Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week: 6 coaching sessions every parent should undertake as they return to work

This week is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week (29 April – 5 May). The arrival of a child is undoubtedly a very happy and special time, but it can also be incredibly daunting and stressful, particularly for those who are planning their return to work after parental leave.

For some returning parents, apprehensions may arise, for example, a fear of returning to a role after an extended absence, a lack of confidence or difficulty adjusting to the multiple demands from their family and work life. These feelings if left unaddressed or not recognised early, can escalate into symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression for the parent

It is therefore vital that every parent feels supported by their employer, line manager and team when they return to work. Having a coach can provide both the emotional and professional support needed by the parent.

Coaching interventions could facilitate a smoother transition back into work by balancing the demands of the parent’s familial and work responsibilities, whilst also realigning their career aspirations.

Here are some points for employers and coaches to consider in assisting new parents with their transition back to work:

  • Carry out an assessment of the parent’s mental health and professional needs upon returning to work, as well as skills and knowledge gaps, confidence, and any other concerns about returning to work.
  • Support the parent to negotiate flexibility, provide reasonable adjustments and support realistic goals, such as remote working and flexible/condensed hours to work around childcare. It’s important to be compassionate. Unexpected occurrences happen e.g. child sickness. Monitor the parent’s needs regularly to make sure the correct level of support is being provided.
  • Provide therapeutic techniques on how to manage their mood, anxiety, stress, ‘mum-guilt’ and re-adjustment to a new way of doing things. Encourage an employee to promote self-care activities that nourish the body and mind. This could be exercise, engaging in hobbies or social activities.
  • Help the parent to build confidence in the workplace – set achievable goals, identify their strengths, and provide tools to overcome self-doubt and imposter syndrome. Work on assertiveness and problem-solving skills to overcome challenges. Look to provide coaching on how to remain professional and composed under pressure.
  • Offer support with time management and organisation skills – prioritising tasks, delegating, and setting boundaries to ensure both professional and family responsibilities are balanced well.
  • Professional development – discuss interests, career goals, aspirations, training programmes and networking opportunities.

Periodic coaching could provide the new parent with ongoing support in those initial months when they are still finding their feet, whilst also identifying other ways of further support, e.g. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy may be beneficial.