Communicating with your baby during ‘tough times’

Emerging Minds, Australia, December 2018

Being a parent doesn’t mean you are unaffected by life’s challenges. This resource will help you in communicating with your baby during ‘tough times’ (e.g. relationship conflicts or separation, illness, financial difficulties, job stress, etc.), so that they feel secure and nurtured. It includes a reflective exercise and steps you through:

  • understanding how your experience of adversity affects you
  • what your baby might notice and experience during these ‘tough times’; and
  • communicating with your baby to support a nurturing connection.

Although babies might not understand everything you say, they are very sensitive and responsive to your emotions and tone of voice. You might notice that when you are going through difficult times, your baby’s responses also change.

You don’t need to explain your experience of adversity or hard times to your baby. When you are with your baby, it is important to find ways to connect with them to help them feel nurtured and secure. Some tips include:

  • Smile when you look at your baby.
  • Maintain eye contact with your baby until they look away.
  • Hold your baby close and cuddle them.
  • Give your baby a massage.
  • Gently rock your baby and talk in a soothing voice when they are upset.
  • Use a warm, calm, ‘sing-song’ voice when you speak to your baby.
  • Smile and nod when your baby makes sounds.
  • Encourage your baby’s little noises by repeating their sounds when they finish their ‘sentence’ to create your own two-way ‘conversation’.

As a parent it can be very challenging to think about how your baby views what is happening. It may be useful to talk to your health professional or another support person about the impact of adversity on your role as a parent. You may even find it helpful to work through this resource with them.

Parental adversity can take many shapes and affect parents in different ways. It is important to remember that your experience of adversity does not make you a bad parent. It is possible to have a great relationship with your baby even when things are tough.

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