Across the world, families are having to change and adapt to new ways of living. Families are having to complete work, school, play, and rest with each other in the same environment.
Dr. Russ Harris, a therapist and author, breaks down how you can FACE COVID in an effective way. Watch this short clip before reading on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmvNCdpHUYM.
It may be beneficial to spend some time reflecting on how you can apply these steps to your own wellbeing and parenting. For the purpose of this blog I would like to try and suggest a few ways to apply these steps as a family team, so that you can work together to FACE COVID.
F – Focus on what is in your control. With family members, identify what you can and can’t control. Most of what you can control will be within your family and your house; for example, how you treat one another, what activities you engage in, the food that is eaten, etc. Promote control where possible by providing options, for example: “Would you like chicken or meat balls for dinner?” “Would you like to play a game or watch a movie?”
A – Acknowledge thoughts and feelings. Make time to listen to each family members’ internal experiences (thoughts, feelings, urges, etc.). How you choose to do this will depend on your family. Some families may want to talk about this together. It may promote connection, empathy and shared experience. In other families, parents may prefer to spend time individually with their partner and/or children.
C – Come back into your body. Connecting with your body is a helpful coping strategy to practise. Focusing on breathing, the sensation of pushing your feet into the ground, or moving your arms slowly may help with reducing the feeling of being swept away by the storm of thoughts or emotions and enhancing a sense of control. Fun ways to practise this idea could be playing twister or holding yoga poses.
E – Engage in what you are doing. Focusing all of your attention on whatever it is you are doing is another helpful coping strategy when dealing with unpleasant internal experiences. To practise using the senses, your family could play games such as eye spy, blind man’s bluff, or guess the object, etc. Then, whether you’re washing the dishes, drawing, or riding a bike, you can ask each other about the senses to bring your attention to the present moment.
C – Committed action. As a family, discuss what actions you can do to improve the lives of everyone in the house and work as a team to get through the changes you are experiencing. If you were to show your family values to each other, what would you do? What is a small step that you can take together when another family member is upset, frustrated, or worried? How can you work as a team? What does being a helpful team member look like? If you would like to explore the idea of team work, games such as ‘the floor is lava’/’cross the river’ are often helpful.
O – Opening up. Allow family members to experience unpleasant emotions. Do not dismiss or ignore them. Rather help and teach each other to use coping strategies. Talk as a family about how you can work on this together. Most importantly, promote kindness between family members. This may mean encouraging each other in a particular moment, perhaps during dinner as you reflect on the day, or writing little notes to each other. It may be helpful to mention how you have demonstrated your family values.
V – Values. Identify as a family what you want to stand for during this time. What is important to you as a family? What kind of family do you want to be? How do you want to treat each other? If your family was on Gogglebox or became a TV show, what would you want the world to notice? You will likely end up with quite a list, and as a family you will need to decide on which 5 are the most important to you. It may be helpful to write them down (younger children may need pictures) and put them somewhere where they will be seen so everyone can remember.
I – Identify resources. Resources are people or services that can support and help your family. It includes friends, health workers, psychologists, teachers, websites, apps, etc. Most importantly you have each other.
D – Disinfect and Distance. As a family, keep following the recommended guidelines. Set up routines for washing your hands when you get home, using hand sanitiser when you’re out and staying 1.5m away from other people.
Jessica Buster (M Clin Psych, Grad Dip Prof Psych, BA Psych Hons) is passionate about creating a caring and safe space to promote effective working relationships. Jessica applies evidence-based interventions in a client focused and collaborative manner to assist children, young people and their families move towards their goals of growth and wellbeing.
Jessica’s clinical training and experience has equipped her with skills in the assessment and treatment for mental health issues. She has gained experience working in roles across non-profit, hospital and private settings. This has included working as an Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) Therapist and roles at Guardian Youth Care, Headspace, Westmead Children’s Hospital Psycho-Oncology, and Healthy Minds Happy Kids.
Across all her roles, Jessica has pursued her interest in working with children, adolescents and their families experiencing a range of mental health difficulties including anxiety, emotion regulation difficulties, behavioural difficulties, social difficulties, and disability. She has been able to promote understanding and engagement with these clients by integrating a sense of fun and creativity into treatment.