How to maintain happy family relationships in difficult circumstances
You may be juggling home-schooling your kids while working from home, spending more time in the company of your partner than ever before, or feeling cooped up in a house full of impatient family members who are desperate for their own space.
Or perhaps you are living with extended family for the first time, or have moved back to the home you grew up in to care for older relatives or escape the city.
The lockdown due to coronavirus has brought a host of new pressures and challenges to our everyday family life.
But there are things we can all do to help us get along with our families better, maintain strong relationships and to try to avoid clashes and frustrations during this unprecedented time in our lives.
Be patient and avoid criticism
Avoid criticism and contempt and try to be patient and generous in your communication. If you feel overwhelmed let family/partners know that you need a few minutes space rather than just storming off. If tempers do get frayed, give everyone the benefit of the doubt and try to work it through later when everyone is calmer.
Ask what each other’s fears and worries are
Sit down with whoever you are cooped up with in your home and ask them what their specific fears and worries are. Take each other seriously and come up with plans to support each other on a practical and emotional level as much as possible. With younger children keep it light, but you can still explain things in simple terms and the ways in which you can all help each other.
Think about how others are feeling
Remember that most people will be feeling overwhelmed and disappointed in some way. Even for young children, the novelty of being away from school will wear off and they will begin to miss their friends and aspects of school they loved. Teenagers will be facing uncertainty over academic outcomes as well as missing socialising and freedom. Students and young adults may be finding themselves once again living with families in a way they may find suffocating.
Find out each other’s triggers
Ask everyone in your household what their ‘tipping point’ trigger may be. For one person it might be that they feel people are not mucking in fairly with chores, for another that their privacy isn’t being respected. Others may feel upset that someone else isn’t being thoughtful enough about hygiene and health concerns. Make a point of taking these ‘non-negotiables’ seriously, whilst perhaps all agreeing to ease off on other things.
Maintain as much routine and normality as possible
Try to instigate a semblance of routine and normality in the household. Whether you’re in isolation, social distancing or not working, it’s tempting for you or others to slip into not getting properly dressed, snacking unhealthily at odd times or letting the days and evenings merge into each other. This is especially true if you are feeling low or lonely. Have defined morning routines, meal times, a specific end point to the working day, a calming bedtime and try to delineate week-ends as different.
Keep work as separate as possible
Do the best you can to have a set area in which to work that you walk away from at the end of the day. This could be a tiny fold up desk on a landing, the main thing is to try not to work on the sofa or bed where you would normally relax – keep work as separate as possible. If two or more of you are working at home, discuss how you can share childcare, chores or provide space for confidentiality. Take breaks during the day and take advantage of the time you would normally spend commuting to do something positive.
Be forgiving of yourself and others
Be realistic about what to expect from yourself. The situation we find ourselves in is unprecedented. There is no right or wrong way to be. See the next couple of weeks as a time to work out the new normal. You cannot expect to be performing perfectly at your job, parenting, home schooling or in your relationships. You are not a superhero – be forgiving of yourself and others.
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*Taken from the BACP Website