In challenging times come fragmented familial ties because of added stress. How can we use adversity as an opportunity to promote family unity?
Dr Mathew Mathews, Champion of focal area “Parenting Together”, under the Alliance for Action to Strengthen Marriages and Family Relationships, shares his thoughts and other helpful resources. Dr Mathews is also heading Social Lab at Institute of Policy Studies, National University of Singapore.
Recent Changes to Family Dynamics
According to research conducted by Social Lab at Institute of Policy Studies, people have increasingly learnt the importance of their family ties and many appreciate how important it is to have cohesive families.
Dr Mathews points out that the pandemic has increased the demands on women in families, especially if they have caregiving responsibilities alongside work demands.
Inevitably, more men have also had to do more, especially since they too are at home and can provide some support for parenting. This is especially if they have not been able to be at home with travels. But often the burden still falls on women who inevitably will be more stressed during some seasons in the pandemic.
How can we do more for our spouses and family members? Here are seven main tips Dr Mathews shared
7 Ways to Promote Family Unity in Times of Difficulty
Support Our Spouse
This might sound straightforward. There are three ways you can support your spouse in challenging times.
Firstly, proactively find out if there is something we can do to lighten the load. Supportive spouses who are actively interested to know how to take some burden off are gems. Fathers should actively participate in caregiving roles and balance the load with their spouses so wives feel supported.
Show appreciation often. We should not take others’ contribution for granted.
Cultivate a sense of gratitude. Modelling it will also help your children be more grateful.
Find time to communicate. Parents should ensure routines and schedules to allow conversation and communication to keep going on.
Find creative ways to help your family have hope during difficult times. Messages and statements of hope around the house.
Take Breaks and Practise Self Care
Parents have an especially tough time keeping children home, working from home and ensuring the family’s needs are met. Take breaks from the intensive day-in-day-out caregiving responsibilities – have some “me” time routinely. While it seems selfish to do so with all the needs of the family, self-care will help ensure you’re effective in the longer term.
Be positive and encourage positivity even when conditions sometimes feel less than ideal.
When Overwhelmed, Seek Help
Look out for some additional support – it could range from asking for help from other family members, or neighbours or friends. You don’t have to always bear all the load, and there will be others who might be alright to share their help.
Dr Mathews reminds us that it is always important to turn to confidants – people in your social network whom you can unload some of your feelings and you don’t feel judged in the process. It is important to have some of these friends. For those who are part of religious communities, sometimes these trusted individuals could be a religious leader or worker.
Meanwhile, if you are looking for professional help for marital or parenting stress, or other family-related issues, here are some resources:
Free online counselling service run by the Community Psychology Hub (CPH)
Online FFL Community started in January 2021 to support parents in learning more about the different milestones in their parenting journey, parents may want to join the community facilitated by FFL volunteers.
Triple P and Signposts Parenting Programmes
Likewise, MSF’s appointed Parenting Support Providers work closely with schools and community partners to support parents through evidence-based parenting programmes (Triple P and Signposts) and referrals to services depending on the parents’ needs.
Triple P is an evidence-based parenting programme that equips parents with techniques to help with their primary and secondary school children’s emotional regulation for better behaviour. MSF’s evaluation studies, which tracked participants from before the start of the programme to 3 months after programme completion, found that Triple P has positive effects on parenting and child outcomes in Singapore.
Parents with secondary school-going children showed a sustained 22% reduction in their child’s problematic behavioural scores and 19% reduction in parenting stress scores. Parents with primary school-going children sustained a 18% reduction in their child’s problematic behavioural scores and 16% reduction in parenting stress scores. All findings are statistically significant.
Triple P is available through sessions conducted by Parenting Support Providers, as well as through Triple P online for parents to learn at their own time and pace. Parents can visit the Families for Life website or FFL Parenting programmes for more information.