy.D.
From Dr. Colleen Cira
On Help for New Parents:
1) Before you can tell anyone what you need, you need to KNOW what you need. A new baby can come with lots of stress for lots of reasons, so every time you notice that you’ve overwhelmed, sad or anxious, stop for a moment and consider the origin of your overwhelm. Do you feel like you could pull out all of your hair when you look at your overflowing laundry basket? Do you become overwhelmed with dread when you think about needing to find something to cook and eat? Do you want to cry every time your baby cries? Is feeding your baby a daunting task?? Only by figuring out what specifically is feeling overwhelming can you start to address it so just start to notice.
2) Once you notice what your head and heart have been so distressed by, schedule a time to sit down with your partner to discuss some of your worries. Scheduling the time, instead of just freaking out one of the times that you feel overwhelmed, sets the both of you up for success rather than a disaster. It doesn’t need to be a big, long, painful conversation. All you need is to carve out some time when baby is sleeping to talk about how you’re feeling. Just laying it all out there is just the first step to problem solving any of it, but you won’t believe how much better you feel just being heard.
3) Whenever you’re making a request of someone, start from a place of vulnerability. Instead of starting with complaints about how they are behaving, instead start with talking about how YOU feel. Something like, “I’ve noticed that I’ve been feeling pretty angry/sad/anxious/overwhelmed lately and I wanted to tell you about it. I know that x, y and z are the reasons I’m so overwhelmed and I’m hoping we can work together to come up with some solutions. I think it would be really helpful if you did a, b and c. How does that sound? Do you have any other ideas?” When you start from a place of vulnerability, it a) is less likely that the other person will hear your concerns as complaints and b) it sets them up to want to help you because you’re being explicit about the fact that you’re hurting.
4) Ask for what you want and say what you need. If a friend says that they are going to come visit you and hints that they might be bringing baby clothes as a gift, but you have more than enough baby clothes, ask for something else! Whenever you have feedback to give, use the sandwich technique: sandwich the tough ask/feedback in between two loving and/or positive statements. For instance: “Jill that is SO SWEET that you want to bring some clothes for the baby. AND I am drowning in baby clothes. I could really use some food though! Is that something that you could do? I really appreciate your desire to help!” Someone who is truly a good friend wants to do something USEFUL, not a meaningless gesture that won’t be helpful to you. So just ask for what you want. It will be uncomfortable the first few times, but then you’ll see that no one flinches and it’ll be easier in the future.
5) GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK! You just had a baby. You’re going to screw it up because you’ve got bigger fish to fry! Your hormones are going crazy, you’re barely sleeping and you’re doing the most difficult job on the planet…it only makes sense that you’d be overwhelmed. So if you’re not being as assertive as you’d like or you’re trying to be assertive and instead it comes out too aggressive of you’re holding it all in and then blowing up, give yourself a nice, big hug and try again later. You’ll get there 😉
Available for Interviews: Dr. Colleen Cira, Psy.D.
Dr. Colleen Cira received both her Masters and Doctorate from The Illinois School of Professional Psychology and is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the State of Illinois. She’s the Founder and Executive Director of Cira Center for Behavioral Health, PC, a boutique group practice specializing in Women and Trauma with locations in Chicago and Oak Park.
She was named one of the “Top 100 Women in Chicago Making a Difference,” by Today’s Chicago Woman. Dr. Cira is a trauma and anxiety expert, clinical supervisor, writer, speaker, consultant, activist, wife, and Mommy to two little ones.
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