Crisis, Corona & Cohesiveness in Families
By Professor Emeritus Solly Dreman
As a family therapist in Israel, with expertise working with single parent families, I have dealt with many stressful situations involving victims of terrorism, immigration and Holocaust survivors. In the Corona pandemic, I have been supervising online the mental health staff of Ezer Mizion, an Israeli health support organization offering medical and social support services.
Family violence has increased during this period of social distancing and hence family conflict resolution is very important. My advice to parents is that while it is best to avoid conflict in the presence of children, some conflict, if conducted and resolved in a constructive fashion, will give children tools for dealing with future disputes. Parents should also avoid blaming their spouse and instead talk about how their partner's behaviour affects them: "It is hurtful to me when you act in such a manner." Such an approach will permit an ongoing dialogue in which mutual consideration and consequences of one's actions can enable successful conflict resolution.
To promote openness in children, parents should avoid being a "super parent" and profess to their own anxieties and mistakes. At the same time, they should continue to set limits and provide a sense of confidence and security to their children.
I recommend that before bedtime, couples review the day, its successes and difficulties, and set up a timetable for the family for the following day. Activities such as virtual talks with friends and grandparents, as well as family discussions and activities, should be scheduled. Individual talks with children about their concerns and anxieties should be implemented.
Routine is very important in this time of tension and unpredictability and can alleviate and reduce stress. It is also advised that parents monitor their children’s exposure to the media and ongoing reports of the pandemic and only allow children to turn to reliable sources of information. Some exposure to ongoing news is important in order to cope with reality, but too much or too little exposure to ongoing events will only increase anxiety and uncertainty.
Solly Dreman is Professor Emeritus in Ben Gurion University of the Negev’s Department of Psychology. He was a Fulbright Scholar at the Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco in 1977-78.
Photo credit: Anat Oren