Tips for Managing Family Mental Health

03/02/2021



Approximately 1 year ago the world started to change in a way that no one could possibly have imagined.  We’ve started a new year where people have lost loved ones, jobs and watched plans become promises which now seem to linger as hopes which seem to become a possibility, only to be snatched away.  

In this time many have been forced to engage with the reality of our emotional well-being as the ‘new normal’ has pressured children and adults to cope with changes in our world as we know it.

When initially composing this the first thought that came to mind was on home schooling, I then reflected on a conversation with my friend, a mother of three who felt she was ‘failing’ her children as some parents on Instagram seemed to be doing so much more than she was.  This hit a nerve as I think social media can place an additional pressure on children and adults to aspire to a moment caught in an image which we know probably took 30 takes! Yet we still sometimes use social media as a measure to keep up with the Joneses, even though we know the Joneses are tricking us!  So, rule number one, don’t measure yourself against social media, it’s a never ending (and at times hazardous) rabbit hole!

Here are a few other things to consider during these times.

1: You are Human
When it comes to coping with these times, remember first and foremost that you’re a human!  We are amidst a worldwide pandemic and there is more uncertainty than most have ever faced before.  As such, there will be days where being in the house gets the better of the best of us; and as much as we love and care for partners, children and others we live with, we might desire respite… these moments do not make you a bad person, they literally are by product of being contained in the same space, we are generally not used to this and it can become taxing. 

Although these feelings are natural, if they linger for extended periods of time it would be beneficial to speak to your GP for support.

2: Emotional Well-Being is a Priority
In my opinion, our emotional well-being is the foundation of our existence; our engagement, enjoyment and attention are all dictated by our feelings.  When we feel comfortable, we can enjoy and immerse in all that’s around us, however, when not at ease, we can lean toward focusing on the discomfort we are feeling and shut everything else out.  Right now, we, humans at large are out of our comfort zones, and we don’t know what’s going to happen next.

Emotional well-being is a spectrum; positive emotional well-being can involve feelings of joy and happiness and will involve worry, sadness and fear, this will happen because different things cause us to feel different ways.  Positive emotional well-being is the ability to experience challenging times and work through them with support from others or with techniques employed independently.

Poor emotional well-being can involve feelings of inadequacy, depression, anxiety and more.  This can occur without the person knowing the cause.  Keep in mind, those who have poor mental health will not always behave in ways associated with what they are experiencing, i.e. a person experiencing depression may not be sad or in tears, this person may not want to concern those around them and may behave in cheerful ways to as not to rouse any worries from those around them.    In order to make steps towards effective support, some children may need to talk with their loved ones, others may not have the ability to do so and may rely on adults seeking support for them.  There are some organisations mentioned below.

3: Try Not to Isolate within Isolation
Lockdown has kept us from loved ones and associates.  This lack of physical contact can lead to lack of other forms of contact.  At this point the suggestion of a Zoom call trigger some to coil into the foetal position!  For others online chats may be too upsetting as they are showing something we want that we can’t have, i.e. contact.  Some may feel overwhelmed by the situation and find themselves in emotional states where they don’t want to contact others.  We all know what makes us tick, and time to reflect is valuable, however, if feelings of wanting to be alone last over extended periods of time, this may be a sign that you or your child require some support.

4: Teaching Important Lessons
Home schooling is a lot of pressure for both children and adults.  Children are expected to have their home, the place where they relax and spend time with family double up as a makeshift school.  Dining tables become desks and parents have become substitute teachers in some cases alongside working. 

Adults are expected to become teachers, while manage the home and work. The thing children need to be taught now more now than ever is how to cope with the times we’re in.  Of course, there needs to be a balance so children are doing schoolwork and parents are working from home.  Where possible, try to make time to share an activity with your child such as a craft, sport or something like baking where the child can relax and you can touch base.  For younger children this might be an easier task than with preteens or teenagers, however the offer is valuable.  If I remember been younger, I know I spent a lot of energy pretending I didn’t want to spend time with my Mum, even though I really did!

5: Assess and Seek Support where Required
Most important of all.  If things just aren’t working out, you’ve tried all you can, your child is distant, just not themselves or you have a concern, seek help.  There are some amazing support services like YoungMinds who focus on children’s mental health and wellbeing, they are there to support.  The NHS, MIND, Childline and NSPCC also provide support for children and families.

To summarise, we are all having days where it feels like Groundhog Day and others where the whole situation gets the better of us.  Whichever space you’re in, remember, there are many out there who are in place to offer support for adults and children so we can get through this as best we can.  Accessing this support is not only a sensible thing to do to support your child in the short term, but long term, it will empower children to not only develop coping skills but also encourage them to identify when they might need support and seek it.