24 April 2020

Parenting in a pandemic: it's OK (and sometimes essential) to ask for help

| Rebecca Vassarotti MLA
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Parenting in a pandemic

Parenting can be tough in usual times. In the time of a pandemic, it can be even tougher. Photo: File.

In Australia, we are incredibly lucky not to be facing the full lockdowns many parts of the world have been experiencing for weeks.

As a community, we have understood the need to live with the restrictions that are in place, and it has been gratifying to see our joint actions resulting in a slowing of COVID-19 and lives being saved.

While there has been strong support for the restrictions that are in place, we know that they have created pressure and stress on most households at some point through this crisis. This new way of structuring our day means that there are particular stresses facing families, particularly those with children.

Families have suddenly found themselves in close proximity 24 hours a day, seven days a week which is not all that usual for many modern families. While there have been many positive things about spending so much more time together, there have been challenges, too.

Parenting can be tough in usual times. In the time of a pandemic it can be even tougher. For many of us, we find ourselves physically separated from our natural support networks and find ourselves in roles that we never planned for.

Over the last month, while restrictions have been in place, many parents have been balancing the need to manage our own stresses about this health crisis while managing the physical and emotional needs of other family members, particularly children.

As well as managing ongoing work if we are privileged enough to have a job in the face of this economic shock, we are also faced with new roles and responsibilities – some of which we feel less than qualified for, even if we had the time to adequately fulfill them.

For parents thrust into the unexpected role of home school teacher a few weeks before the end of last school term, the school holidays could not have come soon enough. For some, the last couple of weeks have given some respite as school holidays have provided both kids and parents with a bit of downtime.

However, with nowhere to go and no one to see, the challenge of keeping our young people active, stimulated and off screens has created new challenges and pressure points. For the many families who found most of their summer holiday impacted by smoke and bushfires, it has been tough to face another break of curtailed activity and a denial of even more of the usual holiday activities such as catching up with friends, going to the movies and other recreational activities.

While these are rather mundane concerns when compared to the life-threatening situations being faced across the world, it’s also OK to recognise this isn’t the normal flow of family life. It’s also OK to acknowledge that this new reality is sometimes difficult to deal with.

While we are doing the best we can, it is also OK to realise the times when we might be struggling and need help and support. Given many of our informal networks are not currently accessible, it’s important to know that there is a range of formal supports to provide advice and information.

Services such as Parentline are there for parents who need advice, someone to talk to or access to resources. The Government’s Child and Family Centres are still accessible via phone, and people can get in contact by accessing the intake line. Onelink is an information and referral service that can support families and young people. Remember if you are in distress and need immediate help, Lifeline is also there to help any hour of the day or night (their number is 13 11 14). There is also a range of parenting websites with information and resources that can be accessed here.

What are the most useful resources and advice you have had to support your family through this period?

Rebecca is a mum of three school-age kids. She is also an ACT Green’s Candidate for the seat of Kurrajong in the upcoming Territory election.

Original Article published by Rebecca Vassarotti on The RiotACT.

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