Families in times of Pandemic

Dr Divya Sharma
In these testing and stressful times when we are surrounded by uncertainty and fear. It is normal and understandable that people are experiencing fear in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hearing out the news channels, information from different social media platforms, heart wrenching suffer stories of people agonises everyone so much that our hearts go out to the families who have lost their loved ones. Added to this continuous fear of virus infection there are some significant changes in our daily lives. In our movements we are restricted in support of efforts to contain and slow down the spread of the virus, faced with new realities of working from home, temporary unemployment, online/home-schooling of children, and lack of physical contact with other family members, friends and colleagues. All these physical and social constrains are impacting our physical and mental health.
In this new lifestyle, there is an inertial struggle in between the confined spaces causing clash of personalities with-in the family. People are facing loss of independence and privacy. There is no personal space left for anyone relaxing in cafes or saloons around the city. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatic effect on our lives including our relationships within families and workplace. These stresses on our relationships are probably harder for all to cope with. So it’s worth trying to be extra patient and understanding, both with each other and also ourselves so as to maintain work-family balance with few supports. With schools and daycare facilities closed, parents are solely responsible for childcare and perhaps even homeschooling. Yet, many parents are also working their paid jobs from home, while others have heightened financial concerns due to loss of job, and yet others involved in healthcare may be living away from their families to reduce exposing them to the virus. Whatever the circumstance, work-family balance has become increasingly challenging. However, for some of us, staying home can be dangerous or intolerable – if we’re living with domestic abuse. In these situations, our immediate physical and emotional safety come first with more men working from home. Pandemic presents a unique opportunity for men to step up, act on these attitudes, and share in the childcare and housework. Many tips about how to maintain good relationships are relevant and important now as for instance:-
* Give time – put more time aside to connect with your friends and family.
* Be present – this means really paying attention to the other people in your life and trying not to be distracted by your phone or your work or other interests.
* Listen – listen to what others are saying and try to understand it and to focus on their needs in that moment.
* Let yourself be listened to – honestly share how you are feeling, and allow yourself to be heard and supported by others.
* Recognize unhealthy relationships – harmful relationships can make us unhappy. Recognising this can help us to move forward and find solutions, be polite and listen to the other person’s point of view
* Discuss your fears and anxieties with the others
* Be positive and generous with your praise. You will be surprised how much strength you can draw from that.
* Limit your screen time and exposure to excessive news on the pandemic
* Get some physical exercise
* Share responsibilities at home
* Avoid being insulting and sarcastic
* Stay connected-Use phones, computers and the post to stay in touch. Hearing a friendly, familiar voice, or reading a message from people we care about, helps us feel more connected. This is important for our mental health, especially for people living alone, who may be feeling lonely, isolated and afraid
During this strange and difficult time, its also worth considering additional ways to protect our relationships, and try to cope a bit better with some of the relationship problems the virus creates. In doing so, families who nuzzle the croon of ‘we are all in this together’ may be best able to balance work and family life during this challenging time. Families differ in what they can offer, related to factors such as parental levels of education, poverty, physical and psychological health, overcrowding, the availability of computers and adequate internet access to participate in distance learning (which needs to be available to all children in a household), and parents speaking the language in which teaching takes place. Schools and early childhood education and care provide a more consistent learning experience to children of all backgrounds and monitor not only children’s performance but also important aspects of their health and well-being. In order to come through this, we all need to talk, listen and care for each other and ourselves, building on what brings us together and what we want to see in the future.