We know that social (physical) distancing is the best way to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but social distancing can also make us feel lonely and challenge some of our closest relationships. Those of us who prefer to be surrounded by people in social situations may find this especially difficult. While we learn to adjust, here are some ways to maintain a positive relationship with our loved ones: :
- Schedule phone calls or video chats with friends. You can even schedule these around meals or cocktail hours. These regular interactions will help build a sense of normalcy.
- Tension and conflict may arise as a result of living in close proximity to another person for an extended period of time. Whether it be family, partners, or roommates, it is easy to become annoyed by the other person. To help avoid this:
- Set clear boundaries: understand your own limit for social interaction and communicate that to those around you
- Create some alone time by doing different activities
- Communicate problems when they happen to avoid bottling up emotions and resentment. Rather than reacting with anger and blame, use “I” statements: focus on your own feelings and what you observe, and not on the other person. Then, you can make a clear polite request. For example,
- “I feel frustrated when the dirty dishes are left in the sink for hours. Can you please help me with them when you finish this TV episode?”
- “I feel overwhelmed when there is loud music around me all day long. Can you please turn it down after 10 PM?”
- Understand that this is a stressful time and everyone will handle it differently. While you don’t have to agree with the others’ opinions all the time, be open and accepting of the others’ emotions.
- Love in the time of Coronavirus: dating and getting to know someone are still very much a possibility during the pandemic! Dating apps can be a great platform for communication. People have also used video chats to make a meal together or watch the same movie.
Violence at Home
Changes brought on by the pandemic may create tensions and stress in the household. The public health measures taken, such as social isolation may mean that spouses/partners and children are now trapped at home with their abusers.
Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or financial. It is never your fault to be abused. Under any circumstances, abuse is never justified, even during a pandemic.
If you’re wondering if you or your children may be at risk of violence or abuse, ask yourself these questions:
- Does your partner physically scream or curse at you?
- Does your partner insult or talk down to you?
- Does your partner threaten you with harm?
- Does your partner physically hurt you?
If you answer “yes” to any of the above questions, you can fill out the complete screening tool here.
If you feel you or someone you know are in immediate danger call 911.
For abuse/assault support you can also contact 211 or the Assaulted Women’s Helpline, free at 1-866-863-0511.
For more information on domestic violence and abuse:
Abuse and Domestic Violence – eMentalHealth.ca
Get Help with Family Violence – Canada Department of Justice
Child abuse includes physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, and/or neglect. If you suspect child abuse you have a duty to report it to your local Children’s Aid Society (CAS). If you feel a child is in immediate danger call 911.
For more information on the signs of child abuse:
Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies – What is abuse?
Parenting During COVID-19
With the pandemic, many parents are finding it difficult to be productive working from home while taking care of their children. Recognize that these are exceptional times and it is OK to not be as productive as you normally would be. Try to schedule learning or creative time for children during some of your work hours. There are a variety of online resources such as virtual zoo’s, aquariums, and museums for kids to explore.
Check some of them out here:
What to do with the kids?
It is important to remember that children respond to stress in different ways. During a crisis, children may seem more attached to parents, anxious, withdrawn (keeping to themselves), anger or agitation. Bedwetting may also begin or resume during these times.
COVID-19 Parenting Tips for Isolation:
- One on One Time: Set aside time to spend with the children
- Keep it Positive: Model and praise positive behaviours. Speak calmly and rationally.
- Structure: Predictability can make children and teens feel more secure. Ask for their help to create a daily schedule together. They are more likely to follow it if they help.
- Bad Behaviour: Redirect bad behaviours. Use consequences but keep calm. Consequences should be realistic to the situation and enforceable (for example, don’t threaten to take technology away for extended periods of time when you know it’s unrealistic.)
- Keep Calm and Manage Stress: Listen to your children, encourage them to talk about their feelings and emotions, let them know that you heard how they feel, and reassure them that you are there to take care of them.
For more detailed information on these tips click below:
For more detailed information on talking to children about COVID-19 click below:
How to talk to children and address their coronavirus concerns
The ultimate kids’ guide to the new coronavirus
For more detailed information on talking to teens about COVID-19 click below:
How to talk to teens about the COVID-19 pandemic
Co-parenting at home
Parent and partner relationships at home are important to maintain in order to best care for your family during this time. For a great resource to help increase listening skills between partners, explore thoughts, set goals, and work through the tensions of everyday life [Listening Partnerships for Parents – hand in hand].
Co-parenting in separate homes
According to court rulings, existing arrangements in child/children custody should be kept as long as necessary precautions are taken, such as physical distancing. However, tensions and stress are high, which can create challenges for maintaining these arrangements. The following are some general rules for shared custody during COVID-19:
- Take a solutions-based approach in the best interest of the child/children.
- Maintain parental relationships in creative ways (virtual dinner dates, playtime, reading together).
- Parents struggling to reach agreement can utilize resources such as family mediators via phone to help find a resolution.
Link to court decision here.
For more details and information:
Coronavirus complicates co-parenting: Sharing custody of children during pandemic
Child Mental Health
During this time, children and adolescents may not understand why their schools are closed or why they can’t see their friends. Children can feel anxiety from their parents and may worry about their family’s health. Here are some ways to engage with and reassure your children during the pandemic:
- check in regularly with your child to see how they are feeling
- acknowledge their fears and feelings as valid
- explain what might actually happen if they do get sick and reassure them that young people will most likely get a mild form of the virus.
- let them know the steps you as a parent are taking to keep your family safe
- encourage questions and work with them to find reliable answers
- explain the importance of social distancing and encourage socialization via technology (video chats, social media, text)
- advise them not to share any personal items during this time (including drinks, makeup, vapes/cigarettes)
It is also likely that children are getting information they may not understand from other sources (internet, social media).
- Communicate with your children: discuss news coverage honestly, and with age appropriate information. Children will look to you for cues to manage their own emotions
- If children have questions that you do not have the answers to, help them to find credible sources.
This interactive workbook might help your child navigate their emotions during this time and “FACE COVID”
For more detailed information, click the links to the resources below:
Sometimes children prefer to talk to people other than their parents. Let your child know about Kids Help Phone where they can chat confidentially about their feelings to trained councillors:
Call 24/7: 1-800-668-6868 or Text CONNECT to 686868 or Live Chat on kidshelpphone.ca
If you have children in post-secondary education. Let them know about Good2Talk where they can chat confidentially about their feelings to trained councillors:
Call 1-866-925-5454 or Text GOOD2TALKON to 686868
Children with Special Needs
Homeschooling or engaging children in classwork in isolation is stressful at the best of times. For children with developmental or learning disabilities, school closures likely mean a complete change in daily routines. This can put a lot of stress on both the child and their parent/ caregiver. It also likely means that there is a disruption in their learning.
Chinese Autism Awareness Centre: 416-561-7909
There is also a helpful video by Developmental Behavioural Pediatrician Dr. Dan Coury on behavioural health during COVID-19: Behavioral health care during COVID-19