When you ask anyone “How are you?” They say “Fine and you?” you say “I’m doing well.” and nothing really happens. No information was transferred, no one connected, lives weren’t changed. Typically this is a little wasteful, but it isn’t a tremendous loss. When we are interacted with brand new parents, this is a loss.
I want the parents I speak with to actually open up. The act of discussing our feelings, thoughts, and ideas, improves our life. We work through challenges, and we celebrate our success through language. This missed opportunity for parents is a big deal. They have so much to work out, and to express.
Because the reality is life with a new baby can be wonderful, and magnificent, and fine, but it doesn’t come without some huge adjustments and even grief.
Even the couple who has wanted a baby forever, and finally gets one, is grieving the loss of their single parenthood. They might be grieving how easy life was, and how complicated it’s going to be.
The couple bringing their second baby into the world may be grieving the loss of time they get to spend with their eldest. They might be anticipating their first born’s adjustment to being an older sibling.
So when we ask them how they are and they say “fine.” we are losing a chance to support and connect those who need it. Here’s a list of what to ask, and how to greet them instead.
“How are you feeling today?”
“What’s on your mind?”
“Tell me about your day?”
“What’s weighing on your heart today?”
You can even get specific. You can stay light hearted, or open the door for more seriousness.
“Tell me the greatest thing that happened today.”
“Has anything made you laugh today?”
“What part of your week do you most anticipate?”
“What’s the most challenging part of today?” This one might need us to action plan how to keep it from being so tough. A great follow up would be “What could you do to make it easier next time?”
“What do you need today to make tomorrow easier?”
It’s almost always better to ask open ended questions. Close ended questions only have a yes or no answer, and they don’t lead to deeper conversation. What this means is instead of asking “Were you scared?” ask “How did you feel?” Let your questions be questions and not answers.
Another important point to remember is that the other half of asking is listening. Listening should actually be the larger half of visiting. Active listening means we don’t interrupt, and we hear them entirely. We are present, in the moment, and our mind doesn't wander away from the conversation.
As a doula my magical power is to ask questions.
Often times these are leading questions, that lead people to their own answers. Sometimes they are questions that just explore the nuances of your day. When we talk to new parents, all we have to do is listen. They have so much on their minds and hearts, opening the door to discussion is often just enough.