Parents rely heavily on their pediatrician for the “right” answers. Our expectation is that our child’s doctor will be versed on the most up to date training of evidence-based medical practices and vast knowledge of children’s development. This relationship is an extremely important one as it has the power to foster parental self-confidence or increase a parent’s insecurities. Here are some ways that your child’s pediatrician can impact your mental wellness:
1) Create Empowerment. A great pediatrician will help parents feel empowered by validating the choices a parent is making as long as the choices are safe ones. There are already so many choices parents must make that having a pediatrician who listens, is empathetic, and non judgmental can make a huge impact in parental self-confidence.
2) Increase Anxiety. Not all pediatricians are up to date on the latest research. When parents are given poor medical advice from the start of their child’s life, it can be hard to rebuild trust with a new pediatrician. It is important for parents to trust their instincts. If something doesn’t feel right or you leave the pediatrician’s office feeling sad, shamed, or anxious it may be time to look elsewhere.
3) Relieve Anxiety. When your child’s behavior changes or suddenly shows signs of illness at in the middle of the night, parents need to feel like it’s okay to call their pediatrician. Having a pediatrician that calls back within an appropriate time frame with respectful and helpful information has the power to melt some of that anxiety right off.
4) Identify Risk Factors for Perinatal Mood Disorders. Yes, a pediatrician is your child’s doctor, but in the first year the interconnectivity between the child and parents is fluid. Most women will only see their OB/GYN once after they leave the hospital. This makes it incredibly hard for OB’s to screen for perinatal mood disorders throughout the first year postpartum (hopefully some risk-assessment screening occurred during pregnancy). A pediatrician that recognizes the risks factors, screens, and can make a referral for further assessment is rare and necessary for early detection and treatment. It’s also important to be honest with your team of doctors. I have heard mothers say they took a questionnaire, but the doctor never assessed further or that the doctor asked how they were doing and they answered with a standard, “fine” when in fact they were feeling anything but fine (and let’s not forget that partners can feel the symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety as well).
Our children can sense when we feel worried, stressed, or anxious. They rely on us, as their parents, to co-regulate emotions with them. We are their voice until they have one of their own. As advocates for our own mental wellness and for theirs, it is critically important that we trust the important figures in our children’s lives to help them grow up healthy and to help us feel that we are doing our best as their caregivers. You have the right to ask questions, be treated with respect, feel secure, and feel connected. If these elements are missing, it may be time to look for a doctor with whom you feel more connected. The impact on your mental health cannot be underestimated.
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