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How to manage family tensions whilst self isolating together

03 April 2020

While many of us love spending quality time with our family, being on lockdown means we can’t do the things we’d usually do with our families. We understand this can make family tensions run high which is why we’ve spoken to our experts to give you the following tips.

Thanks to COVID-19 outbreak many of us are spending nearly all of our time at home. Normally most of us would cherish extra time with our immediate family but without the support network of childcare and grandparents that we can usually rely upon it can easily become overwhelming.

This is a period of unprecedented stress for families everywhere, and so we’ve looked at some of the concerns families have told us about, and listened to the solutions that have worked for them, so we can support you through this difficult time.

Don’t assume your kids are unhappy

Mum Laura says that she started to feel a lot better when she realised that her kids were a lot happier at the moment than she thought. She said: “My friends and I often talk about how we had more time for imaginative play when we were younger, and the days seemed longer, and in some ways, this awful situation has allowed my kids to recapture that. “I was looking out at my son sitting barefoot in the garden yesterday playing with his brother and realised that, although I’m worrying, he’s having the time of his life and he’ll probably look back on this time fondly.”

Homeschooling is important…

Most schools have provided some guidance on home learning and many have even posted timetables or lesson plans. – with some even posting YouTube videos online for their students.

The amount of support offered can differ by school but if you find that your school’s response is lacking try checking the websites of other local schools, who may have more capacity to respond during the crisis and may share the curriculum they have established.

Homeschooling during this period helps to maintain a solid weekly routine for your kids and, almost more importantly, gives you a focus to your days – particularly if, like many parents, you are juggling childcare with homeworking.

But it’s not THAT important

The current situation has prevented people accessing childcare support from nurseries, schools, pre-schools and after-school clubs and at the time of writing this article government guidance means extended family and grandparents aren’t able to visit.

There is every chance that parents and carers have to continue to work while also trying to look after children, or are trying to cobble together a solution between two working parents.

In these exceptional times, giving children anything like the provision school might provide is unrealistic. What’s important is that they feel supported and loved, and feel it’s going to be ok.

Remember also that even at school primary school children learn through play, so don’t feel like you have to trap them behind a desk.

One last thing – every child is missing school now, so your child isn’t “falling behind”. Everybody’s in the same boat.

Expect some bad behaviour

One schoolteacher we spoke to said she felt that it was likely that over the coming weeks parents will see an increase in behavioural issues with your children.

This could range from anxiety to anger to protest at the new restrictions in their lives, and meltdowns, tantrums and stubborn behaviour are to be expected.

Just remember this is a completely normal response to exceptional circumstances – they’re going to be picking up on the anxiety around them as well as having their own, completely reasonable frustrations about the situation.

“Meltdowns, tantrums and stubborn behaviour are to be expected just remember this is a completely normal response to exceptional circumstances.”

Perfect doesn’t exist

In situations like this, where the national picture is changing day-to-day many of us tend to check social media more often for updates about what’s happening nationally and to stay in touch with friends and family.

Doing so can lead us to get a distorted view based on other people’s posts – with people understandably wishing to share only the positive or exceptional aspects of their time at home.

Nobody’s situation is exactly like yours and your response has to fit your situation. You’re (probably) not a qualified teacher, entertainer or chef. The best you can do is good enough, and you’re not measuring yourself against anybody else.

Your family haven’t disappeared.

When parents are unavailable for childcare it can sometimes feel like you’re suddenly cut adrift, but your family can still play a vital role. Even if they can’t be there physically, family can still provide a listening ear, giving you tips regarding how they’re coping and just generally helping to brighten your day. It needn’t just be limited to telephone calls either – many families are using technology like video calling to ensure they stay in touch Should you need to fully isolate, family and friends may be able to drop off groceries or supplies or, in the case of some families, even help financially if the virus has affected your work. So make sure the conversations continue, and be honest about your situation.

Be Kind to Yourself

Ultimately, the most important resource available to you is your energy and enthusiasm, so take steps to ensure that you look after yourself. Try to ensure you get enough sleep and don’t be too hard on yourself if there are items or activities you can’t provide due to circumstances and/or available resources.

Make time for yourself to have a bath, exercise or do an activity that helps you to manage your stress. It can be difficult to get an hour alone, particularly with younger children, but doing so can replenish your reserves and allow you to function better.

Our staff often recommend looking into mindfulness as a way to ensure you prioritise your own time and health.

If you’ve not heard of mindfulness then there’s a good resource discussing simple mindfulness on the NHS’ pages here.

Prioritise your mental health Everybody’s mental health is affected in periods of national crisis such as this, and experiencing increased stress and strain is completely normal.

It can be tempting for those receiving counselling for a condition such as depression or OCD to postpone their treatment because it feels like they can’t make it work.

However many of the families we’ve spoken to have managed to make alternative arrangements with their regular counsellors by using the telephone or Skype, so consider your options – any extra support you receive at the moment is almost certainly worth the attempt to make it work. Also, remember that recent guidance allows you to leave your house to collect medication, which includes medication for, for example, anxiety or depression. If you missed the chance to pick up a prescription, visit the NHS here for advice on using online services to order repeat prescriptions.

Take things one day at a time

Nobody currently knows how long the coronavirus will continue to affect our lives so “what if?” thinking isn’t going to help.

Instead, aim to take each day as it comes.

However long this situation takes it will end at some point, so just trust in that and focus on getting through each day as it comes.


Think about your living space

Vicky contacted us with some advice about how she has reconfigured her living space to make the most of her time as both a mum and homeworker.

She said: “I am very practical, so I have moved round a load of furniture to create a bit of order, make more “play zones” for my daughter, and turned a few unused corners into work desks. “Having a desk in every room means I can get more work done while my daughter is playing”

We’re in this together

Our Family Monsters campaign, launched last year, focused on highlighting the pressures shared by all families. We’ve seen first-hand how sharing our concerns and problems can help us to place them in context and make them feel less overwhelming.

Talk to your friends about their family tensions and how they manage them – even if their concerns are different to yours it will help you to understand that nobody has it all figured out, and they may even be able to help you with strategies they’ve implemented which you can use.

If family tensions are causing you concern, then consider contacting our free FamilyLine helpline. You can get in touch via telephone, text message or email for emotional support and guidance as well as practical advice and information.