By Everymind Director, Dr Jaelea Skehan OAM
With lockdown orders implemented across the region, people have needed to quickly change the way they live, work, learn and function as a family.
As a parent or carer of children, it can be hard to manage your own emotions while also helping children adapt to significant change. The extra cognitive load and constant problem solving all take a toll.
You only need to scroll the Facebook posts of friends to see that many are feeling stretched and overwhelmed right now. But there are things you can do to feel more in control and to ensure family connection and resilience.
Reset and renegotiate expectations
One of the best things all family members can do is to reset their expectations. Just getting through this period is an achievement, and there should be no expectations that we can kick work goals, learning goals and life goals during lockdown. Talk to your workplace and school and set realistic goals for the week.
Try to keep family routines and a sense of stability
Routines create a sense of predictability and stability during difficult times, which is important – for example, keeping mealtimes the same, keeping ‘screen time’ as usual, or by taking a walk around the block before sitting down in front of the computer for the day.
Look after yourself and practice ‘self-care’
Getting enough sleep and taking time to rest, recharge and reconnect improves our ability to parent and care for others. Find small ways to practice self-care, each day if you can. This might be 10 minutes alone in the garden, taking a short walk with the dog, doing a guided meditation, or chatting with a friend on the phone.
Spend family time together and celebrate milestones
When things change, we can get caught up in getting through the day-to-day activities and ‘must dos’ and forget to spend time together as a family. Schedule family time and remember to celebrate birthdays and other achievements in some way.
Tackle problems and disagreements constructively
Maintaining positive feelings about family life even during stressful periods can make a big difference. Emotions may run high when everyone is living, working and learning in a shared space, so solving everyday problems together can build a sense of support within a family.
Talk honestly and listen without judgment
Good communication can reduce stress and improve relationships. Tell others what you need and be open to hearing what they have to say. Allow kids to communicate how they are feeling and make time to listen before trying to jump in with a solution.
Start a conversation with children about mental health
Supporting our children in difficult times and finding out how they are doing means we often need to find alternative ways to start a chat and to listen. Consider a walk and talk, a chat while cooking together or another shared activity. For conversations starters for parents, you can check out the #ChatStarter campaign online.
Ask for help if you need it
Asking others for help during tough times can sometimes feel daunting and many families feel reluctant to do so. It is important to remember that family, friends, teachers and colleagues may not know that you need help but would be more than happy to step in if asked. If you are struggling, talk to someone you trust or connect with one of the services available. They are all working through lockdown and ready to listen.
This article was featured in the Newcastle Herald, 19 August 2021.