August 14th, 2020 Shield Bearer | Ask A Therapist: Family Fatigue

“Am I a terrible person to admit that I am sick of my family? Both my spouse and I have been working from home, the kids don’t leave, and with the added stress of financial issues, potential layoffs, school schedules, etc. We all are at the end of our ropes. Patience is gone and every little thing sends someone to the brink of exasperation. What can we do? How do we mend these relationships and become a peaceful and loving household?”

No, you are not terrible – having a variety of feelings is normal and you are not alone in these challenging times

I see two main issues – fear over finances and family sanity.  Make time to sit alone with your partner.  Review income and expenditure and ask where you could be more frugal or move available income to other needs. Have you talked to bank staff to extend mortgage payments? Explore if you might be eligible for outside financial support or food stamps.  Can you make huge stews and freeze meals or are you buying ready meals etc?

Employment: Home working with children underfoot is fraught with challenges.  Could you divide your workdays so that one parent is always ‘on duty’ leaving the other free to concentrate on employment matters? Are you managing your days or are you waiting for children to burst into conversations?  Could you schedule zoom meetings/calls when you are off duty as a parent? 

Education: Do you feel communication with your children’s school/s is adequate? Do you understand the expectations for their learning and your role in that?  Do not be afraid to ask to speak directly with teaching staff to clarify any concerns and always ask your child what it is they are feeling about the changes – especially in relation to their friends. 

The Family: Depending on children’s ages start a mandatory weekly ‘Every Member Family Meeting’ to discuss gripes, allowing every person to voice feelings.  Never disagree with how someone says they feel. Rather than respond ‘well you’re lucky at least you don’t blah blah,’ it is more constructive to reply ‘that must be hard’ or ‘that’s tough for you to feel like that.’  It should not become a competition about who is worse off but a chance to empathize together.  Make a ‘Family Code’ about what your values are, allowing everyone to add one statement e.g. ‘Our family cares about each other’ or ‘Our family believes in sharing.’ Talk about family ‘rules’ and what needs to be done – homework, chores, and don’t forget fun. Think differently – Can chores be tackled together? Would happy music and dancing about work as everyone cleans up? Can you be silly together- blow bubbles? Cook together? Exercise together? Movie/popcorn night? Quiet time? ‘Me’ time? 

Everyone is learning how to be on top of each other.  It would not be family life if we did not get on each other’s nerves occasionally and feeling safe to share feelings with everyone knowing expectations of behavior should ease some frustrations.