Easing COVID tensions at home starts with the parents

Q: Before the pandemic, I watched my wife drive off early in the morning to go to work, followed closely by the school bus emptying our house of all children heading to their classrooms.

This left behind a somewhat lonely moment in solitude.

That changed when the pandemic hit. At first it was fun and exciting. I suddenly had people around the house.

The Credit Union, where my wife works, hooked up her computer to our satellite dish so that she could work at home, and the schools began their off and on again daily enrolment, sometimes sending electronic assignments for our children to do at home, other times opening their doors to let the kids into their classrooms.

Unfortunately the excitement of the virus was short-lived. I do not know if this is a case of cabin fever, of boredom, of sibling rivalry and competition, of marital stress or what, but that the solitude I lost with the pandemic is looking attractive now.

This house is tense. I am not sure what we can do about it, but if you can figure something out, I would be ever so thankful.

I don’t like resenting the people whom I would normally love the most, and I am just simply tired of everyone being so testy with each other.

Apart from getting vaccinated and making sure that the pandemic is short-lived, can you think of anything we might consider to reduce the stress levels of our home?

A: I suspect the stress level permeating your home is more common than not. A lot of families are in trouble.

To survive, people need to change. It is not that easy, but it is workable.

Let me make some suggestions. Please understand I do not expect that you will follow along with everything I am saying. These are suggestions. Hopefully, you will find some ideas interesting and they can provide something for you and your wife to talk about.

The foundation of a traditional family is the relationship that you have with your wife. You are not going to get great co-operation from your children as long as they sense that the tensions between the two of you are irresolvable.

You can cut those tensions by talking to each other. What would happen if the two of you took a half hour each night and had a meeting with each other? The kids can handle a half hour without you.

In fact, they will be a lot better than they will be if the two of you continue to pass each other without speaking.

These little meetings can save your marriage.

The agenda for discussion is the same, night after night.

Each of you has to identify three things that happened over the past 24 hours that you found to be rewarding and enriching.

The two of you feel a little tense with each other and you probably need to work some of that out, but that is not the purpose of this meeting.

This meeting is your chance to feel good, to enjoy feeling good, and to share the moment. It will do wonders for the two of you and it just might set a great example for your children.

You did not say in your letter how many children you have or how old each of them is. In some respects, that does not matter. What matters is that you and each of the kids has some sense of what is happening to them while they are going through the stresses generated by schools opening and closing.

Children of all ages are growing, moving towards maturity, and searching for that support that will best help them challenge their developmental goals.

Once you have searched online to find out what might be reasonable age-appropriate expectations for each child, you, as parents, must meet with them and set out written, reasonable personal goals for the next three or four months.

Of course, you are going to monitor the progress that each child makes along the path to his or her goals and let’s not forget the hugs and kisses just after each goal is challenged and before a new one is negotiated.

This is an ongoing process; one the kids will learn to love and you will appreciate.

My guess is that if you and your wife develop a positive aura and the children have a sense of personal direction, you will find yourselves living in a home that is more comfortable, certainly less stressful, than it has been for the past 12 or 13 months.

Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact: jandrews@producer.com.

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