It cannot go unnoticed that the lockdown measures designed to limit the spread of CoVID-19 had a significant effect on most families; my own family included. Surviving and even thriving in life after lockdown can be challenging but it’s certainly possible.
Some have been positive. For many families these measures created opportunities to spend more time together and learn how to co-exist in ways that we could never have imagined. The ability to negotiate, understand and adapt has been an essential skill in helping many families and those in relationships to navigate this unprecedented and uncertain period.
The beginning of lockdown enabled families to spend quality time doing things that they would not have otherwise done; a daily dose of Joe Wicks family workout, learning a new language, creating wonderful community art projects such as the NHS Rainbows that decorate our streets and communities, and parents engaging in their child’s education.
I have seen families play music together at 8pm on Thursday evenings, and ironically I had never seen so many families outside walking, cycling and running together as their daily exercise. For some this has been an opportunity for reflection and life changing decisions; I know of families who have become vegetarian, became more active in their community by volunteering, take more care for the environment and adults who have changed their career in order to create a more fulfilling lifestyle.
But for many young people, adults and families lockdown became more challenging the longer it went on. As the days turned to weeks and the weeks became months, the usual activities that help us to keep physically, spiritually and mentally healthy were unavailable to us. Sport and activity clubs, recreational centres, going outside, places of worship, schools, cinema, restaurants, shops, pubs, beaches to name a few became an distant memory.
Many adults and children found themselves contained within the walls of their home having to work, school, socialise, relax and play; this changed the dynamic of all relationships.
Being pushed together during uncertain times can be enough to drive relationships and families apart, however, it is essential for all families to take the time to listen and understand what is being said if we are to live together in close proximity. Listening, understanding and checking out whether a person wants advice before it is given can prevent many arguments.
Taking the time to consider what you can do to improve a situation has more value than telling others what they can do.
Many families saw their roles change; parents found themselves having to simultaneously become teachers while working from home. Many people had to step away from their regular and traditional roles to become the main carer for their children, relatives and neighbours. Adding to the stress for many families was the worry of not being able to see our distant, elderly or vulnerable relatives, job insecurity and unemployment, economic slowdown, uncertainty of when the schools will re-open, and how can we keep safe and stay alive.
A lot of families have experienced the death of a relative or friend (I have lost a parent during this period), and the lockdown measures have prevented people from attending funerals and celebrating life in the usual meaningful ways.
I do not have specific answers on how families and relationships survive the impact of lockdown; each relationship will have its own formula for achieving this. What I will comment on is that it is OK to feel vulnerable and scared. Feelings of vulnerability and uncertainty are a reminder that we care, feel and think. Our vulnerabilities contribute to our personalities and help us to be the valuable person who we are; accepting our vulnerabilities helps us to love others and be loved in return.
Avoiding our vulnerabilities can lead to additional stress, depression, aggression, alcohol, drugs and even suicide. Take time to listen and validate what others are experiencing; this is essential for understanding what is being felt and contributes toward healthier relationships; this is particularly helpful for parents caring for a worried or distressed child.
Taking time to be together and have some fun with those whom we love and care for is important to our mental wellbeing and in this regard video conferencing has been a lifeline for many friends and extended family. Remember that humans have evolved to be social mammals for our survival, therefore not being together puts a lot of stress on our brains and our collective ability to cope. Taking time to interact face-to-face is an important aspect of taking care of our mental health; this includes taking time away from our mobile phones and other screens to have an old fashioned conversation at regular intervals.
Remember, if you are feeling distressed about anything it is important to talk and if you live with someone who is struggling it is important to listen. If you are experiencing difficulties with your relationships or emotional health, and you need to talk to a counsellor or psychotherapist, Rowan House provides a large range of psychological therapies that can help you.
It is important not to suffer in silence.
Adam Lewis is a Systemic Family Psychotherapist, Supervisor in Family Therapy and Occupational Therapist with 20 years of therapeutic experience. If you wish to contact him for information or advice on issues relating to you, your child or family he can be contacted on 07985141485 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Appointments can be made at Rowan House.