Relationships and Parenting expert Anitia Conlan shares her tips and insights into parenting in the time of COVID 19.
Never before have so many been under house arrest!
Some of us have a very positive outlook on the situation. Viewing it as a time to foster even closer relationships with our immediate family, which of course is a wholesome and positive attitude. But what about the legions of parents who are struggling with the situation?
What is wrong with my family?
The media would have us believe that there are families all over the country busy baking ginger bread men with their happy, well behaved and rosy cheeked offspring.
This leaves a huge portion of the population asking themselves “what is wrong with my family”? Well the answer to that is NOTHING.
I have no doubt that a lot of families enjoy such fulfilling and rewarding pastimes but even these families must have their less civilised moments. Some more than others.
So let’s have a look at those moments and explore some options for dealing with them.
Enforced family time
The first thing we need to remember is that adolescents and older teenagers are notorious in not wanting to join in family activities. So why would something such as a little pandemic alter that? The truth is it wouldn’t.
What it does is draw attention to is how little time some teenagers want to spend with their parents and the rest of the family. Which leaves parents all over Ireland if not the world feeling inadequate.
Do not buy into the myth!
Well do not buy into the myth! It’s a little bit like the Christmas myth where advertisers depict whole families gathered around large tables groaning under the weight of gargantuan turkeys, surrounded by jolly grandparents and smiley children.
We all know the reality is probably a frazzled mother in the kitchen trying to keep everything warm while dealing with the different demands of various family members, grandparents complaining that their grandchildren are too noisy and spoiled, teenagers refusing to put their phone down and at least one member of the family being the worse for wear thanks to one too many pre dinner drinks. Sound familiar?
These feelings are normal
Well this too is normal. It doesn’t mean that these families do not love each other but the fact is not all families actually enjoy each other’s company or at least for extended periods of time. That includes parents as well by the way so don’t be too hard on yourself if you are daydreaming about being in lockdown on a desert island.
There are quite a few parents at the moment who are finding it difficult and may even have moments of not even really liking their children very much at times, especially their teenage children. It doesn’t mean they don’t love them or that there isn’t anything they wouldn’t do to protect them but just occasionally they find it difficult to actually like them and you can be absolutely sure that this feeling is reciprocated!
So a couple of suggestions that may come in useful; Firstly resist telling them the way you feel. While it is perfectly acceptable to tell them that their behaviour is hurtful, selfish, annoying etc they need to know that we still love them in spite of this.
Make a list
Secondly on a more practical level, what we can try to do at the moment is to consult our various offspring and ask for ideas for passing yet another day in lockdown. Make a list of all suggestions, (except the really rude ones) and try to encourage everybody to get involved.
Don’t take it personally if your teenager refuses to get involved. It is perfectly normal. That doesn’t mean we just ignore them, or tell them what a pain in the a—- they are even if we think it.
Try to think of an activity that they might enjoy that doesn’t involve younger brothers and sisters as this is often the bug bear. Maybe something like watching something of their choice on Netflix when the younger ones have gone to bed or showing them how to cook their favourite meal.
Most importantly remember DO NOT TAKE THIS PERSONALLY I think my teenage self would have been investigating “how to murder your family and get away with it” under these circumstances.
So if you are not baking bread together or rehearsing family musicals and most days are spent refereeing fights, muttering obscenities and harboring homicidal thoughts, be content in the knowledge that you are in good company.
If you would like professional support with anything you are going through turn2me provides free, confidential online supports for young people and adults in the Republic of Ireland.
- Peer support – A free and safe space where you can find and give support by connecting with other people who have been through similar experiences.
- Group support -Facilitated by a mental health professional, support groups are a safe space to connect with others and share solutions and coping strategies on a variety of mental health topics.
- Counselling – Support for whatever you are going through, this is a safe space to talk with a professional counsellor to help you understand your feelings and work together to develop the tools you need to get through tough times.