Maintaining healthy relationships during the COVID-19 pandemic

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October 28, 2021

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The pandemic has created fear and stress, which can reflect in how partners and family members deal with each other.

Fear, Kevin Bailey, associate counselling psychologist at Family Life Ministries, said, includes concerns about getting, recovering and even dying from the virus, or that loved ones might die. He also reasoned that the insecurities could involve the current situation of hybrid education and the challenges it poses, which affect some children’s ability to achieve their full potential.

With regard to stress, Bailey stated that individuals might become overwhelmed as they seek solutions, and without proper management of the factors involved, this could lead to burnout.

This may result in fighting or freezing, which, according to Bailey, are among the responses to fear and stress.

Speaking at a recent team online session organised by communications and entertainment firm FLOW, he emphasised that especially while the pandemic rages, it is important to remain emotionally attached to those who play meaningful roles in the family. He also discussed the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship with partners and loved ones throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

NOT THE ENEMY

“Do not go into a fighting position with partners because they are not the enemy. The wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, significant other do not want to fight. The enemy is the pandemic. It is not the partner,” Bailey said.

“Then, do not go into a frozen situation. That means stonewalling, becoming silent, and not communicating. One of the things that we have to do as we face this difficult time is, we have to learn every day to ask, ‘How are you feeling? How am I feeling?’” he said, while encouraging persons to “be honest” in that assessment.

“Your feelings are your own, and you have to own them because they will tell you what is happening on the inside,” Bailey advised.

He stated that individuals should find something to have faith in, which will help them overcome whatever fears and stress they are experiencing. This, Bailey said, is necessary, especially since many partners are currently spending more time together and might find annoyance in each other’s presence.

As a protective shield, Bailey encouraged viewing your partners as a “blessing,” while “recognising that the love between you is being challenged” during the pandemic.

To support his assertion, he pointed to research that shows “relationships last with passion, intimacy and commitment,” and posited that both “men and women require certain needs from their partners”.

For women, he said the top five are affection, conversations, openness and honesty, financial security and family commitment, while for the men, they are sexual fulfilment, recreational companionship, attractiveness, domestic manager, and respect and admiration.

SCHEDULE TIME

Bailey said it is important that individuals schedule time for partners while limiting negative thoughts, which are “now a constant” because of the pandemic.

Parental skills, he said, are now impacted in a bigger way. This, he said, calls for a rethink in strategy, where “parents should have the mindset of cherishing their children,” while recognising that they are a blessing, especially as the young ones are going through the difficult teenage years.

He also advised against “authoritarian, neglectful and permissive parenting”.

“The authoritarian [approach] is very unhealthy as the child may grow up to be disciplined, in that they are following orders, like a robot, but they don’t get to develop their emotional intelligence,” Bailey reasoned. “They are not good at interpersonal relationships; they don’t feel safe and valued so that they can share their perspective and how they are feeling.”

He said a neglectful parent will lose focus on the child, as they are occupied with other things such as work, while the permissive parents allow their children to do whatever they want without proper guidance.

“The recommended parenting style is authoritative, which is different from authoritarian. Authoritative means it’s a balance of love and limits. Your child must know that you love him or her. Recognise each child for their value, and you balance discipline, which is not about punishment; it’s about training,” Bailey advised.

He told parents to convince their children that they are “lovable, valuable and capable,” while also emphasising “the importance of family time”.

Photo by Shawnee D on Unsplash.

lifestyle@gleanerjm.com

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