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  • Writer's pictureP.E.T. South Africa

How to Navigate Your Family Ship in Uncertain Times

Updated: Apr 8, 2020

One thing the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has certainly taught us, is that life isn’t always smooth sailing. Family ships have been knocked off course, and parents are trying to navigate uncharted waters.Your family's daily life has changed course and your crew members might be feeling uneasy about the journey ahead.

No family is immune to stress and anxiety. Children of all ages know something threatening is going on and parents are expected to take the wheel. But how? Here are three simple but useful tips to help parents navigate this new terrain.

Restructure and revisit your family's routine

Your child's map that guides his/her understanding of the world changed abruptly. While adults are more experienced when it comes to adapting to sudden change, children are not.

It's time to return to the drawing board and discuss how your family can map a new plan that works for every family member during this time. Remember, to make your child part of the planning process and be prepared to revisit the drawing board repeatedly during this time. Children can be quite creative and are more likely to cooperate when they feel they've played a part in the process.

Here's an example of how this parent involved her children in structuring a new routine for their family during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis:

The parent in this video clip is using a skill called Method III that she learned in Dr Thomas Gordon's Parent Effectiveness Training. You can also learn this skill and more. Learn more here:

Create a safe space

You might think, "My children are home, how much safer can they be?". Yes, your children are home but they are still seeing, hearing, and feeling the tension and anxiety of the world around them.

Many of us, including our children, are experiencing a state of fear. While you can reason and understand the source of this fear, your child can not. A child is still developing the skills to regulate emotions, and fear might be one of the trickiest emotions to decipher as a parent.

Your child's fear, anger, or frustration is communicated through behaviour and this includes all children - toddlers and teenagers. Yelling at remote controls, complaining about dinner, slamming doors, are all behaviours that are trying to communicate something. It is your role as a parent to listen.

Limit time spent on social media and news platforms media

This step can be part of your efforts in creating a safe space, and it's a clever piece of advice for the whole family. Repeated exposure to the same distressing news will keep your body and mind locked in a state of fear.

Fear activates the primitive part of the brain that prepares the body for either fight, flight, or freeze. Once this response is activated your immune system prepares for battle; using vital energy that should rather be stored to fight disease not our perception of fear. This can lead to physical and mental health problems.

Here's a short YouTube clip explaining the fight, flight, or freeze response:

When you feel safe, calm, and in balance your family will feel less anxious. However, we know it's not that easy. There will be times when you flip your lid! And that's alright. Remember, that a moment of vulnerability is a great opportunity to set an example on how to regulate and restore balance.

Be kind to yourself. Like your child, you are also travelling this journey for the first time.

Stay home. Stay healthy.

Learn more:


Disclaimer: The information contained in this communication is not to be construed as medical advice. Consult a professional on any medical or psychological concerns. The articles and blogs are posted only as opinion or ideas, and are general in nature. The administrator takes no responsibility for any action or outcome a reader may make as a result of reading a post.

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