Four Steps to Enhance Your Family’s Coping During Lockdown

Written by Dr Lucy Russell DClinPsyc CPsychol AFBPsS
Dr Lucy Russell Founder of They Are The Future
Author: Dr Lucy Russell

I think most of us are worried about coping during lockdown. Here are some words to describe how many of us are feeling at the moment:

  • Weary.
  • Exhausted.
  • Scared.
  • Sad.
  • Unsettled.
  • Vulnerable.

There must be many more.

When we feel all these things it can be so hard to look after ourselves and our families, ensuring everyone stays as mentally well as they can.

If we get through tough times successfully though, we usually end up feeling much stronger and more confident. These are critical aspects of self-esteem. We feel that if we can get through this, we can cope with anything, and this is a satisfying feeling. In a funny way, this pandemic may lead many of us to feel like we have stronger, closer, more resilient families.

I have always been interested in positive psychology. Earlier in my career I was involved in research studying the “positive core beliefs” which can help teenagers to thrive. Positive psychology is refreshing – it focuses on the special qualities that can help us flourish in the face of adversity (like in the current climate). It also focuses on what creates happiness and wellness, rather than illness or distress.

In this article I outline four steps from positive psychology, to enhance your family’s coping during lockdown. This approach is based on a method designed by Christine Padesky, a psychologist very well known in the field of cognitive therapy. The great thing about this method is that you are using skills and qualities that you already have, as a family. Following the steps just reminds you of them!

Step One: List Your Family’s Triumphs Over Adversity

What challenges has your family overcome together in the past? I promise you, there will be hundreds of examples, big and small. Just list anything that comes into your head. Your list might look a bit like this:

  • When our car broke down in the middle of a roundabout in Norfolk with a caravan attached.
  • When our dog ran off and we lost her.
  • The time we had to cope without Wi-Fi for three whole days.

… And so on.

(These are real examples from my family!)

As you can see, the challenges do not have to be major or life-changing, though they can be. My family have had a number of life-changing challenges recently but I haven’t included them here, for simplicity’s sake.

Step Two: Write Down the Skills and Characteristics That Helped You

Take a look at the list you made in step one. Ideally go through each event. What got you through? Which personal qualities do members of the family share, that helped in the situation, such as humour, quick-thinking or calmness?

Now think about what skills you have. Perhaps as a family, you are skilled at working together to solve problems? Perhaps you have learned to be resourceful when you face a problem?

As a family, you will have a set of unique attributes that make you strong when the going gets tough. For example, my family is:

  • Persistent
  • Not afraid to ask for help
  • Forward-thinking
  • Optimistic

What about your family? Write down as many words or phrases you can think of, which describe how your family manages challenges positively.

Family Resilience

Step Three: Apply Your Unique List to Coping During Lockdown

Are you worried about coping during lockdown? What’s your biggest current challenge as a family? Perhaps it is coping with financial pressure and uncertainty. Or you may decide just getting through each day whilst keeping everyone calm and level, is your biggest challenge. Write it down.

Now, look at the list of family skills and characteristics you made. How are your family uniquely placed to face this challenge and get through it?

Ideally, have a family discussion about this. If not, spend some time reflecting on it and write down your thoughts.

Step Four: Share and Apply!

Step four is about getting your family fully on board and developing a shared sense of optimism. You could make a “Family Strengths Poster” and pin it around your home. Even better, get a child to design the poster! This poster will help you get through difficult times by reminding you clearly, that you already have what it takes within you as a family.

Resilience Family

So there you have it: Four steps to enhance your family’s coping during lockdown. We can’t always stay positive but during difficult times it’s vital to remember our strengths. At this moment in time, being part of a strong and supportive family is more important than ever for children’s psychological wellbeing.

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