By Karina Lane, Parenting Coach and mum of 4

As magical as becoming a new parent is, it’s also a daunting rollercoaster ride. Throw in a pandemic and it’s fair to say it’s been a tough time for new parents.

To mark the launch of BIG W’s exclusive new Disney Classics Collection, I’m sharing my top parenting tips for surviving and thriving during the pandemic.

Karina Lane is a parenting educator, psychology graduate and certified parenting coach.

1. Be kind to yourself

There’s never been a more important time for mums to take care of themselves. Regular parenting with a newborn is hard enough at the best of times, but during a pandemic, mums are dealing with anxiety and fear alongside all the normal worries of early parenting. One thing mums can tackle is the way they talk to themselves and treat their needs.

First up, know that all those intense feelings of yours – whether it’s fear, frustration, stress, loneliness or anger – are all normal feelings to have as a ‘pandemic parent’.

Make sure you’re at your best by focusing on eating, hydrating and sleeping as well as you possibly can and try and take regular ‘me-time breaks’. Having a place to vent your emotions is essential, so make sure you have someone you can share your feelings with who will never judge you for them. Lastly, avoid hefty to-do lists and keep your expectations of each day realistic.

2. Build connection with other adults

It’s easy to feel isolated when you have a baby, especially during a pandemic. As lovely as it is to spend day after day with your baby, it’s important to have conversations with other adults and connect with the real world as often as possible.

Make a point of getting out of the house each day, even if it’s just for a take-away coffee. Reach out to online support groups for parents and if you have a virtual parents group set up, make a point of turning up. While mum and baby groups are limited right now, there are plenty of outdoor activities you can do with bub.

Long walks are great for getting exercise and letting baby see the world. You can also consider picnics with bub, visiting the beach together or taking your baby to the zoo.

3. Help your baby’s brain develop

Don’t be too concerned about your baby missing out on social experiences due to the pandemic. The best support you can offer your baby’s growing brain is to offer as much interaction, attention and connection with you.

While your young baby may not look like they’re doing much while they’re snuggled in your arms, their brain is undergoing immense development. Use the time you have with bub to teach them about relationships and how to communicate with each other using facial expressions and eye contact. Watch your baby respond by copying your facial movements and following you with their eyes.

Playing games like peek-a-boo or using sensory balls like those in the Disney Classics Collection range at Big W to create bonding opportunities but also the chance for new neural pathways to connect in bub’s brain.

Sensory toys are a great tool for helping your baby’s brain develop.

4. Access available support

There is plenty of community support available but you do need to know where to find it. Your GP is always a great first port of call, as is your local Family Health Centre, who can help you with everything from baby sleep issues to emotional support for you. Private help can also be an option for some families and can include hiring a mothercraft nurse, postnatal doula, night nanny or lactation consultants.

It’s also important to outsource tasks that you don’t have time for or don’t want to do. Accept offers of help and consider what assistance you can pay for, such as cleaning, cooking and shopping services. They don’t give out awards for toughing motherhood out or being a perfect parent!

Remember, to be the best mum you can be for your baby, you have to put emotional, physical and mental health needs right up there with those of your baby (if not before). If that means relaxing on the couch with your feet up while baby snoozes the day away in your arms wrapped in a cosy blanket from the BIG W Disney Classics Collection, so be it!

“During a pandemic, mums are dealing with anxiety and fear alongside all the normal worries of early parenting.”

5. Look after your relationship

All relationships get put under pressure when a baby arrives, no matter how loving and close they were beforehand. If your partner is working at home, this is great for support – but also means you’re together a LOT, which can put your relationship to the test!

Remember that your relationship needs attention and work to keep it healthy and close, but this doesn’t need to be a big task. Date nights and grand plans for alone time may not be on the menu for a while, so don’t pressure yourselves on this front. Instead, aim for little and often moments of connection, such as 5 minutes over a cup of tea while baby is occupied on a floor play mat. As well as giving your baby time for play, this is also your chance to take a break together.

Make sure you really talk to each other and don’t pick up your phones instead! If there’s been conflict, attack the problem, not the person. Aim to offer reassurance and praise over criticism. And finally, don’t forget to stay physically intimate with lots of hugs, hand holding and kisses.