A conversation with child psychology expert Fathya Artha.
Parents and families are facing major life disturbances caused by the global pandemic crisis. With school closures and physical distancing, it’s a lot to take in and is difficult for everyone—not only for adults, but also for children. One of the best ways to cope with the new way of life and the new catalyst stress is to address it the right way.
Knowing necessary information about the outbreak and learning how vital it is to cope with the family's stress can reduce tension and help calm family anxieties. The People of Asia spoke to psychologist and author, Fathya Artha about this matter.
Fathya is a child psychologist based in Amsterdam. She juggles between working and conducting counselling sessions with parents, teachers and children online. Fathya is also a mother, wife, author of a best-selling parenting book, and co-founder of the Psychological Information Centre in Jakarta, Indonesia. We sat down—virtually—with Fathya to learn more about how family members can support each other and make the most of this new normal.
As a family member, here is a step-by-step process to do that:
Acknowledge the problem
Pay attention to what your body feels and to your thoughts during this stay-at-home situation. The first thing that parents can do is normalise the fact that it is okay to feel this new stress or anxiousness.
Identifying family members’ feelings
Whether it is boredom, stress, panic, or burnout, have family discussions in a comfortable place and encourage family members to ask questions and identify their feelings. Families with young children might have to consider having a separate discussion using language they can understand in order to address specific feelings or misconceptions they may have.
Journaling to assess the ‘unknown’ feeling
We might find it difficult to find the right words to say or to express our feelings. One of the methods we can use other than talking to our family members or our kids is to teach them to express their feelings by writing them on a piece of paper.
Set a new realistic expectation
Set new expectations by accepting boredom as the new normal, or by enjoying a little me time, as it was long gone along with the lockdown order. This leads to healthy boundaries for parents, families, and couples.
Healthy boundaries for families and couples
Boundaries blur when work and home lives occur at the same place, making it more difficult to get things done. Set a time-table and assign separate chores to your family members; this will help you get through the day. Designate a specific area to work in. It should, ideally, be a room with a door that you can shut while working.
In aeroplane emergency procedures, you are instructed to put on your own oxygen mask before you help others. This instruction also applies when trying to handle quarantine-related stress; we need to help ourselves first before we can assist other family members.
If we can’t get away from work and the house chores physically, we can excuse ourselves to the bathroom and have three minutes alone to ourselves. We can practise some self-compassion for as little as ten minutes, such as breathing exercise or as simple as a solo trip to the grocery store.
Don’t worry if you let housekeeping standards slide once in a while. During this stressful time, it’s important to go easy on yourself to be able to attend to your family better. One of the important takeaways from the conversation is the reminder that self-care is not only necessary, it should be on the top priority.