Expert tips: How to keep healthy relationships with family in lockdown

Rear view of father and son walking in autumn forest

Communication is key to maintaining healthy relationships - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Healthy relationships are key for helping one another through difficult times, but how do you keep the peace and with relatives, housemates and partners during one of the most difficult periods in living memory?

We asked a relationship counsellor for their top tips on getting along with loved ones during the pandemic.

Relate is the UK's largest provider of relationship support, it offers support to people young and old looking for help to navigate relationships regardless of gender, sexuality or relationship status.

Mark Bishop, a relationship counsellor at Relate in Norwich, said the coronavirus pandemic had forced big changes to everyday life which had put pressure on relationships.

He said financial worries, health concerns, isolation or being cooped up with family members meant looking after relationships was more important than ever before. 

Gay Male Couple With Children Walking By Lake

Families may find it useful to think about how they pull together as if a machine or system, where all the parts need to work together to operate. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto


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Mr Bishop said families may find it useful to think about how they pull together as if it was a machine or system, where all the parts need to work together to operate.

He said: "Thinking about it in a practical or mechanical way can help to consider what adaptations might be needed to keep the family system working smoothly.

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"This might mean negotiating a different family 'system' for everyday chores such as shopping, cooking or cleaning or even something as simple as re-organising routines around getting up and organised for home-schooling compared to what is needed to get out on the school run. Having an efficiently working family system can help to reduce conflict.”

romantic couple watching television at home

Healthy relationships are key for helping one another through difficult times, such as a pandemic. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Mr Bishop said communication was key.

He said: "Many people are saying it has been helpful to learn how to forgive ourselves for small things that get missed and to focus on the important things that really matter like the ongoing investment in our relationships and our families and practising some basic communication skills might be useful.

"It’s normal be feel ‘triggered’ in pressured situations when our brains go into the ‘fight or flight’ mode and this causes our emotions to escalate. Knowing this and having a plan to deal with it can be really helpful.

"Most importantly though, it is important to prioritise safety, especially if there is a risk of violence or abuse, in which case contacting The National Domestic Abuse Helpline or a specialist support agency is a good idea and looking at the police website is a good starting point for finding contact details for reporting abuse and further tips for safety.”

Mr Bishop said Relate had adapted its services to help people remotely during the pandemic including offering video calling and telephone support.

Family in domestic kitchen

Healthy relationships are key for helping one another through difficult times, such as a pandemic. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Relate’s five key tips include:

·        If you are self-isolating at home you may feel disconnected from others. Make use of social media, text, instant messaging, phone and video messaging as ways of keeping connected.

·        Check in with other members of your household to see how changes in routines and or roles are going, especially if working from home.

·        Stick to facts when talking to children and communicate with them calmly, consciously and responsibly, using simple language.

·        Try to avoid using catastrophising language. Brushing things under the carpet can also increase anxiety so aim to strike a balance.

·        If somebody says or does something to upset you, try counting to 10 and taking some deep breaths. It may be that you no longer feel the need to ‘react’.

Loving couple celebrating on a terrace

Healthy relationships are key for helping one another through difficult times, such as a pandemic - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Visit www.relate.org.uk to find out more about its digital services and access a range of information and self-help. It is also offering free 30-minute web chats with relationships and wellbeing advisors to anyone aged 18 or above who is living in England and affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, you can get in touch with Leeway by calling 0300 561 0077 or at adviceandsupport@leewaynwa.org.uk. You can also discreetly alert Norfolk police through a “silent” 999 call. Call 999 and stay on the line, then press 55 when prompted and the call will be transferred to the police, who will know it is an emergency call.


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