Atlanta Parent spoke to Crystal Battle, a marriage and family therapist from Kaleidoscope Family Therapy in Atlanta, about how to handle family issues that arise with the pressures of quarantine.

Crystal Battle

Don’t underestimate the importance of communication.

We love our loved ones, but we find that the more we are around each other, the less tolerable we are of each other. Many family members are housed with each other for extended hours of the day. This can be a recipe for a high-tension environment if effective communication and positive coping mechanisms are not in place. This is a time for families to be honest about their thoughts and feelings and make their needs and wants clear.

Do discuss stress and anxiety in an age-appropriate way.

For younger grade school children, ask the child to show on paper how sad or mad they are. When they have finished drawing, parents should ask the child to tell them about the picture and what made them feel that way. You can also use dolls or trucks for them to act out their feelings through the toys.

For middle and high schoolers, ask specifically about a topic, such as grades, school, extracurricular activities or teachers. Communicating, identifying thoughts and feelings and looking for solutions are ways parents can talk about and help their children cope with stress and anxiety.

Don’t try to resolve your children’s arguments immediately.

Let children learn how to resolve their own conflicts with each other. Parents will want to be attentively on standby to deescalate the situation if things get too intense, or no one is budging from their position. If they are unable to resolve the situation on their own and parent intervention is needed, encourage the children to take a break from each other and engage in separate activities. Parents can serve as the mediator, allowing both sides to tell their side and then help facilitate a solution. Parents should set the rule that each will respect the other, and while one talks, the other is listening.

Do create time for the whole family to be alone.

Being honest about your thoughts, feelings, needs and wants is the key to setting boundaries when alone time is needed. Normalizing “me-time” as being a time to decompress mentally and to enjoy your own company is healthy and provides a balance. Because alone time is needed for self-development and self-discovery, differentiating that everyone needs their own space from time to time is vital to helping you get to know yourself better. Communicate respectfully when you want to be alone.

Don’t solve your kids’ problems for them.

If teenagers feel their parents are trying to solve their problems without understanding the full context of what is going on, it could possibly cause them to shut down. I have learned to give them my interest by showing them that they have my attention. Parents can do this by putting away their phones, not interrupting and oddly enough, not asking too many questions. Validate their feelings towards the situation. For example: “Wow, that sounds difficult or hurtful,” or “I’d be mad, too,” followed by, “Have you thought about what you’re going to do next” or “How are you going to handle it?” If their response is, “I don’t know,” you could give them some options or scenarios to think through.

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