When we get off track with our relationships it can impact how we feel about ourselves and our ability to manage our emotions and interactions with others. This means we don’t always communicate well. It is important to invest in yourself and in your relationships to make sure you can support one another in times of need. Consider learning some new skills, understand how to better talk to your children or your partner, or build your social network with like minded people.
“I try to say what I think but it just seems to make things worse. So now I don’t bother”
Bring your best self to the party
Being in close confines for any period of time is going to take its toll no matter how much you love the people you are with. This is a testing time for us all and even a zen like master is going to get ruffled feathers and have a bit of friction in their relationships right now.
Relationships can feel pretty intense if you spend too much time together and don’t have your usual work or social outlets to bring balance and help you let off steam. This goes for you, your partner, your kids and your friends.
It would be surprising if your relationships hadn’t changed over the past few months during COVID-19. You might think this has been for the worse but some things may have changed for the better. The main thing here is if you aren’t happy then you can get it back on track if you are willing to work at it.
Don’t just wait for the other person to start. You may be pleasantly surprised by how much difference taking the first small step can make.
Learn a new style of communication
Look at how you communicate and what good communication looks like. It may not come naturally but the more you follow the steps the easier it gets. There are plenty of resources to help you work on getting this right whether this is to your partner, friends or family. Have a read of these useful tips to get you started:
Check in with yourself
Take some time to have a play with some online tools to get you thinking about what makes you tick. Sometimes we get off track and we need time to take stock and remember who we are as people.
A good exercise is looking at your strengths and those of people around you. Understanding what is important to each person and how they function helps you to better connect.
Check out these useful tools from the comfort of your sofa:
The Love Languages course focuses on 5 core acts for healthy relationships:
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
If you want to know more then click here
Hitting a road block - get a third party to help
If you don’t feel like the conversation is going the way you had hoped then consider getting a third party to help. Family counselling, couples counselling, parent counselling all exist to help you navigate these tricky conversations with trained professionals on hand.
Anglicare WA offer a range of counselling services to assist with conflict, separation and supporting children so they don't get caught in the middle.
Relationships Australia also offer Counselling Services at a range of locations across WA.
Payment for these services are often on a sliding scale depending on household income. There is no need for a referral, you can just call to make an appointment. Most branches offer evening and weekend appointments so you can fit it into your schedule without taking time out of work.
“My kids seem to know more than me about Coronavirus. I have no idea what to say to them”
It's all about the kids
It is important to have conversations with your children about COVID-19.
Between the constant stream of information through news, social media, other kids, and school announcements, they are probably more aware of what’s going on than you realise.
The most important thing to do is educate yourself first – Click here for the most relevant and verified information from the WA Government.
Trying to get your kids to understand what is going on and why they can’t do everything they used to be able to do is hard but maintaining a routine as much as possible is useful. Getting them involved in developing a new routine also gives them a sense of control over this changing world.
Try booking a regular family meeting time. Begin with an update on what is happening and check in on each family member to see how they are coping.
Make family agreements and establish rules or guidelines to maintain respect and cooperation as a family during this time.
Create a family activity plan to organise your days. This will help everyone to settle into a routine to allow for working at home and kids learning at home.
Scrub up on your kid speak with a few insights from the experts
Talking to kids and teenagers is a challenge in itself but there are lots of supports out there if you feel like you need some new strategies.
The Raising Children Network provides information and advice for parents on communication. More importantly they provide communication tips specific to different ages of children from baby to teenage years
Reachout.com is a great resource for parents of teenagers. Here is the link to some teenage specific communication tools.
There are also some great courses that can equip you with new ways of engaging with your kids, many of which are income assessed but affordable and in some cases completely free.
Check out these organisations who specialise in family, children and relationships
“I did a search online but there is too much information, I just need something or someone to help tell me what to do, someone I can trust.”
Learn something new
Relationships are hard work and just like with work we sometimes need to upskill if what we are doing doesn’t seem to work anymore. There are many services out there that can help you to get back on track with your relationships. Be proactive and be the one to take the first step.
Attend a course
Upskill and learn some new strategies to improve your relationships. Whether you choose a topic for personal improvement, tips on communication, parenting or relationships there is something out there that can help you get new insights into your relationships. Getting a new perspective on things can help wipe the slate clean and rebuild your connection with those around you.
Browse the catalogue of courses available at Relationship Australia, or look at their tip sheets linked to each course. Anglicare WA also offers a host of courses on Relationship Education available in the metro area and Parenting Connection WA also provides child and parenting courses - find a group session here.
Lay the foundations
Couples who are able to prepare and plan ahead are likely to do better in times of stress. If you’re aware of parts of your relationship which could use improvement, talking about them early can help you both prepare and plan accordingly.
Talking with a professional may give you the start you need if you are unsure where to start or feel like you aren't being heard.
Anglicare WA offer a range of services which support you at different stages of your relationship whether you are trying to talk things through with your teen or managing the difficult situation of a separation.
“I feel so out of the loop and the more time passes the harder it is to get back involved"
“It feels like I have forgotten how to be sociable”
We talk about social distancing but what it should be is physical distancing. It is important that we amp up the social connections during this time of uncertainty and change.
Staying connected with your extended family and friends is an important part of maintaining your wellbeing and staying positive during physical distancing. But it can be hard to stay in touch with people when you can’t visit or you’re not catching up at sport, church, school pick-ups, family barbecues and so on.
Technology - friend or foe?
Make the most of using technology to stay in touch and keep your relationships going. Out of sight doesn’t have to mean out of mind. Video call and group chat is a way of keeping conversations flowing without the face to face meet up. There are also interactive games you can play when conversation isn’t what you need. Check out ‘Words with Friends’ or ‘House Party’ Charades.
Be wary though. Technology is a great tool but it can have the opposite effect, making you feel like you are missing out when it appears that others are doing more than you. Don’t rely on social media as your connection to the outside world. Remember it is not a true reflection of what is happening in people's lives. Call or message your friends and family directly for authentic and meaningful contact.
If you have never used Facetime, Whatsapp or Houseparty then now is the time to learn more and use what works for you. Make sure you are safe when interacting online by checking out the Government E-Safety website - www.esafety.gov.au
Here are few guides on how to:
Foster new connections and social networks
Social connectedness can come from different groups of people not just close friends and family. Interest and exercise communities can give you a group to belong to and foster new friendships. Most social and well-being organisations have adapted and offer meet ups, classes and workshops online. Whilst this doesn’t give you the in person experience you can maintain your interests or create new ones. Have a look at interest groups such as:
For those people who have few family members around it can be hard. In difficult times we lean on our family and if they aren’t there to help or be a listening ear you might feel like you are out there alone. Organisations such as FindaGrandparent.org.au are creating connections between families and Grandparents who want to be part of peoples lives and create meaningful relationships for the long term.
Feeling nervous about getting back out into the world?
Emerging into the world after social isolation or even physical distancing can feel strange and create anxiety for some around social interactions. If this affects your ability to interact then have consider reaching out for support. Beyond Blue and Anxiety Australia have some great resources to get you started.
“I just feel like every day is the same, its Groundhog Day and it just wears me down”
Look after yourself
Dealing with the uncertainty of this crazy COVID-19 world is stressful. It is important to take time out for yourself to help you maintain a positive outlook and healthy relationships.
Think about different things that make you feel good. These could be social, emotional, spiritual, environmental, occupational, intellectual, or physical.
Learning something new and developing new skills makes you feel good. Have a look at great online courses that can help expand your mindset and connect you to others:
Ever wish you were better at excel or were able to nail presenting in public or finish off that website you started? Udemy and sites like it offer presentations and course content on a range of subject matter taught by people working in their field. Some courses are as little as $10 and you can read the reviews and profile to make sure you pick something that will deliver for you. You can access it from the comfort of your own home at your own pace with no pressure here: www.udemy.com
Get active with online exercise sessions whether it be yoga, meditation, pilates or a cardio or hiit class there is something for everyone.
Free online workout options to get you started:
the Bodycoach TV
Nike Training Club
Make time for you
We are spending much more time in the home and whilst this has its benefits it is important to acknowledge that we all need timeout from each other too. Although this is easier said than done right now, especially if you live with others, try to give each other the time and space to do things independently on a daily basis. What one person might consider to be enough alone time might not be enough for the other.
Try planning for some regular alone time each day, whether it is a walk around the block, closing the door to a room where you will not be disturbed or doing something that is just for you.
It may help to create your own self care plan that you can share with those closest to you. It could even be an activity to do as a family. It doesn’t have to be anything formal but a way to gain some insight into how you can support one another and yourself in keeping healthy and happy.
Still not feeling yourself?
Even if you are practising self-care you may still get overwhelmed with everything that is going on in the world. If you don’t feel you can talk to a friend or family member then you can use telephone or online services to talk to someone. You don’t have to give your name or commit to anything ongoing. It's just a person at the other end who can listen and perhaps give some ideas on how you could improve your mood.
Have a look at their website for ideas or to help you understand that it’s OK to feel not OK.
Beyond Blue - This is a great website full of useful resources, whether you want to do your own reading or be linked to someone to talk to about the impacts of Coronavirus on your life. You can call them on 1800 512 348 or chat online.
Alternatively you can talk to your GP.
Read our top 5 tips for looking after your mental health here.