We all experience ups and downs in daily life, and this is particularly true during times of worry and insecurity. Families may find their physical and mental health impacted by the crisis, or potentially their financial security or housing situation. These things can mean we are less focussed on how we relate to our partners, children or others in our family. However, it’s important we work to maintain harmony in our closest relationships, as they will likely be our biggest support through difficult times.
Tips when spending more time together at home
Spend (quality) time together
Many of us are spending nearly 24 hours a day together, but are struggling to get things done while working or studying remotely. People may find they only come together to do chores or get the kids on track with their school work. Try to make sure there is time in the day when you switch off from school and work and talk about other things with your family. Play a game together, or even just aim to you eat main meals together. A good conversation starter over dinner is to ask each family member to share a “rose” (good thing) and “thorn” (bad thing) from their day.
Discuss the crisis with others
To help lesson anxiety it’s important to explain what’s going on, in ways that make sense to different family members. Direct people of all ages to trustworthy sources, such as the World Health Organisation, ABC News, or Behind The News (BTN), who take serious news and make it accessible to children. Discuss why it’s been important to make changes to the way we normally live, and how the crisis will pass in time.
Get out and exercise (by yourself and together)
The many benefits of exercise are well known, and it is even more important during isolation. Exercise can help get rid of frustrations, release positive endorphins and take you to new environments (try mixing up where you go and what exercise you do). Exercising alone can provide a good break from others. Exercising together (perhaps as a way of giving family members one on one time with you) can also help strengthen family bonds.
Spend time apart
Given how we are sharing the same space for longer than usual, it’s important that all family members have some time and space to themselves. This could be as simple as taking a walk each day by yourself, or if you have kids, looking after the children while you give your partner a break.
Take a time out
Crises can make people more sensitive and quicker to react, as we may be feeling a bit more “on edge”. If you feel annoyed or hurt by something, try not to react immediately. Find some space where you can be alone and think about something else. If you are still bothered a while later, then address it with the person by talking it through calmly. Remember though, timing is key – think about when your message will be well received and ask the other person to let you know when they’re ready to talk things through. To learn more about using ‘Time Out’ visit our Using Time Out page.
Acknowledge differences in mood
During times of crisis it’s likely everyone will have their low moods – but not always at the same time. Check with each other, and be mindful about whether your mood could be affecting others.
Look for non-verbal cues
Even if you are consciously checking on others, not everyone is good at telling you what they are feeling. They may say one thing, but facial expressions and body language can convey a different story. Take the time to actively listen to, and watch, all verbal and nonverbal cues – young kids especially may be showing their anxieties in non-verbal ways.
The current crisis is tough on people of all ages, but it is also giving us more time with loved ones, and helping build stronger connections for the future. Be conscious about maintaining strong bonds with your partner and family, and keep track of how you, and other family members are feeling. This will take time and practice, and not all techniques will work every time. However, taking the time to intentionally foster harmony at home will ensure that you are each other’s support when times get tough.
MensLine Australia has professional counsellors available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing confidential and anonymous information and support for all relationship issues.