Greetings, and continued peace and well-being at this time. Social distancing, one of the main measures being used by countries, including Trinidad and Tobago, to restrict the spread of COVID-19 (Novel Corona Virus), has family members spending large amounts of time together.
While the idea of families spending time together seems like an ideal consequence for some, for persons in other families, spending this much time together may bring about feelings that are both awkward and uncomfortable. To cope or manage unresolved emotional issues with spouses, parents, siblings and extended family, some persons would have designed specific patterns of behaviour to limit or eliminate having to be in emotional or physical contact with those family members with whom they feel uncomfortable. Such methods may be challenged by social distancing.
Although finding mechanisms to address these maladaptations often requires specific therapeutic interventions, there are several things that one can do to support making these relationships healthier. At a time like this, it is important that families create an environment that is physically and emotionally safe for all its members. In Part one, I will share strategies that you can use for the elderly and children. In Part 2, we will focus on relationships with spouses and partners
For the Elderly
- Provide strong and persistent verbal reassurances about what is happening with the COVID-19 virus.
- Allow them to express emotions freely.
- Listen attentively, demonstrate compassion, and provide words of encouragement. A listening ear and empathetic demeanour can go a long way in lifting someone’s spirits.
- Encourage the elderly to practice self-care by eating nutritiously, exercising (if appropriate), getting adequate rest and avoiding unnecessary stress.
- Help the person feel good about their appearance.
- Ensure that the elderly have access to and take all required medication as prescribed.
For the Children
- Be aware that any child who is watching the news coverage of the COVID-19 virus can become a “secondary victim” and can suffer emotional and physical problems even if no one they know is personally affected by the virus.
- Provide an opportunity for children who want to talk about the virus to express their thoughts and feelings.
- Answer their questions with honesty, yet be brief using words that children easily understand.
- Speak in hopeful terms.
- Offer opportunities for children to draw pictures of their choosing and perhaps pictures that represent their future hopes.
- Respect the right of some children to avoid any discussion.
- Parents provide care for your children (do not expect your children to take over your parental responsibilities).
- Realize that it will take time for the students who have to do S.E.A. examinations and C.A.P.E examinations to adjust to changes in the school routine and the delay in exams.
In closing, having a safe family environment allows persons in the family unit to support each other, and feel supported, through this difficult period. It is also a time for families to re-establish or create practices of gratitude, forgiveness, compassion, acceptance of others, and rituals that not only bring healing and kindness to the individuals themselves, but also to the family and the wider society on a whole.