For some weeks now, many of us will have returned to working and learning from home and it has now been announced that this will continue until at least March 5th. Without the structure that schools and workplaces provide, it can be difficult for parents to manage the competing demands on us from our jobs, our children’s education and our home life.
Getting the balance can be difficult, and January may have created additional stresses on our relationships, so it is natural to feel stressed about how another month will play out. However, taking some time to plan and manage expectations around work and learning can help you Relieve the Pressure on yourself and your children at this time.
The most important thing to remember is to be realistic, and not put too much pressure on yourself. The classroom is a powerful structure that creates favourable learning conditions, and it is impossible to mimic this setting at home.
To help you find a strategy that works for your family, Relate NI counsellor and head of Clinical Service Ali Templeton shares her top tips for maintaining healthy relationships as we look to another month of lockdown.
Set Routine & Rewards
This may have been difficult in the wake of Christmas, but it is important to get into routine now as it allows both of you to focus time to complete work as well as time to relax and rejuvenate. Set clear boundaries and know when to hold your children accountable, but also when to let things slide. Rewards systems may help motivate your children and create a sense of accomplishment.
Prioritise Materials & Subjects
Concentrate on the things you know your kids enjoy and what you have at your disposal. February is LGBT History Month and has other awareness days such as Time to Talk Day (6th) and Safer Internet Day (9th). Utilise these and build them into your learning. If you live close to a park or woodland, you could take a nature walk and do a lesson about local biodiversity. You could also get your children involved in preparing meals and teach them about nutrition.
Prepare for Phone Calls
If you have a scheduled meeting, prepare an activity to occupy your children in advance. Try putting on an age-appropriate documentary or game that they do not need much help with.
If you are interrupted during an important online meeting, try to remember that children may not grasp that they are interrupting, chances are your employers will understand and may be experiencing similar issues.
Try and do some exercise such as walking, running or dancing every day. A short walk can easily turn into an outdoor lesson by visiting nearby landmarks or hunting for different tree or animal species.
Answering your Children’s Questions
“Is this ever going to end?” is a question that parents and guardians around the globe are hearing from their children on a regular basis. Try and be honest with your children, answering any questions and addressing the uncertainty and fear surrounding the pandemic as best you can. Be realistic with your children and keep it as an ongoing conversation rather than making promises we may not be able to keep.
Children know that something big is happening and keeping them informed through regular communication prevents them worrying more than they need too. It also gives you the opportunity to share facts and clear up frightening misinformation they may have heard elsewhere. Try to focus on positive developments such as the roll out of the vaccine.
Restrictions are very unsettling for children, their routine, school and home life have been completely turned upside down. Encourage them to tell you how they are feeling and make sure to validate their feelings or concerns whatever they may be. It may also be useful to explain to them that you sometimes feel worried or angry and share with them the ways in which you deal with those emotions.
The uncertainty around the pandemic is naturally adding pressure to our lives and our relationships.
Emotions may be heightened so try and be extra patient and understanding, not only with each other but also with ourselves. Some ways in which you can nurture healthy relationships over lockdown are:
If you have set time aside for an activity, try your best to follow through and make this happen so as not to add to further uncertainty for children. Likewise, create time to be rest and relax alone. In order to care for others, we must first care for ourselves. Our relationship with our selves is the most important one we have.
Communicate to Connect
Include Children & Young People in decisions as much as possible. Listen to their hopes & wishes and be respectful of their feelings. Encourage young people to be active participants in setting boundaries. They will see that their opinions matter and be more likely to honour the guidelines set.
Try to move away from always needing to be ‘right’ because that means the other person has to be ‘wrong.’ Explore how you can both have your needs met and how compromising can create mutually supportive solutions.
Remember that whilst there will be challenges, there are also great opportunities. We can get to know our children and partners better, learn new things and spend quality time together as a family. If we practice self-care and connect with people around us, our families can come out of this with greater personal strength and stronger relationship connections.
Relate NI continue to offer counselling services for Children & Young People, Couples, Family’s & Individual at this time. We are utilising phone and video calling to reach people with our services across NI. Our team may be able to offer face to face sessions for those who cannot access phone or webcam or who are not suitable for these services.
To find out more about how you or your children may benefit from talking to a Relate NI therapist, or to download Relate NI’s digital resources to help you cope with the pressures facing your relationships, log on to https://www.relateni.org/relieve_the_pressure or call 028 9032 3454.« Relate NI urging people to ‘Relieve the Pressure’ this Christmas following relationships survey results Valentines 5 Languages of Love »
Our counsellor was excellent and really helped me and my husband to resolve the niggles in our relationshipService Attended Adult Relationship Counselling for Couples
My counsellor was lovely, attentive and supportive. She helped me to understand my worth and for that, I will always be gratefulService Attended Adult Relationship Counselling for Individuals
This service is invaluable. Such lovely people to meet and help you through difficult times.Service Attended Adult Relationship Counselling for Couples
The service was excellent, my counsellor was really good at getting us to open up and helping us to get to the root of our issues. We have definitely improved our communication since attending.Service Attended Adult Relationship Counselling for Couples
I found the Relationship MOT an excellent method of focusing on how we work as a couple and just as importantly, where we need to work. It was professional, insightful and well worth the time. It has reminded us of how much we have to be proud of in our relationship and why it is so important to occasionally review it with experts.Service Attended Relationship MOT
I would definitely recommend using the Relationship MOT service as a bit of a check in with your partner. I thought how the counsellor was able to steer the conversation was very insightful and nuanced. The MOT reminded us about why we are great together but also the importance of communication and respect.” “Our counsellor provided an outside perspective which immediately helped us to agree that we needed to stop and think with more kindness and empathy for each other especially when stressed or pissed off. We both felt that our counsellor’s excellent and gentle facilitation was quite invigorating. So many positives!Service Attended Relationship MOT 2
Very Interesting Content. I like the concept of preparing your relationship before you have problemsService Attended Sustaining Healthy Relationships – Surestart 4
The face to face programme has made me feel connected with others experiencing similar thingsService Attended Sustaining Healthy Relationships – Surestart 3
The workshops made me more confident to balance family life after the baby's arrivalService Attended Sustaining Healthy Relationships – Surestart 2
I now have a better understanding of myself, it is good to know that it is normal to have argumentsService Attended Sustaining Healthy Relationships – Surestart 1
I felt the weekly questionnaire, couples with the counsellor's understanding of my needs help contribute to my own understanding of my mental health and needs throughout.Service Attended Adult Relationship Counselling for Individuals
I loved every session. Our counsellor listened to what we had to say and gave us helpful wee homework - would recommend this service to everybodyService Attended Adult Relationship Counselling for Couples
Our counsellor was a fantastic support - we now feel strong enough to continue working on our relationship togetherService Attended Adult Relationship Counselling for Couples
I had a very good counsellor that helped me through a lot and it has made me come out the other side.Service Attended Adult Relationship Counselling for Individuals
Counselling took us from a bad place to a good one and I would return if neededService Attended Adult Relationship Counselling For Couples
Been a lifeline to help us fall in love again - forever grateful!Service Attended Adult Relationship Counselling For Couples
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Thank you Relate NI for a good nights sleep.Service Attended Relate NI Kids Counselling
Really enjoyed Relate NI and I'm actually going to miss counselling. I Found it helpful to find myself again. Very fair and equal within our relationship.Service Attended Adult Relationship Counselling For Couples
I appreciated the straightforward, helpful and informed observations about situations. It really helped me cope during Christmas which is a difficult time for usService Attended Family Counselling
The counsellor was very pleasant to meet with. They had the necessary skills to speak and listen when appropriate. I liked their humour and good personality.Service Attended Family Counselling
Relate NI has helped me move on as well as understand myself and situation more. My counsellor listened to me, facilitated me and was compassionate!Service Attended Relate NI Teen Counselling
I felt the weekly questionnaire, coupled with counsellor's understanding of my needs helped contribute to my own understanding of my mental health and needs throughoutService Attended Adult Relationship Counselling For Individuals
We had four funded sessions and cannot express how grateful we are for the help, guidance and knowledge. Our counsellor was incredibly professional, and her experience and obvious passion for helping couples like us was exceptional. She helped us to understand ourselves and each other like we otherwise never would have been able to.Service Attended Adult Relationship Counselling For Couples
I have tried counselling many times in the past. This time actually made a difference. I was able to complete online sessions as well as some face to face.Service Attended Adult Relationship Counselling For Individuals